Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, today challenged the senators and representatives responsible for the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, introduced earlier today, to explain why they support polluting the Grand Canyon area for the sake of mining company profits that rarely stay in Arizona and in some cases flow directly overseas.
The bill would bar the Department of the Interior from withdrawing approximately 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from mining consideration for the next 20 years, as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar proposed June 20. The effect of the bill would be to allow uranium and other mining operations to go forward as soon as possible.
"Secretary Salazar's decision to protect the Grand Canyon is supported by Coconino County, local tribes, the City of Flagstaff, numerous other local communities, the tourism industry that relies on unspoiled natural views, and just about everyone else in Arizona you can think of," Grijalva said. "The only people who support this are mining industry lobbyists and a handful of lawmakers ready to carry their water. It's cynical to tell the people of Arizona in a down economy that this bill will help them when we all know these jobs won't be local, the profits will go out of state or overseas, and the uranium will be exported to the highest bidder."
Bill sponsors Sens. John McCain, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and Reps. Rob Bishop, Paul Gosar, Jeff Flake, David Schweikert, Trent Franks and Ben Quayle -- all Republicans -- offered a series of conflicting, unsourced job figures in today's press release. Sen. McCain wrote, "The Department's proposed mining withdrawal would kill hundreds of potential jobs." Rep. Quayle said the withdrawal decision, which is based on DOI's scientific analysis of the best way to handle the public land around the Canyon, "will prevent the creation of thousands of potential Arizona jobs." Rep. Gosar said, "If the Administration's proposed withdrawal is enacted, the potential for nearly $30 billion dollars [sic] of economic growth opportunities -- nearly $700 million annually and over a thousand well paying jobs -- will be eliminated." No source for any of these claims is given.
With nations like Germany and Japan moving away from nuclear power, Grijalva said, "Selling this as a jobs bill for the future and brushing the environmental damage under the rug isn't going to fly with voters. The public overwhelmingly supported Secretary Salazar's announcement during the comment period, and the public supports it today. This bill is a waste of taxpayers' time, and I join them in looking forward to its defeat."