Friday, November 04, 2011

Chasm wide on Grand Canyon uranium mining

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and a mile deep, which is roughly the size of the gap between the Obama administration and Western Republicans on the issue of uranium mining in Northern Arizona. Western Republicans are fighting to stop Interior Secretary Ken Salazar from slapping a 20-year moratorium on any new mining claims for yellowcake uranium on 1.1 million acres of land around the Grand Canyon National Park. A two-year ban instated in 2009 is scheduled to expire in December. A House Natural Resources subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on the Republican-sponsored Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, which would block the effort to ban uranium mining in the region. Robert Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management, said at the hearing that the area is too sensitive to accommodate expanded mining. The Colorado River, which runs through the canyon, delivers water to 26 million people in seven states, raising the stakes for any contamination that might result from a mining mishap. Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican who chairs the subcommittee on national parks, forest and public lands, accused the Obama administration of bowing to environmental groups by pushing a policy “based purely on political pressure and not sound science.” Republicans say concerns about environmental damage are unfounded. The Interior Department’s draft environmental impact study showed that uranium mineral development would post “little, if any, threat to the park or water quality in the region,” according to an Oct. 12 letter to Mr. Salazar from Republicans. At the same time, Republicans say, allowing more uranium mining would dovetail with the administration’s clean-energy efforts. At a time when the U.S. imports 90 percent of its uranium, the Grand Canyon region could help the nation reach its goal of becoming more energy self-sufficient...more

The problem is the law that allows the Secretary to withdraw that amount of acreage. They need to fix the law (Section 204(c) of FLPMA), not just that one withdrawal.

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