Farmington — Chapter members in Shiprock could vote later this month on a proposed resolution to support a Navajo environmental group in opposing the Navajo Nation's purchase of Navajo Mine.

The tribe has been considering purchasing the mine from its owners BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal since last October when the Navajo Nation Council approved supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to start a due diligence process.

Navajo Mine is the sole coal supplier to the Four Corners Power Plant.

The resolution was proposed in June by Diné CARE but has not been considered by chapter members, although it is scheduled for the Sept. 22 regular chapter meeting, said Shiprock Chapter president Duane "Chili" Yazzie.

"At that point we should be ready to approve it or not approve it," he said.

In addition to rejecting the purchase, the proposed resolution calls for the tribe to begin the transition toward renewable energy on the reservation.

It also asks the council to consider who is legally responsible for cleaning up coal combustion waste "that has been stored in unlined disposal pits" before making a decision on the purchase.

"There are 17 known toxic pollutants found in coal ash including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, boron, selenium, and other toxic metals that affect all body organs," the resolution states.

Yazzie explained that the chapter asked Diné CARE and BHP to meet and discuss the issue with the possibility that they would develop a consensus on some of the issues surrounding the purchase.

The two entities met Aug. 25, along with members of the public, at the Shiprock chapter house.

Yazzie estimates that 130 people attended the meeting, including members of Diné CARE, BHP New Mexico Coal president Pat Risner, New Mexico Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, Council delegates LoRenzo Bates, Russell Begaye and Jonathan Nez, and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.

The tribe considers the purchase as a way to preserve 800 jobs at the mine and the power plant and continue $40 million in annual taxes and royalties paid to the tribe while opponents cited the environmental and health risks and liabilities associated with the mine.

Since the creation of the Navajo Transitional Energy Company LLC in April by the council, the five standing committees have been appointing delegates to represent the tribe on the board.

So far the Health, Education and Human Services Committee has appointed Kenneth Maryboy, the Law and Order Committee appointed Russell Begaye, the Resources and Development Committee appointed Roscoe Smith, and the Budget and Finance Committee appointed Bates.

Meanwhile a bill to appoint a member of the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee is now posted on the Council's website for public comment.

It is eligible for consideration by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee after Sept. 3.

The due diligence process continues, despite the intention to acquire the mine by July 1.

That date was moved to Dec. 31 and hinges on the decision reached by the Arizona Corporation Commission as it continues its investigation into the Four Corners Power Plant and permitting retail electric competition in the Arizona electricity markets.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.