Suit Challenges New Uranium Exploration That Threatens the Grand Canyon

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Richard Mayol, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790

Suit Challenges New Uranium Exploration That Threatens the Grand Canyon

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club
today amended
their lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of
the Interior to challenge newly authorized uranium exploration near Grand Canyon National Park. The new uranium
projects are located within a 1-million acre area that was required to be
immediately withdrawn from new mining claims and exploration by a June 25,
2008 emergency resolution of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.
Today’s amendment challenges new uranium projects authorized by the
Bureau of Land Management on April
23
and April
27
, 2009. While the Bureau initially denied that new uranium
exploration activities had been authorized, it has since acknowledged that
exploration on the lands in question could begin whenever the companies
wish.

“The
Bureau’s new uranium exploration runs afoul of both the law and a
congressional resolution protecting Grand Canyon,”
said Taylor McKinnon, public lands program director at the Center for
Biological Diversity. “This is an agency in dire need of leadership
from the new administration — the Grand Canyon
deserves it.”

The
U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Natural Resources on June
25, 2008 voted 20-2 in favor of an emergency resolution
requiring the secretary of the interior to immediately withdraw 1 million
acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon
from new uranium claims and exploration. New exploration authorized by
then-Secretary Kempthorne violated the required withdrawal and prompted
conservation groups to file the suit in September 2008. The suit cites
violations of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National
Environmental Policy Act, and other laws. Today’s amendment
incorporates the Bureau’s new uranium-drilling authorizations based
on the same violations.

Emergency
withdrawals have been enacted four times prior to this, most recently in
1981 and 1983 by the late Arizona Congressman Mo Udall and the House
Interior and Insular Affairs Committee to halt public lands mineral- and
energy-leasing programs pursued by Interior Secretary James Watt.
Congressman Raúl Grijalva also introduced the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act
in March of 2008 and again in 2009, legislation that would permanently
withdraw from mineral extraction the same 1 million acres encompassed by
the Committee resolution.

“The
Grand Canyon Trust encourages the Secretary of the Interior to take
immediate action on the emergency withdrawal of these lands in order to
allow time for the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 2009 to make its way
through the legislative process,” said Richard Mayol, the Trust’s
spokesperson.

Spikes
in the price of uranium in recent years have caused thousands of new
uranium claims, dozens of exploratory drilling projects, and movement to
open several uranium mines on public lands immediately north and south of Grand Canyon. Concerns about damage to wildlife
habitat as well as surface- and groundwater contamination of Grand Canyon
National Park and the Colorado River have been expressed by previous
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano; the Metropolitan Water District of
Southern California; the Southern Nevada Water Authority; the Arizona Game
and Fish Department; the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, Hualapai, and Kaibab
Paiute nations; and the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.

"It
is just outrageous that the Bureau is putting the short-term profits of
these mining companies ahead of protection of one of the most amazing
places in our nation, Grand Canyon, risking our water resources, and
flaunting the law," said Sandy Bahr, chapter director of the Sierra
Club's Grand Canyon Chapter.

Plaintiffs
are being represented by attorneys Marc Fink of the Center for Biological
Diversity, Neil Levine of Grand Canyon Trust, and Roger Flynn of Western
Mining Action Project.

Click
on the links below to view the following documents:

April
23, 2007 Bureau of Land Management uranium exploration authorizations

April
27, 2009 Bureau of Land Management uranium exploration authorizations

Map
of newly authorized uranium exploration in violation of emergency
withdrawal

Map
of all uranium exploration authorized since and in violation of emergency
withdrawal

Conservationists’
lawsuit against Kempthorne

Map
of previous uranium exploration authorized in violation of emergency
withdrawal
Map
of uranium claims, seeps, and springs in withdrawal area

Letter
by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano
Letter
by Los Angeles Water District

Coconino
County Grand Canyon uranium resolution
Testimony
of Dr. Larry Stevens
Testimony
of Dr. Abe Springer
Testimony
of Robert Arnberger, former Grand Canyon National Park superintendent
Testimony
of Roger Clark
Testimony
of Chris Shuey
Supplement
to Chris Shuey Testimony
Letter
dated July 15 from Department of Interior
Letter
dated July 16 by Congressman Rahall
 

The
Grand Canyon Trust is a regional,
nonprofit conservation organization
committed to protecting and restoring the Colorado Plateau.

 

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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