No Coal and Environmental Justice Program

Because BMWC’s founders were raised to value our culture, and trained in the environmental justice movement, we know we must break our dependence on the fossil fuel industry to realize our true potential. The sub-goals of the No Coal & Environmental Justice Program are to: hold Peabody Coal Company accountable for the damage done to Black Mesa’s water, environment, and community health; to replace Black Mesa’s coal complex with renewable energy; and to instill policies that promote a just transition for Black Mesa and the Navajo Nation. We meet these goals through three key ways:

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BMWC started to stop the overuse of the Navajo Aquifer (N-Aquifer) by Peabody Coal Company. We supported and worked with partners in the Black Mesa region to educate Navajo communities and mobilize them to force the tribal government to stop Peabody’s use of the N-Aquifer for the slurry line. A major accomplishment of this work is the shutting down of the slurry pipeline that brought coal from the Black Mesa Mine to the Mojave Generating Station in December 2005. This along with a lawsuit that won stricter emission controls for the Mojave Generating Station subsequently shut down the power plant itself and the Black Mesa Mine. Today we continue to work with and support local communities, organizations and organizers in Black Mesa and across the Navajo Nation engage in the fight to protect our homelands. Additionally we play a facilitation role, aiming to connect local struggles to regional and nation-wide efforts.

Legal Interventions

We also work with regional organizational partners to make various legal interventions. With this strategy we have successfully: revoked Peabody’s life of mine permit for the Black Mesa mine; secured a revolving fund, voted on by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in February 2013, which uses revenues from the sale of sulfur dioxide allowances from the shut-down of Mohave Generating Station to pay development deposits for renewable projects that benefit the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation; and settled with the Office of Surface Mining to improve their permitting process – they now must consider environmental, cultural, and historic resources of Black Mesa before permitting, have grassroots groups at the table in regard to historic site review, measure the impact on the aquifer, and consider renewable energy projects as possibilities for reclaimed mine sites.

Black Mesa Solar Project


The Black Mesa Solar Project represents a first step towards just transition. It utilizes the region’s and Navajo Nation’s current role as a provider of energy and takes control of it. It is a holistic approach to energy development that prioritizes community participation, benefits, and ownership, job training, and environmental impacts. Our original vision of the project was to establish a solar manufacturing facility and a series of 20 MW to 200 MW solar photovoltaic installations on the abandoned mine land of Black Mesa. The short-term goal of the project is to develop a one to five megawatt project on Black Mesa.

To meet these goals we’ve had research done to prove the case for solar development on Black Mesa and the region. We continue to research relevant aspects (i.e. solar technology, business models, etc.) and continue communicating real time opportunities to push just transition. We also organize various educational opportunities for tribal government leaders, communities, and families to better understand these things. We utilize local radio forums, social media, and chapter meetings to do this as well as educate tribal government leadership bodies. And lastly we are advocating and organizing for actual solar projects in Black Mesa.

To learn more:
Sustainable Development for the Navajo Nation
Solar Potential on the Navajo Nation
Solar Potential on Black Mesa

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As an environmental justice organization, it is a top priority, though not always easy for us to engage the community we serve. In fact, we would not be able to accomplish our goals without the direct work of community members. We work especially with young people and existing Navajo organizations and entities. With only 3.5 staff, we could not have achieved what we have without partnering with local communities, organizations, and organizers. Here are some other organizations you should learn about and support:

  • Tó Nizhoni Ani
  • Diné Citizens Against Ruining the Environment (Dine C.A.R.E.)
  • Indigenous Caucus
  • Diné Water Rights Committee
  • Western Energy Justice Project
  • University of Denver Law School, Sturm College of Law, Environmental Law Clinic