Court rejects Gila River tribe’s suit against VA over cost of vets’ care

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Renata Clo

Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018

Court rejects Gila River tribe’s suit against VA over cost of vets’ care

PHOENIX - The Department of Veterans Affairs does not have to reimburse the Gila River Indian Community for health care it provided to tribal veterans, a federal court has ruled. The Gila River Indian Community and the Gila River Health Care Corp. claimed that the Affordable Care Act required the payments, but the VA argued that the tribe had not entered into a required agreement to get paid. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled in favor of the department, upholding a lower court that said federal law barred courts from interfering in decisions on veterans’ benefits, which are under the control of the VA secretary. Requests for comment from attorneys on both sides were not immediately returned Thursday. But in a statement Thursday evening, the tribe said it may seek review of the appellate panel’s decision. “Providing healthcare to Native American veterans is a critical aspect of the trust obligation of the United States,” Gila River Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said in the prepared statement. “Requiring Gila River Health Care Corporation to go through the same administrative process as individual veterans is contrary to the trust obligation.” The fight began in 2010, when the tribe said two provisions of the Affordable Care Act guaranteed that the tribe would only have to pay for veterans’ care after all other options - such as Medicaid, private health insurance of VA reimbursement - had been exhausted. The tribe argued that Native American veterans were seeking tribal care because of "well-publicized health care scandals alleging poor quality of care and long waits for appointments at VA facilities," court documents read. Gila River officials also argued that tribal veterans should have that choice and that the ACA was meant to "benefit Indian tribes because of a long history of underfunding for Native American health care." The VA said it would pay for care by those tribes with which it had entered into an agreement, and had developed a template agreement for tribes. But Gila River officials refused to agree to what it called a “one-sided” agreement that would “improperly limit the scope of what it contends is a mandatory ... right to reimbursement” under the Affordable Care Act. After three years of negotiations failed to produce an agreement, the tribe filed suit against the VA in U.S. District Court in Arizona. The same year, the VA moved to dismiss the complaint saying the Veteran's Judicial Review Act states that only the secretary, not the courts, can decide on issues affecting veterans’ benefits. Once the secretary decides, then the plaintiff can appeal his ruling. The district court agreed with the VA and the appeals court affirmed Wednesday, saying the act shows that “Congress was quite serious about limiting our jurisdiction over anything dealing with the provision of veterans’ benefits.” Lewis said the tribe will consider an appeal. “One reason veterans choose to receive care at GRHCC is because of the high quality of care they receive at our Community run healthcare facility,” his statement said. “The VA should respect the decisions of Native veterans on where to receive care, instead of avoiding its obligation to pay for this care. “Given the VA’s inflexible position, the Community will consider all appeal options to protect the healthcare of our veterans,” Lewis’ statement said. Read more

Santa Cruz River in jeopardy if international sewage pipe ruptures again, experts fear

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Nancy Montoya

Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018

Santa Cruz River in jeopardy if international sewage pipe ruptures again, experts fear

NOGALES – Some residents in Santa Cruz County are warning that the pipeline carrying raw sewage from Mexico into the United States could rupture as it did during last year's monsoon, spewing millions of gallons of waste into the Nogales Wash over seven days. The wash is a main tributary of the Santa Cruz River, which begins near Patagonia and flows south into Mexico before making a U-turn back into Arizona, where it finally reaches Tucson, 70 miles north of the border. The 8.5-mile pipeline can transport 14 million gallons daily from Nogales, Sonora, and Nogales, Arizona, to a treatment plant in Rio Rico. Treated water then is released into the Santa Cruz to support riparian areas and recharge the water table. Ben Lomeli, a hydrologist with more than 40 years of experience and a longtime resident of Santa Cruz County, said the river again is in jeopardy because the pipeline only was patched last year and could break again under heavy rains. Lomeli said he has traversed by foot most of the pipeline and has spotted some leaks. [caption id="attachment_95705" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Ben Lomeli was a hydrologist for the Bureau of Land Management for 20 years. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management)[/caption] “It doesn’t rupture in places where it runs under the streets," said Lomeli, who worked for the Bureau of Reclamation for two decades and now is a part-time consultant. "It doesn’t rupture in places where it is away from the wash. It ruptures where it is co-located either underneath the wash or right next to the Nogales Wash." Lomeli said he and others who study and care about Arizona waterways are sounding the alarm on the 50-year-old sewage pipeline – officially known as the International Outfall Interceptor – as the single biggest threat to the Santa Cruz River. Jonathan Horst, the director of conservation and research for the Tucson Audubon Society, also warns of trouble for the river if another sewage spill occurs. He said the Santa Cruz is vital to preserving riparian areas rich with native vegetation and wildlife, including migratory and non-migratory birds. “Over 90 percent of the riparian areas of have been lost in Arizona and New Mexico," Horst said. Birders come from all over the world to southern Arizona, to see all these birds that are more common in southern Arizona than in anywhere else in the U.S." The Santa Cruz and the riparian areas it supports, Horst and Lomeli said, are longtime, sustainable economic drivers for the region. No one disagrees the pipeline needs to be replaced and that Arizona needs that treated effluent for the Santa Cruz River. But the cost is $80 million. Santa Cruz County and Nogales officials say they don’t have that kind of money and that Arizona should shoulder much of the cost. And Arizona? The state’s Department of Environmental Quality is suing the federal government, saying a treaty between the U.S. and Mexico 50 years ago created the pipeline, so it's a federal problem to solve and pay for. Meanwhile, there's more than a month left to the monsoon season. Follow us on Twitter. Read more

Tribally owned solar power plant beats skeptics, odds on Navajo Nation

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Sarabeth Henne

Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018

Tribally owned solar power plant beats skeptics, odds on Navajo Nation

WASHINGTON - Deenise Becenti remembers watching this summer as a woman in the Navajo Nation who had been waiting more than 20 years to get electricity in her home flipped the switch to turn on the lights for the first time. "She had a whole lot of happy tears," said Becenti, the spokeswoman for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. "It was a very humble day because you knew that she had been waiting for 'the day' for a very long time." "The day" was made possible by the Kayenta Solar Project, the first large-scale solar farm on the Navajo Nation and the largest tribally owned renewable power plant in the country. The 27.3-megawatt plant, which went on line last summer, now generates enough power for 18,000 homes on Navajo lands. But many thought the day might never come. For years, there had been talk about supplying renewable energy to homes on the Navajo Nation, but that's all it had been - talk. When NTUA General Manager Walter Haase first proposed that the tribe build its own solar-generating plant, there were skeptics. When Haase began his job at NTUA in 2008, there were about 18,000 homes without electricity. The utility was in the red. It had never owned its own generating facility. And Haase, who is not a member of the tribe, had to gain the trust of the Navajo people and their government. "We were in the red, and we just had no direction," before Haase took over, Becenti said. "The leadership was not there, so he was able to completely turn this enterprise around." [caption id="attachment_95681" align="alignleft" width="350"] Walter Haase, general manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, said the tribe-owned Kayenta Solar Project has not only brought low-cost power to Navajo homes but has generated revenue for the tribal government. (Photo by Pat Poblete/Cronkite News)[/caption] The idea for Kayenta came together in 2014 and the NTUA was able to break ground two years later. The project created as many as 284 construction jobs in an area with chronically high unemployment - and facing the possible loss of thousands of jobs with the looming closure of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station and the nearby Kayenta Mine that keeps it stocked with coal. Haase said that 85 percent of the workforce on the solar project were of Navajo descent. The plant went on line last year. "We need folks like Walter who are going to be persistent and say that there is no opportunity that is too difficult to deploy this important technology and all the benefits that come with it," said Tanuj Deora, an official with the Smart Electric Power Alliance. Deora, whose organization recognized Haase as its Visionary of the Year this summer, said completion of the Kayenta project proves that the Navajo Nation is ready to take on other large-scale renewable energy development. And Haase said the project has generated more than electricity for the Navajo - by owning and operating the plant, the tribe has gained a new source of revenue. "It's significant dollars back to the Navajo Nation government, which needs that to provide self-sustaining ... services to their people," Haase said. [related-story-right box-title="Related story:" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2018/08/15/tribal-energy-loan-program-starts-more-than-a-decade-after-its-ok/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/triballines-800.jpg" headline="Tribal loan energy program starts, more than a decade after its OK"] He said the authority and its subsidiary, NTUA Generation Inc., already have plans to expand the Kayenta Solar facility. The authority is scheduled to break ground on Kayenta II on Aug. 23. Becenti said that the first phase of the solar project has brought families back together on the reservation. "They had moved off the nation to cities ... because they (cities) had electricity," Becenti said. "So now that the ... area is connected, they said, 'OK,' and have moved back." Becenti nominated Haase for the SEPA award that honors someone who pursues projects "that promote collaborative, innovative and replicable models for change" and that "significantly advance knowledge of or access to distributed energy resources." "I already knew I would submit his name for consideration because he's brought significant progress to the Navajo Nation," Becenti said of the award, which was presented last month. There are still challenges. The number of homes off the grid has improved since Haase started, but still stands at roughly 15,000, Becenti said. Although Kayenta could power up to 18,000 homes, getting them connected to the plant is still a challenge because of the vast distances on the remote reservation. But Becenti looks to the positives. "We're meeting the needs of our people ... and certainly meeting the definition for which we were created, which was to meet the growing utility demands of the Navajo Nation," Becenti said. Read more

Tribal energy loan program starts, more than a decade after its OK

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Sarabeth Henne

Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018

Tribal energy loan program starts, more than a decade after its OK

WASHINGTON - More than 10 years after it was first approved, a federal loan program for tribal energy development projects will accept its first applications next month. The Department of Energy in July said it was accepting applications for projects under the $2 billion Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program, which will provide "partial loan guarantees to leverage private sector lending" for a range of energy projects by tribes. "It's a good start," said Pilar Thomas, a professor specializing in Indian energy and policy at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law. "There's a real opportunity for them (tribes) to do something around energy." It's an opportunity that's been a long time coming: The tribal loan program was first approved in 2005 but not fully funded until Congress passed the omnibus budget bill in May 2017. The program aims to stimulate economic growth in Indian Country by allowing the Energy Department to guarantee up to 90 percent of the unpaid interest on these loans. The first applications are due Sept. 19, with deadlines every other month thereafter. The program will let the government "work in partnership with private-sector lenders to help them better understand the unique characteristics of tribal energy opportunities and catalyze future private-sector investment," said Energy Secretary Rick Perry in a statement announcing the start of the program this summer. The National Congress of American Indians cites Interior Department estimates that undeveloped energy reserves on tribal lands, including coal, natural gas, and oil, could "generate nearly $1 trillion in revenues for tribes and surrounding communities." But the loan program will be available for renewable energy projects, like wind and solar power, in addition to transmission lines and energy storage projects, as well as mining and drilling operations. [related-story-right box-title="Related story:" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2018/08/15/tribally-owned-solar-power-plant-beats-skeptics-odds-on-navajo-nation/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/solarworkers-800.jpg" headline="Tribally owned solar power plant beats skeptics, odds on Navajo Nation"] While the opportunity has always been there, Derrick Beetso said tribes have had trouble getting the funding to make them reality. "A lot of times, tribes are limited with access to capital for projects in general," said Beetso, the general counsel for the National Congress of American Indians. "Tribes are kind of left out of the process." Dante Desiderio, the executive director of the Native American Finance Officers Association, said the benefits of the loan-guarantee program are two-pronged. "It makes it much easier for larger projects to get funded because it gives the guarantees to the banks that are willing to take a risk to underwrite these things for Indian Country," Desiderio said. "The $2 billion is really significant for funding all sorts of energy projects and getting the banks comfortable with dealing with Indian Country for energy development." Beetso calls the start of the program "generally good news for tribes that are looking to develop their energy resources." "There are a lot of different needs in the tribal context that this loan guarantee program will help to address," he said. But Thomas said the program will not be a cure-all when it comes to energy development on tribal lands. "There is plenty of money sloshing around in the system," said Thomas, a Pascua Yaqui who served as the Interior Department's deputy solicitor of Indian affairs. "The federal government has, by last count, close to 40 programs that can be used for financing energy projects on tribal lands. "My experience has not been that it's an access to capital problem," she said. "My experience has been that it's generally that the tribe has to recognize and have a commitment to go do a project." Desiderio disagreed, saying money has been one of the primary impediments to developing Indian energy. "If it's not one of the main barriers, it's always in the conversation," he said. Funding has "always been really helpful for Indian Country, but it's not been enough. Just the size of this should have a major impact on Indian Country development." While Thomas does not expect immediate success, she is optimistic about the future of the tribal energy opportunities. "For me the jury is out on where this is going to end up. The first year, you kind of have to wait and see," Thomas said. "I'm hopeful. It's always better to have more resources than less." Read more

Environmentalists want Glen Canyon Dam removed, but is that possible?

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Courtney Mally

Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018

Environmentalists want Glen Canyon Dam removed, but is that possible?

PAGE – The Bureau of Reclamation finished Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, obliterating one of the most spectacular red-rock canyons in the Southwest and altering the flow of the mighty Colorado River. The concrete-arch dam, just south of the Arizona-Utah line, was first proposed in the 1940s to store water and produce electricity for Western states. Initial plans were to dam the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado, but that would have flooded Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, so planners turned to little-known Glen Canyon. But the formation of Lake Powell behind the dam cooled the Colorado and reduced sediment flows downstream, making the water clearer and preventing the replenishment of fragile shoreline habitat. The sediment buildup eventually could interfere with the dam's operations. Environmentalists opposed Glen Canyon Dam even before it was built, and some now argue it should be dismantled regardless of the environmental and economic costs that could have. But others disagree, contending removal would be too costly and arguing that the dam has forever transformed the river from Page to the Grand Canyon, which lies to the southwest. Economically, Page and nearby communities rely heavily on the dam's operation and the tourist attractions and activities created by Lake Powell. This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal. Follow us on Twitter. Read more

Just for kicks: Arizona sneakerheads pay big bucks for elite shoes

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Nate Fain

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018

Just for kicks: Arizona sneakerheads pay big bucks for elite shoes

PHOENIX -- J Carrillo’s house is covered in sneakers. Some pairs are scattered across the floor, permissible to be kicked out of the way by his girlfriend. Others have been worn once or twice and are stored in the man cave room of the house in individual, transparent display drawers. In this special room, Carrillo, a DJ who is known under the alias “Chilly,” can open up the top of his coffee table like a treasure chest. Inside are his most prized possessions, about a dozen versions of his all-time favorite sneaker, the Air Jordan XI. Chilly is a sneakerhead, a collector, willing to spend thousands of dollars to accumulate and sell troves of the trendiest, newest and rarest athletic shoes. With an assemblage hovering around 250 pairs, he’s allotted a permanent place in his heart to what he wears on his feet. Along with the shoes, his two-story Tempe home is a shrine of sports memorabilia and “Star Wars” knickknacks. Even something he takes as seriously as sneaker collecting is done with childlike exuberance. [caption id="attachment_95592" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The coffee table in Carrillo's man cave opens up like a treasure chest. Inside are his many versions of his favorite shoes, the Air Jordan XI. (Photo by Nate Fain/Cronkite News)[/caption] “Every time a shoe drops and I’m able to get it, I feel like a kid a Disneyland,” said Chilly, who once spent $1,400 for a pair of Air Jordans 1s. “It makes my day. I love to smell the shoes and touch them and look at them.” He is part of a community, one that is growing in the Valley, and is navigating a rapidly changing marketplace and retail industry in search of the most unique and artistically inspired shoes in the world. And he is not alone in his love for sneakers. The U.S. athletic footwear industry generated $19.6 billion in sales in 2017, according to a report from global information company The NDP Group. “It’s a community, but like every community there are good and bad parts,” Chilly said. “Some people are just in it for the money. Others are in it because they genuinely love sneakers.” Over the years, Chilly has learned how to navigate the sneakerhead community, skirting the sharks and finding what he calls “bounty hunters,” who admire his kindred spirit and help him find the best pairs. One of them is Ryan Gizinski, the owner of Guest List, a sneaker and apparel store in Tempe. Gizinski started working at a Footlocker when he was 16. Not long after, he became obsessed with sneakers. Now 30, he has owned Guest List for six years. He organized the Heated Sole Summit at Arizona Mills, which took place on July 28-29. Over 150 vendors set up shop at the swap meet, buying, selling and trading coveted new releases, including the Travis Scott inspired Air Jordan 4 “Cactus Jack” and the Nike Off-White Presto. Multiple Heated Sole Summits take place each year across the Valley. While the retail marketplace is rapidly moving to online platforms, and local sneaker consignment stores like Pound For Pound are closing, sneakerheads are trying to establish sneaker culture and street wear in Phoenix. “In 2018, retail is tough, but the market in Arizona is strong,” Gizinski said. “There are five major businesses here that travel to every big sneaker event in the country.” Last year, Sneaker Con, a globe-trotting shoe show, made its first stop in Phoenix. Along with living in here Phoenix, Chilly has a condo in Los Angeles, one of America’s most fashion-forward cities and a multi-time host of Sneaker Con. He sees differences and similarities between the two places. “Naturally, Phoenix is a little bit behind, but the proximity to Los Angeles helps,” he said. “I think it’s stronger here than in like Kansas or Alabama. I know there are a lot of places in Arizona that are trying emulate Los Angeles.”

The addiction

But for those who have already embraced the culture, collecting sneakers can come with consequences. Some collections, like Gizinski’s, consist of more than 1,000 pairs of shoes. Even when paying the modest retail price of $120, which collectors only pay for the rarest shoes if they win online lotteries, the hobby (or habit) can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Gregory Robison has long been aware of the financial vortex that often snags sneakerheads. So when he started college at ASU, he sold his entire collection of approximately 500 shoes. Now that he’s 35, has a wife and child, and works a steady job for the City of Phoenix, he’s back in the game. “During college, I fought it off,” Robison said. "I was focused on school. I told myself, ‘Get a good job, make a lot of money and you can always go back and buy all the pairs you sold.’" [caption id="attachment_95593" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Now that he has a wife and kids, Gregory Robison doesn't collect shoes like he once did, but his closet is still filled with hundreds of pairs of sneakers. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Robison)[/caption] He made it through college, but he’s still a prisoner to the rush that comes with owning a new design that no one else has. “One thing a lot of sneakerheads in the community won’t tell you is that sneakers are a real addiction. I know for a fact: I’m addicted to sneakers,” Robison said. “It’s not just a hobby. Most sneakerheads will tell you, ‘Oh, I can stop anytime.’ We might be able to stop for a period of time, but we can’t fight it, and it’ll come right back.” Some collectors covet the status and attention they receive for owning something rare much more than innovative designs or splashy colors. “People might not admit this, but sneakerheads want the shoes that no one else has. It makes them feel a certain way,” Robison said.

The hustle

Anyone suffering from this sneaker addiction Robison alludes to would have found their strength tested at Heated Sole. During the event, the large, usually vacant space in the mall, filled with vibrant colorways and retro athletic apparel, looks like a candy store. However, the treats there cost more than a couple of quarters -- try anywhere from $150-$1,500. There was money to be spent, but also money to be made. And anyone there -- even non-vendors -- could sling some sneakers for cash. Young entrepreneurs have figured out a pretty simple system. Buy a limited-release pair at retail value, and sell it for five or six times the price. Kyle Warner is one of those savvy salesmen. Only a teenager -- unlike the Generation Xers who were introduced to sneakers by Michael Jordan in the 1980s and dominate the community -- he set up a line of about six pairs of sneakers on the floor at the summit. He loves sneakers, and has pumped a lot of money into his “high-end” collection. But he said he’s made a lot of that money back. [caption id="attachment_95594" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Kyle Warner (left) and his friends set up their own station of shoes that they were trying to sell. It wasn't the biggest display at the Heated Sole Summit, but Warner estimated that he had more than $2,000 worth of shoes for sale. (Photo by Nate Fain/Cronkite News)[/caption] “I make so much money on shoes,” Warner said. “The most I’ve ever made (on one pair) is $1,100 above retail.” Warner pointed with his foot to a pair of blue and white shoes that he had set up to sell. “Got these Off-White Jordans for $190. I’m looking for $700-800,” He said. Reselling shoes has made the hobby more sustainable and affordable for some sneakerheads, but older members of the community worry that resellers aren’t in the game because they love basketball shoes, but because they want to turn a profit. “It might seem like the community is growing, but I don’t think a lot of people like sneakers,” Chilly said. “I think a lot of people like money, and some people have found out how to flip shoes for a profit. … I don’t have a problem with resellers. I do have a problem with price gougers.” But as retailers struggle across the country, and with fewer consignment stores to mitigate fair pricing, the marketplace has shifted to websites like Facebook, Ebay and StockX, where bidding wars are encouraged. “The majority of people I sell to don’t live in Arizona,” Warner said.

The art

The marketplace has changed, but so has the market. Sneakerheads still seek the status that comes with having a unique collection. But now the athletic practicality of a shoe matters much less than it used to, and the artistic value of a shoe is of higher priority. “The sneakers used to be associated with the athletes. You wanted to be like Mike or play like Kobe. Now, it’s all about the fashion,” Robison said. “They wear the shoes, but they don’t watch football or basketball. In the ‘80s and ‘90s that would be blasphemy.” Like the Air Jordan zealots before him, Warner does love basketball. He’s a diehard Portland Trail Blazers fan and owns at least one version of all four signature shoe releases of his favorite player (Damian Lillard). He even wants to open his own sneaker shop in Portland, which he considers a better city -- with close proximity to Nike headquarters -- for business than Phoenix. But as he pointed to a pair of Black Mambas that he was trying to get rid of, he said current players’ shoes don’t drive the market. “Kobes, LeBrons, that stuff is all downhill,” Warner said. Many of the major athletic apparel brands, such as Nike and Under Armour, have seen a dip in basketball shoe sales and have focused more energy on running and casual footwear. Several product advisory boards see this as the new normal. Street brands, like Supreme and Off-White, have gained popularity and have even started collaborating with the larger athletic apparel companies. Kanye West, Travis Scott and Pharrell Williams have also recently inspired shoe designs for Adidas and Nike, cementing a place in the sneaker business for the entertainment industry. As consumers crave more flamboyant and creative designs, artists are taking the classics and giving the one-of-a-kind customization. [caption id="attachment_95595" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Jon Trevor remembers falling in love with sneakers as a kid the first time he saw the Air Jordan 3. Now Trevor channels that love into inspiration for his custom designs. (Photo courtesy of Jon Trevor)[/caption] Even the NFL -- known for its strict on-the-field dress code -- started the “My Cleats, My Cause” initiative, which allows players to wear cleats with custom artwork to promote a charity of their choosing. Jon Trevor hopes that someday he’ll be able to put his work on display in an NFL game. The head of human relations for a startup company, Trevor, in his spare time, has combined a lifelong love of sneakers with artistic gifts. He does commission-based shoe customizations for everything from football cleats and golf shoes to Air Jordans. Trevor’s art is more of a stress reliever than a side hustle. His business model is not complex. He doesn’t have a website, only an instagram page with photos of his work. Interested buyers approach him with an idea, and if he likes the idea, he’ll come up with a design and make the shoes a reality. The work itself is a little more complicated, and the end product doesn’t come cheap. Trevor, 37, uses a variety of paints and styling utensils. It can take several hours of intense work to complete a pair. Trevor loves shoes, especially basketball shoes, but over the years, he’s weary of the sneakerhead community, which he believes has become “soulless,” and its too consumed status. “We’ve made shoes more important than they really should be, but they’re really just a piece of rubber and cloth,” Trevor said “There was an allure to shoes, now no one really cares about that. They just want to show off for their friends and Instagram.” But even he has found life-long friends in the sneaker community, ones who share his appreciation for custom shoes. “Some of my closest friends in that group, I’ve never even met in person,” Trevor said. “One guy, I’ve been talking to him for five years, he’s from New Zealand. We might meet up later this year. The custom shoe community is really tight-knit.” Frustrations haven’t deterred Robison either. He and some friends started the “Sneak Diss Podcast,” which has 1,200 subscribers. “We’ve come to learn on our podcast lately that the times have changed,” he said. “There are more sneakerheads now than ever before. That’s because of the celebrity aspect of it. There are more people on television and the internet than ever before who love sneakers.” The community has changed a lot since Robison got his first pair of Air Jordans, in 1991, but it’s one he just can’t leave no matter how hard he tries. Follow us on Twitter. Read more

After 11 years, legal, bureaucratic battles over Rosemont Mine continue

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Sarabeth Henne

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018

After 11 years, legal, bureaucratic battles over Rosemont Mine continue

WASHINGTON - A proposal for a massive open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains will be back in court this month as opponents challenge permits for the project, the latest twist in an 11-year battle over the Rosemont Mine. The fight pits supporters - who say the mine has been studied to death and will bring much-needed jobs to Pima County - against opponents, who see a flawed review process on a mine in "the absolute worst place" for environmental and public health threats. It comes as Hudbay Minerals awaits approval of what could be the final step in getting approval for the mine, the Army Corps of Engineers' issuance of a Section 404 permit. That permit is named for a section of the Clean Water Act regulating the discharge of fill material into waterways. "The regulatory process that we have is, from the outside, very time-consuming," said Mike Petersen, public affairs officer for the Los Angeles office of the Corps, but it's necessary to make a decision that balances "reasonable development of commerce" with water quality. "There's a lot of information and a lot of considerations we have to take into account," Petersen said. "We want to make the most informed decision that we can stand behind." But while that decision is pending, at least three lawsuits are proceeding that attack earlier environmental permits issued for the mine. Those suits - one by the Center for Biological Diversity, one by a group called Save the Scenic Santa Ritas and one by the Pascua Yaqui, the Tohono O'odham and the Hopi tribes - are expected to be in court this fall. They charge that earlier reviews by the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service did not adequately consider the mine's likely impact on environmental and cultural resources. Stu Gillespie, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the tribes in their suit against the Forest Service, said the service's recommendation did not go far enough. "One of our main arguments is that final environmental impact statement and the record of decision by the forest supervisor is that he failed to adequately analyze alternatives," Gillespie said. In an emailed statement, Hudbay said the "project has been going through a thorough evaluation" and that the Forest Service set "specific mitigation and monitoring requirements" to ensure the impacts of the mine are measured. "Any questions asked about the Final EIS impact analysis are a moot point at this time as they have been managed and responded to by the agencies responsible," said a Hudbay spokeswoman. "The Rosemont Project has gone through this review under the ... highest level of review required by the federal government." The Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining, Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service would not comment on the status of the mine. Tribal officials also did not respond to requests for comment. [caption id="attachment_77938" align="alignleft" width="350"] Opponents of the Rosemont copper mine, which would be situated here in the Santa Rita Mountans, said studies on the mine have overlooked its environmental impacts. (Photo by Rob Scott/Cronkite News)[/caption] The proposed open-pit copper mine would be about 6,500 by 6,000 feet - more than a mile wide in each direction - with a final depth up to 2,900 feet, according to the Forest Service's final environmental impact statement on the Rosemont project. Of the 1.96 billion tons that would be excavated from the site, about 700 million tons would be ore and the remaining 1.2 billion tons would be waste rock. The mine would be in operation from 24 to 30 years, generating an estimated $136.7 million in state and local taxes while creating a projected 434 direct jobs and 1,260 indirect jobs per year in Pima County alone, the Forest Service report said. "It would just be a shame if projects as consequential as this were to take on some sort of partisan coloring," said Garrick Taylor, the senior vice president for government and communications at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. He noted that 17 government agencies have a hand in approval of the permit. "We believe it's still a worthwhile project and will do tremendous good for the region and the state," Taylor said. "Copper mining is incredibly important to the legacy of the state." But critics say no amount of economic benefit can outweigh the potential environmental damage of the mine. "It is the absolute worst place you could pick to put an open-pit copper mine in terms of all the impacts to endangered species, threats to Tucson's water supply and all these other issues," said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said that while Hudbay talks about the economic benefits of the mine, "it ignores its negative environmental impacts that will cause irreparable damage to wildlife habitats, water quality, and land." "The health, well-being, and cultural needs of Southern Arizona's residents should always come before the profits of a mining company," Grijalva said in an emailed statement. Fred Palmer, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, said he believes that the pros of the mine outweigh its cons on this site, which is federal land sitting on a "terrific" copper deposit. "It's inherently within the public interest that this deposit be developed, notwithstanding the protestations from the tribes, who I deeply respect and the environmental community," he said. But Gayle Hartmann, president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, said the value of the Coronado National Forest, where the mine would be located, is too great to risk. "This is a beautiful place that has natural attributes ... including streams, wildlife, beautiful oak trees, places to camp, a scenic route along the eastern side of the Santa Rita Mountains that people in southern Arizona have enjoyed for centuries," Hartmann said. "That value is much, much greater than anything that could come from an open-pit mine," she said. Read more