Monday, December 8, 2008

Grand Canyon Protections from Mining about to End

Hot News from Big-Mouth Broad Casting;

Dec. 6, 2008

The Bureau of Land Management today is expected to eliminate a regulation that gave two congressional committees the ability to block future uranium mining and exploration on public lands near the Grand Canyon.

The little-used provision, which is buried in Section 204 of the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, has for decades provided the House and Senate natural-resources committees with the authority to take emergency action to protect threatened federal land.

It was last invoked in June by Tucson Democrat Raul Grijalva, in a failed attempt to order Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to ban immediately new mining claims on more than 1 million acres of property near the Canyon for a period up to three years.

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The department ignored the order, questioning its constitutionality, and started in late October the public process to abolish the rule.

Thursday, Grijalva, who is rumored to be a leading candidate to head the Interior Department in President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet, blasted the Bush administration's decision to abolish the regulation.

"This last-minute change puts at risk the health of millions of citizens of the West," Grijalva said in a statement, adding that "in my view, the Grand Canyon is one of those places that deserves extra protection from the impact of industrial activities."

Roger Clark, air and energy director for the Grand Canyon Trust, expressed similar sentiments.

"We are deeply disappointed that the Bush administration places a higher priority on helping the mining industry than it does on protecting the Grand Canyon," he said.

Environmentalists fear that uranium mining could adversely harm the national park and have a negative impact on the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to residents in Arizona, Nevada and California.

But the BLM, one of several agencies under the umbrella of the Interior Department, has argued that ample protections are in place to protect the Grand Canyon and to ensure the sanctity of federal lands.

This week's action likely will not end the fight; environmental groups have sued over the mining issue, and that case is pending in U.S. District Court.

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