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Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7466
A series of studies
released today by the United States Geological Survey show elevated
uranium levels in wells, springs, and soil in and around uranium
exploration and mining sites within the watershed feeding Grand Canyon
National Park and the Colorado River. The agency conducted the
monitoring to provide information for an environmental impact statement
that is analyzing a proposed 20-year mineral withdrawal that would
protect nearly 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon
National Park from future mining activities.
reports demonstrate unequivocally that uranium mining should not
proceed in these environmentally sensitive lands," said Stacey Hamburg
of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter. "Contaminated lands and
waters around the Grand Canyon are not what we want for the future of
northern Arizona. Cleaning up contaminated sites should be the
government's first priority."
levels consistently exceed natural background levels in and around
exploration and old mining sites - sometimes, as in the case of the
Kanab North mine, by as much as 10 times. Elevated uranium levels were
also detected near the old "Hack" uranium-mine complex, which the
Bureau of Land Management actively promotes on its Web site as a model of good mine reclamation (see video here).
Reclaimed in the 1980s, the mines are located in Hack Canyon, a
tributary to Kanab Creek and the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.
mining has already contaminated lands and waters in and around Grand
Canyon, and today's research confirms that new uranium mining would
threaten aquifers that feed Grand Canyon's springs, the Colorado River,
and nearly 100 species of concern," said Taylor McKinnon of the Center
for Biological Diversity. "These risks aren't worth taking - and
they're risks neither the government nor industry can guarantee
Elevated uranium levels were also
detected at another nearby old mine that the Bureau has said it will
allow to reopen without updating 1980s-era federal environmental
reviews. The first such opening, of Denison Mines' Arizona 1 mine,
provoked a lawsuit in November from conservation groups seeking updated reviews.
springs and five wells exhibited dissolved uranium concentrations
greater than the Environmental Protection Agency maximum for drinking
water; hydrogeologists have warned that new mining could deplete and
pollute water in aquifers and connected springs. Today's report
concludes that: "Uranium mining within the watershed may increase the
amount of radioactive materials and heavy metals in the surface water
and groundwater flowing into Grand Canyon National Park and the
Colorado River, and deep mining activities may increase mobilization of
uranium through the rock strata into the aquifers. In addition, waste
rock and ore from mined areas may be transported away from the mines by
wind and runoff."
"The USGS research confirms that
mining uranium within Grand Canyon watersheds risks permanently
polluting waning water supplies for 25 million people and arid
ecosystems. There are some places where mining should not occur, and
the Grand Canyon is one of them," said Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon
Last week the Center for Biological Diversitysued
the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for illegally withholding public
records relating to uranium mines immediately north of Grand Canyon
National Park. The Bureau is withholding the vast majority of eight
linear feet of responsive records despite directives from the Obama
administration requiring the agency to respond to information requests
"promptly and in a spirit of cooperation" and to adopt a "presumption
of disclosure" (see Obama's Freedom of Information Act memo to federal
All of today's reports can be downloaded here: https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5025/
Summary of Research Findings (From USGS)
* The area proposed for withdrawal is estimated to contain about 163,000 tons (about 326 million pounds) of uranium oxide (U3O8),
which is about 12 percent of the estimated total undiscovered uranium
in northern Arizona (1.3 million tons or 2.6 billion pounds). For
comparison, the United States consumes about 27,550 tons (55 million
pounds) of uranium oxide each year in its reactors; most of it comes
from Canada, Australia, and Russia.
Soil and sediment samples were analyzed for six sites that
experienced various levels of uranium mining in Kanab Creek area north
of Grand Canyon National Park, including mined and reclaimed sites,
mined sites currently on standby, and sites that were exploratory
drilled but not mined. Uranium and arsenic were two elements
consistently detected in the areas disturbed by mining in values above
natural background levels.
Analysis of historical water-quality data for more than 1,000 water
samples from 428 sites in northern Arizona shows that dissolved uranium
concentrations in areas without mining were generally similar to those
with active or reclaimed mines. Sixty-six percent of the sampled sites
showed low dissolved uranium concentrations (less than 5 parts per
billion). Ninety-five percent of the sampled sites had dissolved
uranium levels of less than 30 parts per billion, the Environmental
Protection Agency maximum for drinking water.
Samples from 15 springs and 5 wells exhibited dissolved uranium
concentrations greater than the Environmental Protection Agency maximum
for drinking water. These springs and wells are close to or in direct
contact with mineralized ore bodies, and concentration levels are
related to natural processes, mining, or a combination of both factors.
* Almost 100 plants and animals
identified by the State of Arizona or other land managers as species of
concern inhabit the area proposed for withdrawal. Because uranium and
its byproducts such as radon can affect survival, growth, and
reproduction of plants and animals, USGS scientists identified exposure
pathways (for example, ingestion or inhalation) for these species of
in uranium prices have caused thousands of new uranium claims, dozens
of proposed exploration drilling projects, and proposals to reopen old
uranium mines adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Renewed uranium development
threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and industrialize now-wild and
iconic landscapes bordering the park; it also threatens to deplete and
contaminate aquifers that discharge into Grand Canyon National Park and
the Colorado River. The Park Service warns against drinking from
several creeks in the canyon which exhibit elevated uranium levels in
the wake of past uranium mining.
These threats have provoked litigation; legislation; and public protests
and statements of concern and opposition from scientists, city
officials, county officials - including from Coconino County - former
Governor Janet Napolitano, state representatives, the Navajo Nation,
and the Kaibab Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai tribes, the
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the Southern
Nevada Water Authority, among others. Polling conducted by Public
Opinion Strategies shows overwhelming public support for withdrawing
from mineral entry the lands near Grand Canyon; Arizonans support
protecting the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining by a two-to-one
The Interior Department in July 2009 enacted a land segregation order, now in force, and proposed a 20-year mineral withdrawal,
which is now being analyzed, for one million acres of public land
surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Both measures prohibit new
mining claims and the exploration and mining of existing claims for
which valid existing rights have not been established. The Bureau of
Land Management has failed to produce any documents demonstrating the
establishment of valid existing rights for the Arizona 1 mine or other
mines around Grand Canyon. The United States Geological Survey's
monitoring results that were released today are to inform the
aforementioned analysis of the proposed mineral withdrawal.
"The American people deserve to understand why you are supporting even more deficit-busting tax giveaways for giant corporations, while also cheerleading Republican demands to inflict painful, job-killing austerity on everyone else."
The Republican Party's debt-ceiling hostage scheme has benefited from the support of the United States' largest corporate lobbying organization, which has given its stamp of approval to the GOP's push for major federal spending cuts, punitive new work requirements for aid programs, and permitting changes sought by the fossil fuel industry.
While House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) office has reportedly not met with representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during the debt ceiling standoff, a representative of the powerful business group said earlier this week that such a meeting would be pointless given that the Chamber and the GOP are so closely aligned.
Neil Bradley, the Chamber's chief policy officer, toldPolitico earlier this week that a meeting with McCarthy would be a "cheerleading session."
"I see the relationship as respectful, so I'm not worried about wasting his time to come in and say, 'Look how much I agree with you,'" said Bradley, who previously served as McCarthy's deputy chief of staff.
In a letter to the Chamber's chief executive on Friday, a trio of Democratic senators led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) slammed Bradley's remarks and demanded to know "how the Chamber justifies supporting the Republican agenda of continued tax cuts for the wealthy, while cheerleading for threats to impose a default and austerity for everyone else."
"Instead of pressing the speaker to drop his radical demands and pass a clean debt limit increase, Bradley noted that the Chamber has pressed the White House to come to a bipartisan agreement with McCarthy," the letter reads. "Indeed, Bradley noted that the Chamber is aligned with House Republicans on their debt ceiling demands, including on spending caps, work requirements, and energy permitting."
Warren, joined by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), accused the Chamber of fully backing the GOP's "shameless hypocrisy" by lobbying for tax breaks that Republicans are expected to include in a tax cut package coming sometime next month.
"The American people deserve to understand why you are supporting even more deficit-busting tax giveaways for giant corporations, while also cheerleading Republican demands to inflict painful, job-killing austerity on everyone else in a pretense of 'fiscal responsibility,'" the senators wrote, demanding to know how much the Chamber has spent on tax-related lobbying this year and what discussions the group has had with Republicans on the House's tax-writing committee.
According to OpenSecrets, the Chamber has spent more than $19 million total on federal lobbying so far this year—the most of any organization. The Chamber says it has met with more than 150 Republican and Democratic lawmakers throughout the debt ceiling fight, which GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) publicly described as a hostage situation.
The Democratic senators' letter came as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the federal government will run out of money to meet its obligations by June 5 if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling.
The Washington Postreported Friday that White House and GOP negotiators are "closing in on an agreement that would raise the debt ceiling by two years—a key priority of the Biden administration—while also essentially freezing government spending on domestic programs and slightly increasing funding for the military and veterans affairs."
When accounting for inflation, keeping non-military spending flat would mean potentially significant real-term cuts to key aid programs, from nutrition assistance to housing.
The Chamber has openly endorsed the GOP push for spending caps and warned President Joe Biden against using his 14th Amendment authority to unilaterally prevent a default, claiming such a move would be "as economically calamitous as a default."
On Friday, a top Treasury Department official said the White House will not invoke its 14th Amendment authority to continue paying the nation's bills if talks with the GOP collapse.
The treasury secretary's warning came as a Biden administration official said the president won't invoke the 14th Amendment in order to avoid a first-ever U.S. default.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday warned Congress that the United States government will run out of money to pay its bills on June 5 if lawmakers don't reach an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
"Based on the most recent available data, we now estimate that Treasury will have insufficient resources to satisfy the government's obligations if Congress has not raised or suspended the debt limit by June 5," Yellen wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
"We have learned from past debt limit impasses that waiting until the last minute to suspend or increase the debt limit can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise short-term borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States," Yellen noted. "In fact, we have already seen Treasury's borrowing costs increase substantially for securities maturing in early June."
Earlier this month, Yellen said that the so-called "X-date"—the day on which the first-ever U.S. default will occur—could come as early as June 1.
"If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, it would cause severe hardship to American families, harm our global leadership position, and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests," she stressed in Friday's letter.
\u201cJanet Yellen updates the X date\u2026 it is now next Monday, June 5.\n\nLetter to Congress:\u201d— Julie Tsirkin (@Julie Tsirkin) 1685132574
As The New York Timesnotes:
Ms. Yellen's letter comes as the White House and House Republicans have been racing to agree on a deal that would lift the nation's $31.4 trillion borrowing cap and prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt. The Treasury Department hit the debt limit on January 19 and has since been employing accounting maneuvers to ensure the United States can continue paying its bills on time...
On Friday, she detailed that the federal government is due to make more than $130 billion in scheduled payments during the first two days of June—including payments to veterans and Social Security and Medicare recipients—leaving the Treasury Department with "an extremely low level of resources"...
While negotiators have been in round-the-clock talks, no deal has been announced. Still, the contours of an agreement between the White House and Republicans are taking shape. That deal would raise the debt limit for two years while imposing strict caps on discretionary spending not related to the military or veterans for the same period.
Biden administration officials and congressional Democrats have accused Republicans of "hostage-taking" during the debt limit standoff, an allegation embraced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) earlier this week.
Scores of Democratic lawmakers and progressive advocates have called on President Joe Biden to exercise his constitutional authority and invoke the 14th Amendment—which states in part that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."
However, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said Friday that Biden will not invoke the 14th Amendment.
"The 14th Amendment can't solve our challenges," Adeyemo asserted on CNN. "Now, ultimately, the only thing that can do that is Congress doing what it's done 78 other times, raising the debt limit."
"We don't have a Plan B that allows us to meet the commitments that we've made to our creditors, to our seniors, to our veterans, to the American people," Adeyemo added ominously.
"Banning buying homes based on citizenship and registering your property did not bode well in history," said one lawmaker. "This is the Republicans rewriting the Chinese Exclusion Act."
Days after a group of Chinese citizens sued Florida's government over its new law restricting Chinese citizens from purchasing property in the state, U.S. Rep. Al Green this week warned of a "proliferation" of such bans and unveiled federal legislation to prohibit them.
The proposal would affirm that federal law, such as the Fair Housing Act, takes precedence over state bans restricting who can and cannot legally purchase real estate or farmland. It would also allow people to sue in federal court and have a right to court-ordered relief including an injunction if they've been harmed by bans like the one approved by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The Fair Housing Act explicitly prohibits discrimination in housing based on national origin, race, sex, gender identity, religion, and disability.
Despite the long-standing law, Florida this month became the latest state to pass restrictions on property ownership, targeting Chinese, Russian, Iranian, Syrian, Cuban, Venezuelan, and North Korean citizens. DeSantis claimed Chinese people have been "gobbling up" land in the state and said the law is intended to stop the Chinese Communist Party from gaining influence and spying in the state.
"That is not in the best interests of Florida to have the Chinese Communist Party owning farmland, owning land close to military bases," said the governor, who announced his 2024 presidential campaign this week.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, also a Republican, signed a ban on Chinese companies buying property in March, and the Texas Legislature had advanced a similar bill targeting companies and government entities headquartered in China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.
According to the National Agricultural Law Center, 21 states have laws restricting foreign ownership of farmland. More than 30 states have drafted or advanced legislation to either tighten those restrictions or introduce new ones.
"I don't think we ought to allow 50 states to have the opportunity to pass laws that can impact foreign affairs, which really is the province of the executive branch of the federal government," Green told HuffPost on Thursday. "I don't think we should wait until we get 30, 50, whatever number of different laws to act."
The measures have drawn comparisons to the so-called "alien land laws" that were in place in the early 20th century before being struck down by courts and state legislatures. The laws prohibited Chinese and Japanese immigrants from owning land and "severely exacerbated violence and discrimination against Asian communities," according to the ACLU, which is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in Florida this week.
"Banning buying homes based on citizenship and registering your property did not bode well in history... This is the Republicans rewriting the Chinese Exclusion Act," said Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) this week, referring to the 1882 law that banned Chinese workers from immigrating to the United States.
\u201c\u2026when you ask me why we worry about anti-China rhetoric\u2026 many people can\u2019t differentiate between someone who works for the CCP from an average Chinese American. These laws will increase anti Asian suspicion & hate. https://t.co/z7j9TuyfA3\u201d— Grace Meng (@Grace Meng) 1684285341
Contrary to DeSantis' claim that Chinese citizens are buying large amounts of property across Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, foreigners owned only 3.1% of farmland at the end of 2021, and about a third of that land was owned by Canadians. Less than 1% of the land—0.03% of all farmland in the U.S.—was owned by Chinese citizens or entities.