For Immediate Release, December 4, 2008
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488
Stacey Hamburg, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, (928) 853-8824
Bush Administration Withdraws Rule Protecting Grand Canyon
From Uranium Mining
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— In its latest last-minute attempt to roll back environmental regulations, the Bush administration today announced that it will finalize a new rule that eliminates a regulatory provision requiring the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw lands from mining when Congress determines that there is an emergency situation requiring immediate action. The new rule defies a June 25th emergency resolution by Congress requiring Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne to withdraw a million acres of federal lands adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining.
Today’s action is the latest development in the administration’s refusal to comply with a congressional emergency resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of these lands in response to an alarming increase in uranium claims in such close proximity to Grand Canyon National Park.
“It’s truly disgraceful that the Grand Canyon may fall victim to uranium contamination under the Bush administration’s midnight rule changes,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The administration knows no bounds in accommodating harmful industry on America’s public lands.”
In the past five years, thousands of new uranium mining claims have been staked within a few miles of Grand Canyon National Park. In response, county officials, along with Arizona’s governor and representatives of the state Department of Game and Fish, American Indian tribes, downstream communities, and local, regional, and national conservation groups all have requested additional protection and at least a temporary time-out to allow important issues to be analyzed and considered.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Bush administration places a higher priority on helping the mining industry than it does on protecting the Grand Canyon,” said Roger Clark, of the Grand Canyon Trust. “They are attempting to erase emergency provisions enacted in 1976 rather than comply with federal law. Their actions are contemptuous of Congress and an insult to the American people.”
On June 25th, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources passed an emergency resolution, directing the Secretary of Interior to immediately withdraw the million acres of public lands near Grand Canyon National Park from all forms of mineral entry and location. The Secretary is required to comply with this emergency resolution pursuant to both the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and a long-standing Bureau of Land Management regulation. But Kempthorne did not.
“It is outrageous that the agency is taking this damaging action to undercut protections for Grand Canyon in the waning days of the administration” said Stacey Hamburg, with the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Jamming through a rule change with only a 15-day comment period, especially one with such a negative impact on our public lands is disrespectful of the lands and the people.”
Kempthorne has failed to comply with the House committee’s emergency resolution, and the Bureau of Land Management has continued to authorize additional uranium drilling and exploration within the area of the required withdrawal. The Administration’s refusal to comply with the law forced the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club to file suit in federal court to compel Secretary Kempthorne to withdraw these lands and stop allowing mining to continue.
In response to the lawsuit, and instead of complying with the law, the Bush administration is attempting to change the rules by removing its own regulation requiring compliance with the congressional resolution. Adding insult to injury, the Administration allowed only 15 days for the public to comment on its proposed withdrawal of this significant rule. The proposed rule was published on October 10th, and the final rule will be published December 5th.
Background materials for download:
Conservationist’s lawsuit against Kempthorne
Map of Uranium Exploration Authorized in Violation of Emergency Withdrawal
Map of Uranium Claims, Seeps and Springs in Withdrawal Area
Letter by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano
Letter by Los Angeles Water District
Coconino County Grand Canyon Uranium Resolution
Testimony of Dr. Larry Stevens
Testimony of Dr. Abe Springer
Testimony of Robert Arnberger, former Grand Canyon National Park superintendent
Testimony of Roger Clark
Testimony of Chris Shuey
Supplement to Chris Shuey Testimony
Letter dated July 15th from Department of Interior
Letter dated July 16th by Congressman Rahall