House GOP Submit Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Rider To Transportation Bill

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

The House of Representatives is considering a behemoth surface transportation bill this week, designed to fund the roads, highways, and bridges that connect our country.  It has nothing to do with the public lands that belong to all of us, but that didn’t stop three Republicans from Arizona from filing an amendment to the bill that would override Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s January decision to protect 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining requests.

Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) penned the amendment:


Public Land Order 7787 (77 Fed. Reg. 2563) and the withdrawal of lands by that Public Land Order shall have no force or effect, and the provisions of the land use plans applicable to such lands immediately before the issuance of such Public Land Order shall remain in effect.

If this sounds familiar, it is because this trio of lawmakers has tried three times in the last two years to undo new protections for one of our nation’s great places.  Here is a list of their other attempts to do the National Mining Association’s bidding:

— They added roll back language in the text of last year’s budget bill (which did not pass) where it was dubbed “the Flake earmark for the mining industry.”

— In October, Franks introduced the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, an attempt to halt the mineral withdrawal.

— Franks introduced legislation in the last Congress to stop the mineral withdrawal.

As ThinkProgress has outlined before, the Grand Canyon is incredibly important to the economy of Arizona.  Tourists spending money in and around the Grand Canyon create jobs. Headwaters Economics found that Grand Canyon National Park supported over 6,000 jobs in 2009 and those tourists spent more than $400 million.

In addition, mining for uranium around the canyon poses risks to drinking water for 25 million people reliant on the Colorado River, as seen in the legacy of old, abandoned, and hazardous mines.     

It remains to be seen whether Congressional rules will allow the amendment to be considered.  But House Republicans have made their position clear—despite the fact that the battle over the Grand Canyon has been fought, and these three Congressmen lost, they will keep fighting another day.  Franks recently stated to E&E News that “anything that we can do to promote the legislation we will.”

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