SHERIDAN — The Navajo Transitional Energy Corporation is prepared to negotiate waivers of sovereign immunity upon purchasing mines in states outside of the Navajo Reservation.
NTEC purchased mines owned by Cloud Peak last fall and recently have agreed to waive its sovereign immunity in the state of Wyoming and, this week, with the U.S. Department of Interior so both government levels may regulate and oversee NTEC under applicable federal and state laws, according to a press release sent by NTEC Tuesday. NTEC does not need to grant a waiver of sovereign immunity to the state of New Mexico, where NTEC’s Navajo Mine is located, because it lies on the Navajo Reservation and remains subject to Navajo law, Stewardship Solutions, Inc.’s Catie Kerns told The Sheridan Press via email on behalf of NTEC.
Months before the close of the acquisition of transferring Cloud Peak mines, NTEC approached the relevant regulatory agencies in Wyoming and Montana regarding sovereign immunity, Kerns said.
“Since then, NTEC has been following an agreed path with both states to reach a final agreement,” Kerns said. “Admittedly, tribal sovereign immunity in the context of coal operations is somewhat unique and, understandably, each state has taken the appropriate time to review the issues.”
NTEC agreed to a limited waiver of sovereign immunity with Wyoming in early February. The company remains in negotiations with the state of Montana for an agreement on the same issue.
“There was never any question as to whether NTEC would need to provide a limited waiver of immunity related to the federal and state oversight of the new properties it acquired from Cloud Peak,” Kerns said.
“NTEC is committed to safe mining practices, excellent reclamation and compliance with state and federal regulatory oversight of its operations,” she continued. “But at the same time, NTEC has a profound obligation to protect its rights against any unreasonable demands for broad waivers of immunity.”
The deadline for an agreement between the entities is set for March 13, 65 days after reaching the first temporary agreement after a 75-day discussion period at the end of 2019.