Republicans Use Appropriations Bill To Push Uranium Mining Around The Grand Canyon

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"Republicans Use Appropriations Bill To Push Uranium Mining Around The Grand Canyon"

By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Public Lands Project, Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Today the House Appropriations Committee is debating the FY 2012 spending bill for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. No less than 25 anti-environment riders — policy provisions not related to spending — were included in the bill. In his opening statement, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), ranking member on the subcommittee, called the bill a “virtual dump truck of special interest legislative riders.”

 

As ThinkProgress reported on its introduction, the base text of this appropriations bill includes a provision that would block the Department of the Interior from protecting one million acres of land around Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining. This rider was added by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) as a response to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s announcement a few weeks ago of a temporary withdrawal for these lands from mineral development while an environmental analysis is completed.

Moran offered an amendment to strip this rider from the bill, but Republicans rejected it by a 26 to 23 vote. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) stated:

This is the Flake earmark for the mining industry.

The provision has nothing to do with appropriations. Flake and leadership on the committee have received mining industry financial support in the past:

- Flake received contributions from an international mining company in the last election cycle.

– Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), the chairman of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, accepted $13,250 from mining industry in 2010 cycle, including $5,000 from the mining industry’s large PAC.

– Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the entire appropriations committee, has received $331,475 in contributions from the mining industry over the course of his career, his number-one contributor.

Nonetheless, Flake continued to denounce the Department of the Interior’s attempt to protect the Grand Canyon as a political move, “What is ‘special interest,’ if anything, if taking one part of this, uranium mining, and removing it for 20 years.”

Flake did not seem to take into account that the Interior Department is acting on advice from the 300,000 comments that it received on its draft withdrawal plans, many of which were in favor of the decision including the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.

The Grand Canyon is one of our nation’s most visited and economically important national parks. The park provided over 5,000 jobs and $412 million in economic returns in 2009, from the over 4 million visitors who came to the park that year. If this rider moves forward, tourism from many sectors could be greatly impacted. As Jim Stipe, chairman of the Arizona Council of Trout Unlimited stated today, “Uranium mining threatens to pollute our clean water and spoil habitat for fish and big game near the Grand Canyon. Fishing and hunting are big business in Arizona, especially near the Grand Canyon, and have been for generations.”

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