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Navajo Nation AG names law firm to represent tribe in mine spill case

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch has selected a southern California-based law firm to represent the tribe in a future lawsuit stemming from the Gold King Mine spill.

Hueston Hennigan LLP will represent the tribe “in its claims relating to the release of hazardous substances” from the mine, according to a press release issued today from the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President.

The Environmental Protection Agency has accepted responsibility for the spill, which released more than three million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River earlier this month. The plume of heavy metals then flowed into the San Juan River, which runs through the northern portion of the Navajo Nation and converges with the Colorado River at Lake Powell in southeastern Utah.

In related news, Navajo Nation committee hears irrigation concerns from chapter officials.

Shortly after the Aug. 5 spill, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye announced the tribe plans to sue the EPA. As of this afternoon, a lawsuit had not been filed, said Lisa Richardson, a spokeswoman for the law firm.

The spill prompted tribal officials to restrict the use of river water for irrigation, livestock and recreational purposes.

“The impact has been devastating to our culture and economy, as well as to the peace of mind of our people,” Branch said in the release.

The litigation team will be led by attorney John Hueston, who represented the Navajo Nation and others in a lawsuit that secured a $5.15 billion settlement from Tronox last year.

“My firm is fully committed to this case, and we will make this matter a number one priority. Working alongside the attorney general of the Navajo Nation, our team will be relentless in our efforts to secure justice and fair treatment for the Navajo people,” Hueston said in the release.

This article was written by Noel Lyn Smith from The Daily Times, Farmington, N.M. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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