As Meteor Blades noted Friday, the Obama administration has decided to extend the Grand Canyon uranium-mining ban for 20 years. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement Monday.
At an early afternoon event, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a 20-year ban on new mining claims on public land surrounding the Grand Canyon. On two previous occasions the secretary had imposed temporary bans on new mining claims. On Monday, he said that while uranium remains an important part of a comprehensive energy strategy, the Grand Canyon is a national treasure that must be protected.
The Grand Canyon attracts more than 4 million visitors a year and generates an estimated $3.5 billion in economic activity, Salazar said. Millions of Americans living in cities such as Phoenix and Los Angeles rely on the Colorado River for clean drinking water.
"A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape," Salazar said in a speech at the National Geographic Museum. "People from all over the country and around the world come to visit the Grand Canyon. Numerous American Indian tribes regard this magnificent icon as a sacred place, and millions of people in the Colorado River Basin depend on the river for drinking water (and) irrigation."
As Interior secretary, he has been "entrusted to care for and protect our precious environmental and cultural resources," he said, adding that he has chosen "a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations."
Predictably, Republicans from the region had a collective freak-out over the ban. U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and U.S. Congressmen Rob Bishop (UT-01), Jeff Flake (AZ-06), David Schweikert (AZ-05) and Ben Quayle (AZ-03) all leaped denounce the latest "job-killing" action, because somehow the $3.5 billion in economic activity that the Grand Canyon generates for the region doesn't count as real money. This is echoed in the silliest of the statements, by tea-partier Mike Lee.
“This administration has proven incapable of using even the slightest bit of common sense when it comes to lands policy,” said Senator Mike Lee. “The American people are desperate for jobs, and our domestic energy industry provides some of the best paying jobs in the western states. However, the President and Interior Secretary Salazar are intent on appeasing their friends in the extreme left wing of the environmentalist movement during an election year by locking up as much land as possible, regardless of the negative effects on our economy. For energy production that has long been safe and responsible, the announcement represents a needless overreaction to a fictitious problem.”
Because protecting this national treasure, and the Colorado River which runs through it (and provides drinking water to an astounding 1 in 12 Americans) is just some kind of whacko idea. And because allowing foreign entities like Rosatom, Russia's state atomic energy corporation, and South Korea's state-owned utility to mine for uranium at the Grand Canyon just makes so much damned sense.
The House Republicans have introduced legislation, H.R. 3155, the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act, that would nullify this decision if it passed in the next 60 days.