GRAND CANYON: Ariz. GOP lawmakers aim to block mining withdrawal
Manuel Quinones, E&E reporter
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in June announced the Obama administration’s intention to withdraw roughly 1 million acres from new mining claims around the Grand Canyon National Park for 20
years, pending further review.
The GOP’s latest effort to stop the withdrawal comes as the Bureau of Land Management prepares to release a final environmental impact statement on the issue by the end of this month.
The lawmakers — including Arizona Republicans Sen. John McCain, Rep. Jeff Flake and Rep. Trent Franks — are announcing their bill in a press conference this morning.
Flake previously attached a rider to block administration action in the spending bill for Interior and U.S. EPA. Now that the vehicle for government funding has yet to be determined, withdrawal opponents are opting for a new stand-alone bill.
Franks introduced legislation, H.R. 5665, last year to block the withdrawal. That bill received little consideration and it remains in doubt whether a new version can pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
On the other side of the issue is Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who has legislation pending, H.R. 855, to make the withdrawal permanent. It appears unlikely the Republican-controlled House will take up his bill.
Withdrawal opponents say the administration threatens to take off-line a major source of uranium to power nuclear power plants, hurting job creation in the process. Supporters of a ban on new claims worry about potential pollution of the Colorado River and communities downstream.
In a related move, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the House Natural Resources Committee ranking member, promised to introduce legislation aimed at imposing royalties on the hardrock mining industry and collecting new fees for cleaning up abandoned mines.