Originally posted at the Wonk Room.
The Bush administration is rushing forward with plans to mine the Grand Canyon for uranium, ignoring a command from Congress to cease such operations. Since 2003, mining interests have staked out over 800 uranium claims within five miles of Grand Canyon National Park. As Mineweb reports, “The Bureau of Land Management has published a proposed rule which rejects the House Natural Resources Emergency Resolution enacted in June that bans uranium mining and exploration near the Grand Canyon National Park.” The Arizona Republic explains what’s at stake:
Never mind that the drinking water of more than 25 million people, served by the Colorado River, is at risk …
Or that Arizona Game and Fish warns about the impact on wildlife …
Or that Grand Canyon National Park is still dealing with the toxic mess from past mines …
The proposed BLM rule would not only reject the House’s emergency withdrawal of over 1 million acres of federal land near Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining, but also eliminate the provisions that allow Congress to make such withdrawals in the future. The proposed rule, published on Friday, has a remarkably short comment period, closing in less than two weeks on October 27. House Parks Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) blasted BLM’s action, saying, “This last-minute move by this ‘see if we can get it under the clock‘ administration is cowardly.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been strangely silent on this issue, despite his claimed commitment to protecting the Grand Canyon from drilling:
But McCain’s claim to Roosevelt-style environmentalism has been badly bruised by his silence on uranium mining near the park and on the Navajo Nation.
“McCain gave us hope that he might be a Teddy Roosevelt type of Republican,” said Roger Clark, air and water director for The Grand Canyon Trust, a Flagstaff, Ariz., environmental group. “Since the beginning of his run for president, including 2000, that has kind of crumbled.”
The Arizona Republic’s editorial concludes that it’s “legacy time at the administration”:
Surely President Bush doesn’t want his to include tainted water and a contaminated landscape. We must keep the temporary ban on uranium mining near Grand Canyon.
Written comments should be submitted online or sent to Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, 1620 L St., NW, Room 401, Washington, DC 20036, Attention: RIN 1004-AEO5.