Science Is the Center of GOP/Obama's Latest Uranium Mining Battle


"The House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop said federal agencies 'grossly overestimated' the impacts of uranium mining to justify a 20-year ban on new uranium development on 1M acres in northern Arizona."

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee has demanded several federal agencies turn over all documents concerning the withdrawal of one million acres from uranium mining in Arizona.

The latest battle between the GOP leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Obama Administration heated up Wednesday as committee chairman Doc Hastings and subcommittee chairman Rob Bishop said federal agencies "grossly overestimated" the impacts of uranium mining to justify a 20-year ban on new uranium development on one million acres in northern Arizona.

Internal emails obtained by the House Natural Resources Committee reveal National Park Service scientists discussing how the potential environmental impacts were "grossly overestimated" in the Obama Administration's Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed withdrawal of lands near the Grand Canyon National Parks from uranium mining and exploration.

In a March 7, 2011 e-mail, Larry Martin, a National Park Service hydrogeologist with the Water Resources Division, wrote, "The DEIS goes to great lengths in an attempt to establish impacts to water resources from uranium mining. It fails to do so, but instead creates enough confusion and obfuscation of hydrogeological principles to create the illusion that there could be adverse impacts if uranium mining occurred."

Bill Jackson of the NPS Water Resources Division wrote in another e-mail, "This is obviously a touchy case where the hard science doesn't strongly support a policy position." Jackson goes on to state that Martin's immediate supervisor, Gary Rosenlieb, and Jackson "think Larry basically has it right, and that the information in both the USGS report and the DEIS support his generalized conclusion."

"There exists no information we could find that would contradict his conclusion, not any hypotheses suggested as to how contamination of park waters might physically occur" from uranium mining, Jackson stressed.

Earlier this year, the Department of Interior withdrew one million acres in northern Arizona from new uranium mining claims. At the time, the DOI said, that without the withdrawal, there could be 30 uranium mines near the Grand Canyon National Park in the next 20 years. The withdrawal does not prohibit previously approved uranium mining and new uranium projects that could be approved on claims and sites with valid existing rights.

The National Mining Association and the Nuclear Energy Institute have sued federal agencies in U.S. federal court in Arizona to try to rescind the withdrawal.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar sent last week, Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Washington, and Rob Bishop R-Utah, chairman of the subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands, requested all documents, including emails, notes, briefing papers and memoranda concerning comments on the draft and final EIS and/or Record of Decision for the Northern Arizona Proposed Withdrawal created between Jan. 1, 2009 and the present. These documents include communications involving NPS, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Indian Affairs and Geological Survey concerning the proposed withdrawal.

The congressmen set a June 11 deadline for the federal agencies to submit the documents and correspondence to the Natural Resources Committee.

"These emails raise serious concerns about whether the Obama Administration's decision to block uranium production in Arizona was based on politics rather than sound science," said Hastings.

"Developing uranium in the United States will create high-paying jobs, boost the economy, lower our dependence on foreign countries, and support clean American energy," he stressed. The Administration's unilateral action to block uranium development on this land threatens America's energy security and ignores numerous studies showing that it can be done safely in an environmentally conscious manner."

Dorothy Kosich

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