SHERIDAN — Navajo Transitional Energy Company and the state of Wyoming have agreed to a limited waiver of sovereign immunity that ensures the state’s ability to regulate NTEC’s mining operations, according to a press release sent by the company at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
Gov. Mark Gordon accepted the limited waiver agreement on behalf of the state, which allows the state of Wyoming to regulate NTEC’s activities at the Antelope, Youngs Creek and Cordero Rojo mines, according to the release.
“This agreement ensures that Wyoming retains the right and ability to enforce state laws, including administrative procedures and collection of fines,” said Bernard Masters, NTEC general counsel.
“The agreement also respects NTEC’s status as a wholly owned entity of the sovereign Navajo Nation,” he said.
The limited waiver helps NTEC continue to shift ownership from Cloud Peak Energy, a process that started in August 2019 after the company purchased Cloud Peak’s Wyoming and Montana assets at a bankruptcy auction.
The official transfer of assets began in October 2019.
Gordon said the agreement “clears a pathway for NTEC to take the necessary steps to apply for the transfer of permits” for the three Wyoming mines that remain consistent with the requirements in the Wyoming Environmental Quality Act and the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act.
“I applaud the efforts of the Department of Environmental Quality and the Attorney General’s office, who originally identified concerns about sovereign immunity,” Gordon said in a press release. “The state has been negotiating the contents of this waiver continuously since September…”
NTEC spokesperson Catie Kerns, through consultant work with Stewardship Solutions, Inc., said NTEC remains in discussions with the state of Montana and its agencies regarding a similar agreement with sovereign immunity for the Spring Creek Mine.
The mine was closed temporarily October 2019 after NTEC acquired the mine from Cloud Peak. 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.
When asked what the practical implications of the agreement of waiving sovereign immunity were to operations, Kerns said the agreement ensures Wyoming “can regulate and enforce NTEC, a tribal entity.”
No operations were affected before the waiver of immunity, Kerns said, as NTEC has been operating the mines pursuant to Cloud Peak’s permits, “meeting Wyoming’s regulatory requirements and supplying our customers with the fuel they need.”