U.S. District Court Dismisses Environmentalist Lawsuit with NTEC as Intervener

Navajo Transitional Energy Company

Published September 15, 2017

SHIPROCK, NEW MEXICO – Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC), owner of Navajo Mine, a coal mine on the Navajo Nation, applauds a September 11, 2017 court ruling that granted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit was filed in April 2016.

The lawsuit, brought on by environmental groups such as Dine CARE 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. The court concluded that the challenge by the environmental groups would have effectively circumvented the Navajo Nation’s goals to maintain a revenue source and jobs for the Navajo people.

Although NTEC wasn’t listed as a defendant in the original suit, NTEC entered the lawsuit as an intervenor for a limited purpose of filing a motion to dismiss the case because its interest could not be adequately represented by the federal defendants or other parties in the lawsuit.

NTEC demonstrated 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 is clothed with sovereign immunity, NTEC cannot be joined as a defendant therefore the case should be dismissed in equity and good conscience. The Court agreed with NTEC.

“The court’s ruling makes clear that NTEC’s sovereign immunity trumps plaintiffs’ attempts to ‎circumvent governmental decisions made by the Navajo Nation.  NTEC can now continue with its ‎business of providing the Navajo Nation with the economic resources it requires to move the Nation ‎forward and develop alternative energy sources into the future,” said Steve Gundersen, chairman of NTEC’s Management Committee.

The Court determined that NTEC is “an arm of the Navajo Nation,” for purposes of sovereign immunity and cannot be joined in the lawsuit therefore “the present case cannot continue without Intervenor-Defendant NTEC.”

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