For Immediate Release
Gallup, N.M. – Today, the McKinley County Commission held a special meeting to reconsider a vote made on a resolution on January 3, 2017. The meeting was organized after a letter was delivered to the county notifying them of a Open Meetings Act Violation related to the January meeting.
Leading up to the January meeting, community groups worked with the county to introduce policy that would “pause” uranium mining development, to allow the county to evaluate community risks and develop local safety measures to protect community members and families. Then, in January the county introduced and passeda resolution that gutted the ordinance with little advanced public notice.
At the meeting, nearly two hours of public comment was heard in favor of adopting the moratorium instead of the resolution. After hearing comment, the County Commission stated that they want to develop a formal Blue Ribbon Task Force and hold public hearings to provide more space to understand how community is being impacted. Despite these promising statements, the Commission passed the same resolution they passed at the Jan. 3 meeting on a 2-1 vote. Commissioner Jackson voted against the resolution because she supported the resolution reflecting the Commission’s commitment to forming a task force. In response to Tuesday’s meeting, community members present issued the following statements:
“It is not the victory we wanted, but it’s a small step in the right direction. We need continued public support to hold our commissioners accountable for accepting, in writing, a formal agreement and another county resolution that establishes the task force,” said Janene Yazzie, a McKinley County resident working with community groups on the moratorium.
“It’s good that the Commissioners listened to us today: the community, Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), and Red Water Pond Road Community Association. The problems that were brought forward today are ones that we have been working on for a long time. We are also worried about water contamination, especially in the community of Crownpoint. I hope that moving forward, they reconsider the moratorium and make the resolution stronger,” said Mitchell Capitan, with Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining.
“We would like to see the County Commissioners be champions for our children. In our community, we have 30-40 students that go to school in Gallup that are impacted by the uranium mines that weren’t cleaned up properly. We want the county to establish a dialogue between the communities most impacted and county government so that we can develop real solutions. Our children are our future — we need to do this for them,” said Teracita Keyanna, with Red Water Pond Road Community Association.
“We want to see New Mexico be a peace state. We need to keep uranium in the ground,” stated Steve Verchinski, a former government employee in McKinley County.
Moving forward, the community will work with the county to develop and shape the composition of the task force.