U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and U.S. Congressmen Trent Franks (AZ-02), Rob Bishop (UT-01), Jeff Flake (AZ-06), Paul Gosar (AZ-01), David Schweikert (AZ-05) and Ben Quayle (AZ-03) Wednesday introduced the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011. This legislation will stop the U.S. Department of the Interior from banning mining in a vast area of Arizona, and killing jobs in the uranium mining industry.
In a recent letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, several members of Congress wrote in protest of the SecretaryвЂ™s proposed one million acre withdrawal of mining rights. The members stated the withdrawal has nothing to do with protecting the Grand Canyon environment but is actually вЂde facto wildernessвЂ™ for a region that conservationists previously agreed would remain accessible to the mining industry. The Interior DepartmentвЂ™s own environmental study on the proposed withdrawal found вЂno conclusive evidenceвЂ™ that modern-day mining operations in this area are harming the Grand Canyon watershed.
The Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011 would uphold the historic agreement embodied by the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 (AWA) that designated parts of the Arizona Strip as Wilderness and restored other lands to reasonable and safe uranium mining uses. The letter points out that the AWA вЂњexpressly refrained from banning mining on the Arizona Strip.вЂќ
вЂњThe DepartmentвЂ™s proposed mining withdrawal would kill hundreds of potential jobs to вЂsaveвЂ™ the Grand Canyon from the same form of uranium mining that conservation groups once supported,вЂќ said Senator McCain. вЂњIt also threatens to unravel the spirit of the Arizona Wilderness Act and will raise significant questions for future Wilderness bills if agreements to accommodate responsible land uses are neither genuine nor enduring.вЂќ
“Despite the fact that uranium mining efforts have for decades operated without impacting the environment or the beauty of our national parks, President Obama is nonetheless seeking to make 326-375 million pounds of the best quality uranium in the entire country off-limits, thus putting the desires of a handful of rabid environmentalists above America’s long-term energy independence and national security,” said Congressman Franks.
вЂњThe Obama Administration continues to push policies that stifle American energy exploration and job creation,вЂќ Senator Hatch said. вЂњThrough Utah and the West, thereвЂ™s an abundance of energy that would help fuel the economic recovery we so desperately need. This legislation ensures that these vital public lands are accessible to domestic energy producers so we can harness the nationвЂ™s second largest domestic source of uranium ore.вЂќ
вЂњThis Department of InteriorвЂ™s decision to halt mining in this region is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent congress in order to create new de-facto wilderness areas. Blocking access toВ more than a third of the known U.S. uranium deposits would have a devastating impact on job creation and would increase our reliance on foreign sources of uranium. As it stands, we already depend on other countries for more than 90% of our uranium needs,вЂќ said Congressman Rob Bishop. вЂњThis legislation will block yet another federal land grab and help ensure that we have access to our abundant domestic energy resources, which are essential to the future of this country.вЂќ
вЂњAfter having his ‘wild lands’ policy resoundingly rejected by Utahns and other state and local officials, Secretary Salazar appears intent upon using whatever authority he can claim to lock up lands in the western states,вЂќ said Senator Lee. вЂњThe withdrawal of one million acres of mining rights also reneges on a compromise between the federal government and the mining industry negotiated in good faith almost thirty years ago, setting an unwelcome precedent that could have future negative consequences. This legislation will stand as yet another rebuke of the administration’s relentless pursuit of federal land grabs and reinforce the message that the people, not federal bureaucrats, should be the final authority on what happens to land within their state’s borders.вЂќ
вЂњUranium mining in northern Arizona can create jobs and stimulate the regionвЂ™s economy without jeopardizing the splendor and natural beauty of the area, and thatвЂ™s why ArizonaвЂ™s federal, state, and local officials oppose a moratorium on such mining,вЂќ said Congressman Flake.
вЂњIt is important we focus on the facts surrounding mining in the Northern Arizona Mining district,вЂќ said Congressman Gosar. вЂњIt is simply false and misleading to assert that if the AdministrationвЂ™s withdrawal is not enacted, uranium mining will take place вЂinвЂ™ the canyon or вЂinвЂ™ the park. However without a doubt, if the AdministrationвЂ™s proposed withdrawal is enacted, the potential for nearly $30 billion dollars of economic growth opportunities вЂ“ nearly $700 million annually and over a thousand well paying jobs вЂ“ will be eliminated. I am proud to cosponsor this important legislation, and I strongly support environmentally responsible development of our countryвЂ™s vast energy and mineral resources that will expand our domestic energy supply, create new American jobs, and lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy and minerals.вЂќ
вЂњAt a time when we are desperate for jobs and economic growth, this Administration continues to do everything in its power to implement the job-killing policies of fringe environmental groups. This withdrawal is not so much a protection of the Grand Canyon, but a government land grab of economically fertile mining land,вЂќ said Congressman Schweikert.
вЂњIt is remarkable that we need legislation to force the Administration to stop such an unwarranted ban,вЂќ said Congressman Quayle. вЂњA study conducted by the same department that is proposing the mining withdrawal found вЂno conclusive evidenceвЂ™ that modern-day mining will cause any harm to the Grand Canyon region. Despite these findings, the Department of Interior is still pushing forward even though the ban will prevent the creation of thousands of potential Arizona jobs and economic growth for the state. The Administration is once again putting special interests ahead of job creation.вЂќ