Lawmakers Want to Overturn Moratorium on Uranium Mining Claims in Arizona Strip

(KCPW News) Republican Utah lawmakers are teaming up with Arizona’s congressional delegation to try to overturn the Interior Department’s moratorium on new uranium mining claims in a one million acre area near the Grand Canyon. In a news conference today, Senator Mike Lee said the bill he’s co-sponsoring is about jobs.

“At a time when our country is so in need of job creation, we need to be doing everything we can to allow reasonable, responsible job creation,” he said. “We certainly need for the federal government not to be taking action that would thwart job creation.”

Lee added that it should be left to Congress to decide the issue, not the Interior Department.

Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Rob Bishop are also co-sponsoring the bill. Bishop says passing the legislation would not mean there would be drilling anywhere near the Grand Canyon.

“They’ll also try to tell you that what we may do is destroy the water that goes through the Grand Canyon and on into Utah and to Las Vegas and Southern California,” said Bishop. “Look, the studies that were done by the experts in Arizona said you could take two truckloads of the ore and dump it into the water, and you would still not meet the levels that the EPA has already established that is allowable for drinking water in that particular area.”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the emergency withdrawal of new mining claims in June. Valid existing claims were not affected by the six-month moratorium. In a statement, the Grand Canyon Trust criticized the bill as “job-killing legislation,” saying uranium mining threatens thousands of tourism-related jobs.