Monthly Archives: October 2011

You are browsing the site archives by month.

10/13/2011 Gallup Independent: Tribe: Public lands threatened by copper, uranium mining

10/13/2011 Tribe: Public lands threatened by copper, uranium mining By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – Representatives of the San Carlos Apache Tribe received support Tuesday from Navajo Nation Council delegates in their opposition to a bill which would allow a subsidiary of foreign mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to acquire more than 2,400 acres in Tonto National Forest for a massive underground copper mine. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.-1, is sponsor of H.R. 1904: Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011. The land exchange would require Congress to lift a decades old mining ban within the 760 acres of federal lands known as Oak Flat, which were set aside from mining in 1955 by executive order of the Eisenhower administration.

Impacts from the mining operation will result in the “wholesale desecration of the sacred site and traditional cultural property that is encompassed by the Oak Flat, Apache Leap, and Gaan Canyon area,” San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler stated in written testimony submitted in June to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

“Chich’il Bildagoteel,” or Oak Flat, is home to all powerful Mountain Spirits, or Gaan, and a place of ancient settlements and burial sites. Because the Apache people’s relationship to the land is intertwined with their religious and cultural identity, it is believed “the potential harms to be visited upon this holy place threaten the cultural extinction of the Apache.”

Steve Titla, San Carlos general counsel, and Susan B. Montgomery, special legal counsel to the tribe, presented Chairman Rambler’s concerns to the Nabik’iyati’ Committee. Rambler was in D.C. to meet with Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., on the mining issue to ask him not to hold a hearing on the bill when it comes to his committee, Montgomery said.

“We should be sending a strong message to Representative Gosar, saying, ‘You’re not going to have our vote if you continue pursuing this bill,’” Shiprock Delegate Russell Begaye said. He suggested that Navajo and other Arizona tribes make that same proclamation. “I think those types of action are in order.”

Gosar also drew criticism Wednesday when he and Sen. John McCain along with other Arizona and Utah congressional leaders introduced the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, which 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 proposed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in June.

The effect of the bill would be to allow uranium and other mining operations to go forward as soon as possible.

“Senator McCain and Congressman Gosar have turned their backs on thousands of constituents living in northern Arizona who oppose uranium mining,” Roger Clark of Grand Canyon Trust said.

“Havasupai object to their sole source of water being contaminated. All five of the Native nations surrounding the Grand Canyon have banned uranium mining due to its lethal history in the region. And hundreds of businesses, local governments, ranchers, and sporting groups support Secretary Salazar’s proposed ban on new claims because it protects their livelihoods. Who are these elected representatives protecting, other than foreign-owned nuclear industries?” he said.

In respect to copper mine, Begaye said since the Navajo Nation deals with BHP Billiton, they should send the company a resolution or letter to say, “We are opposing your desecration mining in this area.” The bill allows for the company to voluntarily withdraw from the land exchange, effectively terminating the land withdrawal, he said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Forest Service would convey the 2,400 acres to Resolution Copper in exchange for company-owned land of an equivalent value. Of the company land, about 1,200 acres would become part of the National Forest System while about 4,200 acres would be administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The bill also directs the Forest Service to sell around 550 acres to the town of Superior, Ariz. Proceeds from the sale, estimated at roughly $1 million, would be spent to acquire other lands. Begaye said purchase of the land by the Nations could deter part of the proposed action.

Resolution Copper has circulated various job figures related to the mining project, however, “The job number changes as often as I change my suit,” Montgomery said. “We do think the jobs would be minimal at the location and minimal for the residents of Arizona.”

Montgomery said it is speculated that Resolution will employ a fully automated “mine of the future” technology, similar to what Rio Tinto recently launched in Australia, which allows it to control 11 mines with robotized drilling, automated haul trucks and driverless ore trains from an operations center 800 miles away.

“We are speculating because they keep a lot of this very close to the vest,” she said. “It will probably be run out of somewhere in Utah where Rio Tinto’s operations are. This is not going to be jobs to benefit the local people very much.”

In the same vein, Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva challenged Gosar, McCain and other Arizona mining bill co-sponsors “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 only people who support this are mining industry lobbyists and a handful of lawmakers ready to carry their water,” Grijalva said. “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.”

Titla said Begaye’s idea of sending a message to Gosar was a great idea. “I think that we can make a renewed effort to tribes to send that kind of message to Representative Gosar because in the recent redistricting, the San Carlos Tribe stood with all the other tribes in the state legislative district. I think that if those maps are passed by the Department of Justice … once we get that done we can stand together and send that kind of message.”

Thirteen tribes in addition to Navajo oppose H.R. 1904 or its predecessor bills, including Hopi, Zuni, Hualapai, Jicarilla and White Mountain Apache nations. Resolution has sought passage of the bill since around 2005.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize, who was asked to sponsor a supporting resolution, said, “This issue is very, very important to us. As you heard, we are also fighting for the San Francisco Peaks, Dooko’oo’sliid … We stand on what we believe, and we believe in all our sacred sites.”

10/13/2011 Gallup Independent: President Shelly pushes for water settlements

10/13/2011 President Shelly pushes for water settlements By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo President Ben Shelly was in Washington Wednesday to advocate for the Navajo Generating Station, Arizona and Utah water rights settlements, and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. Congress has funded $24 million for pre-construction and construction activities for the Navajo-Gallup pipeline. An additional $60 million will be made available for the next three years from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, according to the Navajo Nation Washington Office.

In a meeting with Assistant Secretary of the Interior Larry Echo Hawk, Shelly said, “We are working to keep the Navajo Generating Station open. The loss of the power plant will impact both Navajo and Hopi, other Arizona tribes, and the state.”

In contrast, when Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes visited Navajo in September, Resources and Development Committee member Leonard Tsosie told him that NGS and Peabody were “bad deals made by the federal government on behalf of the Navajo people.”

Resources Chair Katherine Benally said continued support of NGS, given its history with Navajo, did not look very favorable. “They took our water, they took our land and did not bother to come back and see if we were properly compensated,” she said.

During his meeting with Echo Hawk, Shelly said Navajo is in the final stages of a water rights settlement with Utah and needs for the administration “to lay the foundation for a complete settlement of our water claims on the Colorado River and to ensure water for Window Rock.”

The Navajo Nation also has been a co-participant in Tribal Unity Impact Week with nine other tribes and the National Congress of American Indians.

During a leadership meeting Tuesday, Shelly told tribal leaders, “Be united as one. I’m talking about uniting right now. We’re not on the same page. We need to get serious. We are going to build a United Nation of Indians.”

He referred to proposed twin office towers planned for Window Rock with a price tag of around $45 million. “If you want to work with us, that’s where we’re going to be,” he said.

He addressed sovereignty and self-sufficiency as part of his vision of economic prosperity, including needed changes to federal laws and policies which will reduce bureaucratic red tape to allow tribes to develop their resources, take control of land, and expand business opportunities.

“We can’t sit here every day and say ‘trust responsibility,’” he said.

Meeting with the Nation’s congressional leaders on proposed funding reductions for tribal programs, Shelly said, “Reducing funding for tribes would cruelly punish a vulnerable segment of the U.S. population.”

The president spoke with congressmen on funding concerns for Navajo Housing Authority, transportation, Navajo Abandoned Mines Lands, the proposed Arizona water rights settlement, Head Start, the Utah Navajo Trust Fund, and uranium cleanup on Navajo land.

Later, Shelly and a delegation from Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency met with U.S. EPA.

10/13/2011 Navajo Times: Sierra Club blasts feds for 'rubber-stamping' mine permits

10/13/2011 Navajo Times: Sierra Club blasts feds for ‘rubber-stamping’ mine permits By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi’ Bureau: A Sierra Club spokesman Tuesday blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Surface Mining for “rubber-stamping” two permits for Peabody Western Coal Co.’s Kayenta Mine, saying they had not seriously considered the impacts on the environment and the community. The US EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board this week finalized a water discharge permit for the mine over the objections of the Sierra Club, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, which claimed in an appeal that wastewater from the mine contains heavy metals that could end up in drinking and irrigation water.

EPA Water Permits Manager Dave Smith said the appellants did not present any evidence that the mine’s treated storm runoff, which is discharged into washes, is a threat to drinking water supplies.

The appellants are considering an appeal to U.S. Circuit Court.

And last month, OSM issued a “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI, in renewing the company’s permit to continue mining at its Kayenta operation through 2015, meaning there is no need for a new environmental impact statement.

Public comment on the FONSI is being accepted through Oct. 22 and is supposed to be incorporated into the agency’s final record of decision on the permit.

Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club called the FONSI “administratively incomplete,” saying it is unsigned and does not include Peabody’s groundwater reclamation bond or hydrology reports.

The FONSI calls the mine’s impacts on the Navajo Aquifer water “negligible to minor,” and states “the N Aquifer drinking water use designation remains uncompromised.”

Bessler said OSM has ignored a recent report by University of Arizona scientist Daniel Higgins which contains data showing the mine’s use of water impacts some of the water sources around Black Mesa, where it is located.

The FONSI also finds no significant impact on local residents, despite the fact that four households would be displaced by new mining.

“Relocated residents are compensated for the replacement of all structures and for lost grazing acreage if the resident can establish a customary use area claim,” the agency reasoned.

“Ask them (the residents) if that’s significant,” Bessler retorted.

10/10/2011 NY Times: After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Power Have a Future?

10/10/2011 NY Times: After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Power Have a Future? By STEPHANIE COOKE: A couple of months after the catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant March 11, an American nuclear expert posed an interesting question. “The post-Fukushima public sentiment is surprisingly low-key isn’t it? What a difference between this event and TMI or Chernobyl,” he wrote in an e-mail, using an abbreviation for the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. “What do you think is going on? Why so quiet?”

I was not convinced. What he said was certainly true in the United States, but the accident had a profound effect in Germany, China and several other countries, serving as a fearful reminder of what can go wrong with nuclear power plants. Phase-outs were the order of the day in Germany (where Chancellor Angela Merkel also demanded immediate shutdowns of eight of the country’s oldest reactors) and Switzerland. China suspended approvals for new reactors pending a safety review, which is now reportedly completed. This has resulted in a downward revision of China’s unofficial pre-Fukushima goal to install 86 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020. It now looks like that will be set around 60 gigawatts (up from around 12 currently) or just a little higher.

Italy said no to new reactors for the second time, ending a relatively brief flirtation with nuclear planners after a long post-Chernobyl freeze. “I think there is now less than 0.01 percent chance for nuclear in Italy,” said Luigi De Paoli, energy economy professor at the Bocconi University in Milan, according to Reuters.

Taiwan appears on the brink of some kind of phase-out involving four reactors, although it is likely to allow a recently constructed fifth unit to operate. Venezuela and Israel, both countries that had harbored nuclear power ambitions, decided they could do without after all. “I think we’ll go for the gas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN. “I think we’ll skip the nuclear.”

In Japan, of course, the effect was most dramatic. Thirteen units were automatically “scrammed” when the earthquake struck, and a 14th was already out for maintenance. With 15 others offline because of previous quakes or for mandatory inspection and refueling, the country’s fleet of 54 operating reactors was cut to 25. In May, the government ordered a shutdown of three additional units (one of which had already been down for maintenance) at Hamaoka, situated in a particularly vulnerable seismic zone near Tokyo.

The nuclear “capacity factor” — a measure of how much electricity reactors generate as a percentage of what they could provide — had dropped precipitously, from 71 percent in February to 51 percent in May, but it would plunge even further in subsequent months.

Facing the prospect of broad electricity failures over the summer, Japan’s leadership did not dare order more plants shut down, but it hardly needed to. Because of the requirement for inspections every 13 months, more reactors were taken offline, one after the other. Now only 11 are operating. (The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum stopped publishing monthly capacity factors after July, when the figure stood at 34 percent, with 19 units operating.) While there certainly were electricity shortages, Japan survived the summer without the extensive blackouts that had been predicted.

Normally the reactors would have been restarted within several weeks of shutdown, but these are not normal times in Japan. Restarts require approvals from local and prefectural governments, and these have not been received since the disaster. The 11 reactors still in operation are due to go down for maintenance between now and next September, and that in theory could leave Japan with zero nuclear-generated electricity — although that is unlikely, given the pro-nuclear sentiment of governors in some prefectures and the intense pressure for restarts from Tokyo.

However, the Japanese government has ordered a gradual phase-out of the country’s reactors, reversing a previous policy of increasing nuclear’s share of the generating mix to 50 percent by 2030. (Japan’s reactors were generally credited with supplying about 30 percent of the electricity mix, but the figure was debatable, given the frequency of power failures even before Fukushima.) “To build new reactors is unrealistic, and we will decommission reactors at the end of their life spans,” Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in his first policy speech Sept. 2.

Despite this relatively dismal outlook for nuclear energy, the London-based World Nuclear Association predicts a 30 percent increase in global nuclear generating capacity over the next decade; it foresees 79 more reactors online by 2020, for a total of 514, even taking Fukushima into account. And it sees a 66 percent increase by 2030, with capacity additions in China, India, South Korea and Russia outnumbering projected declines in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Curiously, it assumes Japan will restart all but the six units at Fukushima Daiichi and continue to build new reactors to replace aging ones, for a net number of operating reactors in 2030 more or less the same as before Fukushima.

While the nuclear association is obviously bullish, it is less so than it was in its last forecast two years ago. And the projected increase would only keep nuclear energy treading water. As a percentage of global generation it would account for just 14 percent, the same amount the association says it currently contributes. (Other experts say the figure is lower.)

In the United States, currently home to the world’s largest reactor fleet, only one proposed project, in Texas, was effectively canceled after Fukushima, but it had been teetering for more than a year since its largest backer, NRG Energy, decided to pull the plug. Plans for about 30 new reactors in the United States already had been whittled down to just four, despite the promise of large subsidies and President Barack Obama’s support of nuclear power, which he reaffirmed after Fukushima.

Perhaps most interesting to watch will be France, whose dependence on nuclear energy is the highest in the world, with nearly 80 percent of the country’s electricity produced by 58 reactors, a fleet second in size only to that of the United States.

A poll by the Institut Français d’Opinion Publique in May, published in Le Journal du Dimanche, found 77 percent of the public favored some kind of nuclear phase-out. That is not completely surprising, given past polls showing French opinion toward nuclear energy to be lukewarm. What is clear is that Fukushima is prompting a major rethinking of the country’s energy policies and that the nuclear issue promises to be a big factor in the presidential election next year.

Against this background, it is not surprising that in the World Nuclear Association’s midcase scenario, both the United States and France show a gradual decline in the number of operating reactors over the next two decades.

It has been evident for some time that nuclear energy’s future increasingly lies in Asia. Whatever the reasons for the muted response to Fukushima, the European phase-outs prompted by the tragedy would make this trend even more pronounced. But even in Asia, a nuclear future is no certain thing. Twenty-five years apart, Chernobyl and Fukushima were events that nuclear plant designers assumed would never happen. Any further major accidents could spell the industry’s doom.

Stephanie Cooke is editor of the Energy Intelligence Group’s Nuclear Intelligence Weekly and author of “In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age.”

10/10/2011 The Voice of Tuscon Citizen: Ruling: Peabody Coal may continue discharge of pollutants into Navajo-Hopi washes

10/10/2011 The Voice of Tuscon Citizen: Ruling: Peabody Coal may continue discharge of pollutants into Navajo-Hopi washes by DA Morales: The sacred land in northeastern Arizona belonging to the Navajo and Hopi has long been exploited and polluted by Peabody Coal. It looks as if it will continue to be that way. If you use water in Tucson, or use electricity in Tucson then you are using energy from those coal mines to pump water here via the CAP canal connecting Tucson to the Colorado River, and of course in the huge Tucson Electric Power coal-powered plant near Alvernon and I-10.

We are part of the reason Peabody is exploiting coal from the Native American reservations which is leading to the polluting of their water, and now the problem is about to worsen.

A coal mining company can continue sending treated storm water from its northeastern Arizona operation into nearby washes and tributaries after an appeals board denied a review of the discharge permit.

Environmentalists and members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes had appealed the permit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued for Peabody Energy Corp.’s mining complex. They argued to an administrative appeals board that the discharge of heavy metals and pollutants threatens water resources that Navajo and Hopi communities depend on for drinking, farming and ranching, and that the EPA failed to impose limits.

via BusinessWeek.

If the Tucson city council was made up of smart people they would realize that it is very possible to turn off Tucson’s dependence on coal plants that exploit the Navajo and Hopi people and switch to other power resources, such as from the sun which we have plenty of in the Sonoran desert.

“As usual, Peabody is putting profits before the health of the environment and the concerns of local residents,” he said.

The mining complex sits on nearly 65,000 acres that Peabody leases from the Navajo and Hopi tribes and has been in operation since the 1970s. Beth Sutton, a spokeswoman for Peabody, said the decision “reinforces Peabody’s record of compliance with the Clean Water Act and that claims by activists had no basis.”

Water discharge from Peabody’s mining complex includes storm water and runoff from mining, coal preparation and reclamation areas that is held in more than 230 ponds. The EPA noted in reviewing the permit that about 33 of the ponds had leaks and that some don’t meet water quality standards, need additional monitoring or removal.

The trail of toxic tears continues as we continue to exploit the original inhabitants of this land to fuel our addiction to cheap energy. But some day that finite energy source will run out, or be cut off, and then Tucson will be cast into darkness as businesses and jobs flee the city.

My hope is that our next mayor, Jonathan Rothschild, can be a leader in transforming our dependence on coal and fossil fuels and switching to solar or other renewable energy resources, guaranteeing business the energy they need without the exploitation of indigenous people to do so.

I look forward to helping him do so.

10/13/2011 ALERT: McCain Bill Will Open 1 Million Grand Canyon Acres to Uranium Mining – Take Action

10/13/2011 Center for Biological Diversity ALERT: Take action to tell your senators to oppose all provisions blocking a drilling ban. Today GOP lawmakers led by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) announced legislation that would open one million acres of public lands forming Grand Canyon National Park’s watershed to new uranium mining. The bill would overturn an existing moratorium on new mining and mining claims. “It is unconscionable that Senator McCain and Representatives Flake and Franks are seeking to undermine protections for Grand Canyon and its watershed and showing so little regard for the people of Arizona, including all of those who expressed strong support for protecting these lands from uranium mining and the pollution it produces,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter.

The Grand Canyon and four corners region still suffer the pollution legacy of past mining. American Indian tribes in the region – Havasupai, Hualapai, Kaibab-Paiute, Navajo, and Hopi – have banned uranium mining on their lands. Water in Horn Creek, located in Grand Canyon National Park just below the old Orphan uranium mine, exhibits dissolved uranium concentrations over 10 times the health-based standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water, while groundwater sumps below old mines north of Grand Canyon have measured dissolved uranium more than 1000 times allowable for drinking water standards. “Neither mining corporations, lawmakers nor public agencies can guarantee that uranium mining wouldn’t further contaminate aquifers feeding Grand Canyon’s springs and creeks. Such pollution—as we see in Horn Creek today–would be impossible to clean up,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “A decade ago Senator McCain was a defender of Grand Canyon. Today he’s one its greatest threats.”

10/13/2011 Center for Biological Diversity Take Action: McCain Bill Would Open 1 Million Grand Canyon Acres to Uranium Mining:The world-famous Grand Canyon is under attack again — this time from politicians in Arizona. Republican lawmakers led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) proposed legislation Wednesday to open 1 million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon to new uranium mining. The bill would overturn a temporary ban on new uranium mining — a ban the Center for Biological Diversity’s been fighting to extend — and block Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s recent proposal to keep the ban in place for the next 20 years.

Despite widespread public support for the ban and more than 100,000 comments from Center supporters this summer, McCain and his friends in the mining industry want to allow the damaging plunder of the iconic Grand Canyon landscape for uranium. Sadly, the region still suffers the pollution legacy of past mining. The Havasupai, Hualapai, Kaibab-Paiute, Navajo and Hopi have all banned uranium mining on their lands, and for good reason: Groundwater below old mines north of the Canyon has measured dissolved uranium at more than 1,000 times what’s allowable for drinking-water standards.

We’re gearing up to fight McCain and his cronies to make sure the Grand Canyon’s future is focused on pristine landscapes, not polluted ones.

10/13/2011 Center for Biological Diversity: GRAND CANYON URANIUM MINING

10/13/2011 Center for Biological Diversity: GRAND CANYON URANIUM MINING: Public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park contain some of the highest concentrations of uranium deposits in North America. Spikes in uranium prices in recent years have caused an explosion of new mining claims and exploration on those lands. Threats posed by exploration and the potential mining it portends — damage to wildlife and habitat, contamination of waters, and the industrialization of iconic landscapes — has prompted objections from conservation groups, native tribes, government officials and the public. It has spawned litigation spearheaded by the Center, as well as congressional action including legislation and a resolution on emergency mineral withdrawal. In February 2011, the Obama administration announced a draft plan to protect 1 million acres of the Grand Canyon watershed from new uranium mining.


In March 2008, the Center filed suit against the Kaibab National Forest for approving a plan to conduct exploratory uranium drilling at 39 sites just south of Grand Canyon National Park, the first of five such projects slated for the area. Our challenge focused on the validity of the Forest Service’s use of a categorical exclusion from National Environmental Policy Act requirements in authorizing the plan. After a federal judge halted the project in April 2008, we settled the case in what attorneys considered a “complete victory,” compelling the Forest Service to produce a comprehensive environmental impact statement for which a study is now underway. The suit attracted national media attention and has anchored a broader campaign.


Soon after we filed our South Rim suit, and spurred by water-contamination concerns raised in the context of that suit, Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva introduced legislation to withdraw 1 million acres of public land in watersheds surrounding the Grand Canyon from mineral entry. The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act would invalidate all unproven claims, prevent the staking of new claims, and prohibit the exploration of unproven claims — thereby preventing the establishment of mining rights that are difficult to reverse. The Center was instrumental in helping to arrange a field hearing in which leaders from five tribes, scientists and the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park all testified about uranium’s deadly impacts and either implied or explicitly stated support for the bill.


To protect the canyon pending the passing of the Grand Canyon Watershed Protection Act, the House Natural Resources Committee in June of 2008 voted 20-2 to invoke a little-known provision of the Federal Land Management Policy Act requiring the interior secretary to enact a three-year emergency mineral withdrawal. The withdrawal affords the same protections from new uranium activity across the same acres set forth in Grijalva’s bill — but for a period of three years. In the fall of 2008, the Center challenged the Interior Department’s authorization of new uranium exploration in violation of the withdrawal.


In 2009, the Obama administration enacted a two-year “segregation” — meaning, in this case, the prohibition of certain activities on a particular piece of land — that bars new mining claims and development of existing claims “for which valid rights have not been established” across 1 million acres of watershed around the Grand Canyon. The administration also initiated an environmental impact statement process to study extending that protection forward 20 years through the enactment of what’s called a “mineral withdrawal.” Together, these actions will go far toward preventing new uranium mines that would threaten the Grand Canyon and its springs, and they place a heavier legal burden on attempts by the uranium industry to reopen old mines. In 2011, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar extended protections for the canyon until the end of 2011.

But the Obama administration’s direction hasn’t stopped the Bureau of Land Management from allowing old mines to reopen illegally without updating antiquated environmental reviews. In 2009, the Center sued the Bureau for failing to undertake new environmental reviews for the Arizona 1 mine — which hadn’t been done since 1988 — seeking to halt the mine, and early the next year we sued the Bureau for refusing to disclose records relating to the Arizona 1 mine and other area uranium mines. When a court denied our request to halt Arizona 1, we appealed that ruling in summer 2010 — and we’ll continue to engage the Bureau in the National Environmental Policy Act review process and in the courts to ensure that maximum protections are enacted for the entire Grand Canyon.

10/25/2011 EPA Stakeholder Meeting on Uranium Legacy Contamination Issues featuring EPA Assistant Administrator, Mathy Stanislis

10/25/2011 EPA Stakeholder Meeting on Uranium Legacy Contamination Issues at The Albuquerque Marriott featuring EPA Assistant Administrator, Mathy Stanislis

10/12/2011 The GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining

10/12/2011 The GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining: By FELICIA FONSECA The Salt Lake Tribune, The Associated Press: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. • A group of Republican lawmakers is renewing an effort to open up 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon to new mining claims. Legislation announced Wednesday would prevent the Interior Department from extending a temporary ban on the filing of new mining claims that expires in December. The group said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s intention to set aside the land for 20 years would eliminate hundreds of potential jobs, create a de-facto wilderness area and unravel decades of responsible resource development.

“At a time when we are desperate for jobs and economic growth, this administration continues to do everything in its power to implement the job-killing policies of fringe environmental groups,” said Arizona Rep. David Schweikert. “This withdrawal is not so much a protection of the Grand Canyon but a governmental land grab of economically fertile mining land.”

Salazar enacted a two-year ban in July 2009 but extended it by six months earlier this year to give the U.S. Bureau of Land Management more time to study the economic and environmental effects of mining. Interior officials said Wednesday that any claims about jobs losses are false.

Should any of the land be withdrawn, mining companies would need to prove they have valid existing rights to those claims before mining could occur. According to the BLM’s draft environmental study, 11 mines could open over the next 20 years under Salazar’s proposal. Without a withdrawal, up to 30 mines could be developed. The difference in the number of jobs under the two scenarios would be 71, the BLM said.

Other proposals include withdrawing either 300,000 or 650,000 acres from any new claims. The final study is due out later this month.

“Interior is considering many factors in evaluating the issue, including the economic benefits of Grand Canyon National Park and the potential impacts on the park of expanding mining nearby,” said Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher.

Efforts in Congress to prohibit or allow mining on the same acreage have made little headway. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., added a rider to an Interior appropriations bill earlier this year to end the ban, and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., introduced legislation last year to keep Interior from withdrawing any land. The two were joined by the rest of Arizona’s Republican delegation, and lawmakers from other Western states in supporting the latest effort.

In a letter to Salazar, the lawmakers said they share in a desire to protect the Grand Canyon from adverse environmental impacts but don’t believe shutting out mining companies is the answer, particularly in an area known for high-grade uranium ore. They said a federal law that designated wilderness areas near the Grand Canyon provides a good balance for mining and resource protection.

McCain said a full withdrawal of the 1 million acres of federal land “will raise significant questions for future wilderness bills if agreements to accommodate responsible land uses are neither genuine nor enduring.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has been on the opposite side of the lawmakers, advocating for a permanent withdrawal of the land from new mining claims. A bill he sponsored to do just that routinely has stalled.

“Selling this as a jobs bill for the future and brushing the environmental damage under the rug isn’t going to fly with voters,” he said of the Republicans’ move. “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.”

10/12/2011 Gallup Independent: Hopi opposes groundwater use at Arizona Snowbowl

10/12/2011 Hopi opposes groundwater use at Arizona Snowbowl By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau,Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – A Navajo Nation Council resolution supporting the use of groundwater to make artificial snow at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff is under fire by the Hopi Tribe. “The Hopi Tribal Council does not join or support a recently proposed Navajo Nation Council resolution recommending the use of groundwater for snow-making on Nuvatukyaovi,” the Hopi name for the sacred mountain, Hopi stated Tuesday in a press release. Hopi believe the only water appropriate for Nuvatukyaovi is natural water as provided by rain and snow. “There can be no exceptions,” they said.

“The Hopi Tribal Council, all known Hopi religious practitioners, the Hopi Tribe and its people are still, and always will be, opposed to the use of any snow-making operations on Nuvatukyaovi,” Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa said. “The Navajo proposal is not a solution to the issues facing the tribes with respect to Arizona Snowbowl’s expansions on Nuvatukyaovi.”

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Walter Phelps, sponsor of the resolution, said Tuesday that the Nation does not have an official position on the use of groundwater and the resolution “will stimulate discussion on the issue. We just need to get some of that clarified. We also need to discuss alternatives.”

One possible option in discussion is to buy into the Snowbowl.

“There’s an offer by the developer. He’s willing to sell a portion back to us,” Delegate Katherine Benally told Steve Titla, general counsel for the San Carlos Apache Tribe, during Tuesday’s meeting of the Nabik’iyati’ Committee.

San Carlos representatives came to ask for Navajo Nation support in protecting Oak Flat, one of its sacred sites threatened by copper mining. Benally asked whether San Carlos would be interested in “sharing resources” to buy into the ski resort.

“That is a very interesting proposal that I will share with my Chairman,” Titla said.

Splitting the $15 million cost for a 30 percent stake in the Snowbowl with other interested Arizona tribes which hold the mountain sacred would give them an equity stake and a seat at the table on discussions of artificial snow-making.

Navajo first began discussing purchase of the ski resort two years ago when the price stood at $48 million. Since then, the cost of subsequent legal cases has been attached to the selling price and has driven up the cost to $52 million.

In the alternative, Phelps’ resolution supports the use of groundwater as opposed to reclaimed or recovered-reclaimed water in the snow-making process on Dook’o’oosliid – the Navajo name for the sacred mountain – to prevent its desecration.

“Water – regardless of its source – is a limited and critical natural resource in the Southwest and the Hopi Tribe continues to oppose any artificial snow-making by these means,” according to Louella Nahsonhoya, Hopi public information officer.

Hopi filed suit in August against the city of Flagstaff, challenging its September 2010 decision not to amend or cancel the contract for sale of 1.5 million gallons per day of reclaimed wastewater to the Snowbowl for artificial snow-making.

Hopi said the city already is using more than its fair share of water, and any plans to sell water to the Snowbowl would only worsen the problem. “In addition, the sale of water for snow-making so that a select few can benefit, violates the public interest in wise water use for our region,” Hopi said.

Nuvatukyaovi is an important, sacred place for the Hopi which holds a central and essential role in Hopi culture, traditions and way of life. For Navajo, Dook’o’oosliid has a unique religious significance and a “complete connection with daily songs and prayers to their supernatural beings.”

Navajo, Hopi, the Havasupai Nation, the Hualapai Tribe and others sued to protect the mountain, but in 2008, the 9th Circuit Court failed to recognize the sacred stature of the mountain and allowed the U.S. Forest Service to issue a permit to the Snowbowl for the manufacture of artificial snow from reclaimed water. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which allowed the 9th Circuit opinion to stand.

Phelps’ resolution was posted on the Navajo Nation Council website last Friday. Tuesday was the final day for public comment before the bill can be considered by the standing committees, however, legislative counsel stated last week that the public is free to provide comments at any time, including at committee meetings.

Phelps said he does not expect the resolution to go before the Resources and Development Committee until the last week of October, so it will not make Council’s fall session agenda.