NTEC: Appeal of Court Decision Undermines Tribal Sovereignty

Navajo Transitional Energy Company

Published November 14, 2017

SHIPROCK, NEW MEXICO  – Navajo Transitional Energy Company (“NTEC”) released a statement regarding an appeal filed on Nov. 9 in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the efforts of certain environmental groups seeking to undermine the Navajo Nation’s sovereign immunity that covers NTEC.

Clark Moseley, NTEC CEO said “Last week, citizen groups, including San Juan Citizen Alliance, Sierra Club, and Dine Care, appealed the decision of an Arizona federal court that had dismissed the citizen groups’ claims based on the Navajo Nation’s sovereign immunity and its rights as a sovereign to govern and protect its people.  Plaintiffs’ appeal is a direct attack on the sovereign immunity of the Navajo Nation.  It’s disappointing that plaintiffs have chosen to continue to challenge the tribal sovereign immunity of the Navajo Nation.  NTEC will defend the well-reasoned decision of the District Court.

Moseley further stated “NTEC complies with and is required to comply with all United States environmental laws and the decision of the Arizona federal court did nothing to alter or diminish those requirements.  While these citizen groups have made outlandish claims that the court ruling insulates tribal lands from environmental claims, the truth is that the law will not allow these groups to interfere in the legal operations of Navajo Nation enterprises.”

The lawsuit, brought on by environmental groups including Dine C.A.R.E. and others, alleged that the U.S. Department of Interior and other federal agencies violated the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act when the agencies approved a twenty-five year lease extension, rights-of-ways, and mine expansion.

NTEC argued that NTEC, as owner of Navajo Mine, is a required party in the lawsuit under Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and that because NTEC has sovereign immunity, NTEC cannot be joined as a defendant without unequivocally consenting to such a lawsuit and, therefore, the case should be. The Court agreed with NTEC, therefore, the case was dismissed by the District Court in Arizona in September.

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