---relatively decent coverage from azcentral.com/12 News---
Protesters of coal mining arrested at Tempe SRP building
AZ Republic/12 News
Twelve people were arrested on suspicion of trespassing Friday at the Salt River Project administration building in Tempe as they protested the effects of coal mining on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona.
At least 75 protesters crowded the entryway and sidewalks of the building beginning at about 10:30 a.m. Participants complained that SRP, a co-owner of the Navajo Generating Station, and Peabody Energy, which supplies coal for the plant, have been responsible for an assortment of environmental and health problems.
"Coal mining has destroyed thousands of archeological sites and our only water source has been seriously compromised. Their operations are causing widespread respiratory problems, lung diseases, and other health impacts on humans, the environment, and all living things,'' wrote Louise Benally, a resident of Black Mesa, in a letter to SRP and Peabody.
The letter demanded that SRP honor the Clean Air Act and the EPA's highest standards, and that Navajos have more input into decisions related to the plant's impact.
SRP responded that the utility has maintained a strong working relationship with Navajos and other Native Americans.
"We have worked diligently with Native American tribes for years throughout Arizona," SRP spokeswoman Patty Garcia-Likens said. "As the largest and most important source of energy in the Southwest, the Navajo Generating Station is also a large employer of the Navajo Nation."
She said about 82 percent of the employees at the power plant are Navajo, and the plant owners provide thousands of dollars annually in scholarships and charitable contributions to the community.
At the start of the protest, the crowd was mostly in the outside entrance to the lobby. SRP officials asked the group to exit. Tempe police approached the scene and began making arrests. Police also formed a line so others would back up to the sidewalk area.
The crowd chanted songs and gave proclamations including, "SRP has got no soul, hey hey ho ho," and "Clean water is under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back."
On the scene were many police officers and representatives of the Tempe Fire Department. No force, gas or mace was used, Tempe police spokesman Steve Carbajal said.
Benally, a Black Mesa community member, said she has been affected by SRP.
"Our people are not getting compensation for what's going on," Benally said. "Let them (SRP) know we need justice, need compensation for minerals from our land."
The number of protesters grew as the event went on. SRP was not expecting the protest, spokesman Scott Harelson said.
"Our concern is for the safety of our customers and employees," Harelson said.
Customers were directed by SRP employees around the protest so they could pay their bills. Harelson believed the protest was because of SRP's support in the American Legislative Exchange Council's conference going on Friday in Scottsdale. SRP is a sponsor in the event.
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