Navajo Nation Appoints New Environmental Protection Agency Executive Director

Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - 3:38pm
Updated: Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - 3:40pm
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Navajo Nation
Valinda Shirley

The Navajo Nation has appointed Valinda Shirley to head its Environmental Protection Agency. 

The position is an important one, because there are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the reservation.

Nearly 30 million tons of uranium were extracted from the Navajo Nation during the Cold War, and the tribe says it has struggled with health problems since then. The Navajo EPA works with its federal counterpart on the cleanup, but ownership of some mines goes back decades, so it can be difficult to prove who should pay for it. Shirley hopes she can persuade the federal EPA to do more. 

“I have a lot of community members that would like to see the uranium issue end," Shirley said, "and would like to see their grandchildren not have to deal with it. But unfortunately, we are still dealing with the uranium issue.” 

She says the federal agency frequently drags its feet on cleanups because population densities on the Nation are low.

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