Window Rock – President Russell Begaye today issued the following statement on concerns regarding EPA compensation for financial damages resulting from the Gold King Mine spill:
“I commend Attorney General Ethel Branch and the Navajo Department of Justice for officially requesting that the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Justice assure that all claims, known and unknown, resulting from the Gold King Mine spill are fairly and completely satisfied. We need to verify that our people and their injuries will not go ignored and that the United States Federal Government will act in good faith to address this crisis.
“Following the Gold King Mine spill, the U.S. EPA sent staff to the Navajo Nation to encourage our people to sign Standard Form 95 to expedite the settlement of their claims. The forms contained a significant limiting clause that, despite assurances from the U.S. EPA, could limit the ability of those affected by this disaster to be fully compensated. We need greater assurances from the Federal Government that the fine print included in these documents will not cheat our people out of the full financial compensation that they are entitled to.
“I am disappointed that our people were urged to blindly sign these forms. Due to this spill, we have lost confidence in the U.S. EPA, and believe nobody should put their faith in the agency’s forms and related claims process without firm assurance from the Federal Government that our people will be fairly and fully compensated.
“Additionally, there is a distinction between the Navajo Nation lawsuit against the U.S. EPA and that of personal or class action lawsuits filed by our farmers. While this process is ongoing, the Navajo Nation is working with our Congressional leaders in Washington to establish a source for farmers to be compensated quickly.
“The fear expressed by political leaders that farmers will not be quickly compensated is unfounded. Representatives of my administration have, in nationally televised hearings in Washington, urgently expressed the need to compensate our people quickly. We continue to push for this.
“Navajo Nation leaders need to be united in our efforts to address this crisis and not create uncertainty just to score political points. I am committed to holding the U.S. EPA accountable for their role in causing this disaster, and I will continue to fight to ensure that our people are fully and fairly compensated.”