We are concerned about the mercury and other toxic emissions from the burning of the coal that will be coming directly back to the Arctic on the wind and air currents.
In the early 1900s, coal mining severely impacted my Ahtna Athabascan Village of Chickaloon by introducing disease, alcohol and tobacco, as well as many other social ills. Local salmon runs were decimated by coal mining's impacts. The Tribe has spent the last 100 years trying to recover, adapt and restore what was destroyed during this time.
Last fall, Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc. started construction of a road to access coal from the Wishbone Hill coal lease area. Usibelli plans to conduct open pit strip mining, as well as blasting and hauling coal adjacent to Moose Creek. These activities will bisect a sacred hunting area which Tribal Members use for hunting ceremonial potlatch moose. Moose are sacred, essential aspects of the traditional ceremonies still practiced today by the Athabascan Peoples who have inhabited this area since time immemorial. The area's moose population is certain to be impacted by the blasting and other proposed mining activities. This will directly violate the freedom of religion of Chickaloon Village and its tribal citizens.
The road associated with this project will have up to two hundred trucks per day carrying loads of coal, spewing toxic cancer-causing coal dust all over our Tribe's traditional religious/cultural hunting and gathering use area is. This area is where Tribal Citizens live and it includes the entire area of the Tribal school and playground. We know this will have a huge negative impact on our air quality. The Japanese corporation J Power is currently looking at purchasing this coal for burning in Japan. We are concerned about the mercury and other toxic emissions from the burning of the coal that will be coming directly back to the Arctic on the wind and air currents.
I want President Obama to honor the legal government-to-government consultation policy with Tribes as well as to fulfill the United States legal obligation to Tribes. On November 5, 2009 in President Obama's executive Order 13175, it says:
"The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian tribal governments . . . . In recognition of that special relationship, pursuant to [Clinton’s] Executive Order 13175, executive departments and agencies are charged with engaging in regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have tribal implications, and are responsible for strengthening the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Indian tribes.
"My Administration is committed to regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in policy decisions that have tribal implications…."