(Casper Star Tribune, February 26) – A Navajo Nation-based coal operator reached an agreement with the U.S. government on Saturday, giving federal regulators the authority to enforce environmental laws at a former mining site in Tennessee.
As a tribal entity established under Navajo Nation law, Navajo Transitional Energy Company, or NTEC, has the right to sovereign immunity, or the ability to potentially shield itself from U.S. federal jurisdiction.
When NTEC purchased assets owned by Wyoming-based coal company Cloud Peak Energy last year, it acquired three coal mines in the Powder River Basin as well as mining properties in Tennessee. Saturday’s limited waiver of sovereign immunity only applies to the Sequatchie Valley Mine in Tennessee. It does not include the Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines in Wyoming, or the Spring Creek mine in Montana.
Under the agreement reached with the federal government Saturday, NTEC agreed to a limited waiver of this sovereign immunity — a step that brings NTEC one step closer to securing permits for reclamation of an inactive mine in Tennessee.