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Judge tosses suit by Hopis contesting pipeline hearings 5-9-07

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - A lawsuit filed by two members of the Hopi
tribe contesting the timing of public hearings for a proposed water
pipeline has been dismissed by a federal judge.

Former Hopi chair candidate Valjean Joshevama and religious
practitioner Jerry Honawa had sued because the federal Office of
Surface Mining had set the hearings for winter months. Some Hopis who
follow traditional beliefs believe they are called to refrain from
participating in political affairs during the ceremonial months.

But Magistrate Mark Aspey ruled the lawsuit was without merit because
the government extended a deadline for public comments in response to
complaints.

The public deadline was moved from February to May, allowing
Joshevama and Honawa time to express their views on the 108-mile
pipeline, which was proposed to supply water pumped from east of
Flagstaff to the Black Mesa mine on the Navajo Reservation.

Aspey also said in his ruling he did not believe the plaintiffs
needed more time to decide how they felt about the project, but that
they had received it nonetheless and that resolved the issue.

“Plaintiffs' position on the Black Mesa Project is apparently
well-informed and completely formulated, and presumably has been for
some time,” Aspey wrote in the ruling, released Monday.

Lawyers for the Office of Surface Mining said in court papers they
believed the men were using the court system to delay the project.

The Black Mesa mine sends coal through a slurry pipeline to the
now-shuttered Mohave Generating Station near Laughlin, Nev. The power
plant shut down more than a year ago after its owners did not
retrofit it with modern pollution control equipment, in part because
of issues with water supply to transport the coal it burns.

The Black Mesa mine shut down at the same time, because its only
customer was the Mohave plant.
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