Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tell the EPA: No to new uranium mining!

Navajo uranium mining
Photo above from League of Individuals for the Environment, Inc website.

From the SouthWest Organizing Project

An important petition is circulating that we wanted to make sure you saw. Our friends at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center are urging folks to make their voices heard to the EPA, about a proposal to renew uranium mining in Navajo communities in New Mexico.

The Law Center has been working with Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) for many years to stop mining from resuming. As you may know, Navajo communities are still waiting for the clean-up and closure of 100's of toxic uranium mines that litter the landscape in western New Mexico and into Arizona.

Here is a message from the Law Center with a link to the petition created by ENDAUM's Larry King, saying NO to new uranium mining:

Something unprecedented has happened: the EPA agreed to revisit its 1989 decision to sacrifice a portion of the aquifer beneath the Navajo community of Church Rock. Now it is reviewing an "aquifer exemption" that it granted to uranium mining company Hydro Resources, Inc.

If this permit is revoked, it will make it difficult - if not impossible- for the company to commence mining in Church Rock.

Please sign our national: Change.org petition and tell the EPA: Don't sacrifice Navajo water
for uranium mining.

A message from Larry J. King:

"I am Diné (Navajo) and live in Church Rock, NM - only yards away from a proposed new uranium mine. As a resident and former miner, I have experienced the effects of uranium exploitation first-hand. This could be our last chance to stop this mine.

Please sign this petition, and help us tell the EPA to revoke this permit."

May 12, 2012 at 01:08 PM in Action Alerts, Environment, Native Americans, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Luján Supports Legislation to Clean Up Abandoned Uranium Mines

Ben ray lujanCongressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District led the effort today in the House Natural Resources Committee to pass legislation that would assist with the clean-up of abandoned uranium mines in New Mexico.  The committee passed S. 897, introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman in the Senate, which amends the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) to allow New Mexico, tribes, and other states to use federal funding to clean up uranium mines.

Click here to watch Luján’s remarks in support of the legislation and on the importance of passing the Senate bill without amendments.

“New Mexico has a long history of contributing to our country’s national security.  During World War II and the Cold War, the mining and processing of uranium was conducted in many areas across the state,” Congressman Luján said.  “Today, the legacy of abandoned uranium mines has negatively impacted public health, public safety, and environmental health for generations of New Mexicans, especially those in minority and tribal communities.  This important bill will provide New Mexico with a vital opportunity to tap into critical funding to clean up abandoned uranium mines.  Now that we have taken this step forward to pass the bill out of committee, I urge House Republican leaders to bring this bill to the floor without delay and pass it without amendment so we can get it to the President’s desk.”

In 1977, the SMACRA bill established the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund to address the reclamation and restoration of areas affected by mining.  The fund is derived from a reclamation fee on coal produced underground and surface coal mining.  Under the existing AML program, each state receives a share of the AML fund, but is restricted from using the funds to clean up non-coal mines.  As a result, New Mexico has not been able to use the funds to address the critical need to clean up uranium mines.

This legislation amends SMCRA to clarify that uncertified states, like New Mexico, and Indian tribes have the authority to use AML resources for non-coal cleanup, opening the door for New Mexico to put these funds to use cleaning up abandoned uranium mines.  S.897 passed with unanimous support in the Senate in November of 2011.

March 1, 2012 at 09:20 PM in Environment, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Uranium | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Udall Holds Oversight Hearing on Federal Efforts to Clean Up Uranium Contamination

Udall U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility, held an oversight hearing yesterday on the status of cleanup operations at legacy uranium mining and milling operations in New Mexico and elsewhere in the United States. Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) testified before the subcommittee about federal cleanup efforts.

During World War II and the Cold War, the federal government relied on extensive uranium prospecting and development throughout the country and especially in uranium-rich areas of the southwest. The uranium industry emerged overnight, at a time of minimal understanding or protection for individuals and the environment. The resulting radiological contamination created a legacy of sickness and pollution, a statement released about the hearing explained.

“The story of uranium development in the United States is a human story, and a tragic human story,” Udall said. “Even as the understanding of the dangers grew, the federal government failed to ensure that uranium workers and their families were safe from the hazards of exposure to radioactive materials.”

Navajo communities have seen some of the worst contamination. One of the most catastrophic examples, the collapse of the United Nuclear Corporation uranium mill tailings facility near Church Rock, NM, ranks as the largest accidental radiation release in U.S. history.

After Congressional hearings began to shine a light on the radiological contamination decades later, EPA, other agencies, and responsible private sector companies undertook the process of cleaning up thousands of abandoned uranium mines, and numerous mill and mine sites. Much work remains to be done.

Testimony: 3 Federal Officials
Udall questioned three key officials from different federal agencies about their commitment to continuing cleanup operations. All three pledged future support and acknowledged that significant work remains. Video of that questioning is available by clicking here.

“The Department of Energy established the Office of Legacy Management in 2003, with the express purpose of having a long-term, sustainable management of closed sites,” said David Geiser, director of DOE’s Office of Legacy Management. “So today we have 87 sites around the country that Legacy Management is responsible for…The Department set up the office explicitly for that long-term purpose.”

Udall stressed that each agency continue the ongoing cleanup projects and commit to providing necessary funding, especially for the Five-Year Plans for the Navajo Nation and the Grants Mining District.

“EPA has led the development and implementation of a coordinated federal plan to address the uranium legacy on the Navajo Nation,” said James Woolford, director of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation for the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “EPA maintains a strong partnership with the Navajo EPA, and, since 1994, EPA has provided technical assistance and funding to assess potentially contaminated sites and develop and implement response actions.”

Woolford reported that the EPA spends $12 million annually for cleanup efforts on the Navajo Nation, in addition to $4 million annually from DOE and a $5 million special appropriation for reclamation of a contaminated site near Tuba City, AZ. Udall commended the EPA for its recently announced plan to clean up the Northeast Church Rock site, the largest abandoned mine on the Navajo Nation and highest risk site in New Mexico, but sought further details on how that plan would be implemented.

Regulating Future Uranium Mining
The hearing also focused on proposed future uranium mining operations. Udall pressed the EPA and NRC, which jointly regulate these kinds of operations, to ensure that new uranium mining does not lead to future contamination. Many communities with legacy contamination are still waiting for cleanup while new mining is being proposed at, or near, the same sites.

“While cleanup is moving decades after the initial contamination, some of these communities are faced with new proposals to re-start uranium mining for energy purposes, opening up old wounds, and arousing new passions,” said Udall. Michael Weber, deputy executive director for the NRC’s Materials, Waste, Research, State, Tribal, and Compliance Programs addressed the regulation of new mining operations.

“The NRC’s comprehensive regulatory framework ensures safe operation and decommissioning of the existing facilities, as well as any planned facilities. The Agency’s standards conform to standards promulgated by EPA,” said Weber. “After a license is issued for a new uranium recovery facility, the NRC or Agreement State provides continued oversight of the operations through periodic licensing reviews, inspections, assessment, enforcement, and investigations.”

Concerns on Proposed Mine Near Crownpoint
Pressing the NRC on their commitment to ensure safe operation and decommissioning of existing and new uranium processing facilities, Udall raised concerns about a proposal for a new NRC-regulated mine near the community of Crownpoint. In response, the NRC testified that the “unique” requirements of the permit and the regulations in place would ensure a continued and safe drinking water supply for the community of Crownpoint should the proposed mining goes forward.

Working Together
Udall urged federal agencies to prioritize existing cleanup operations and to continue to work together, coordinating with state and tribal governments, to assist communities that have been impacted by uranium contamination. In response, the three federal agencies committed to further public involvement as cleanup plans continue.

October 7, 2011 at 12:42 AM in Mining, Native Americans, Regulation, Sen. Tom Udall, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

SJC Tables Anti-Cultural Preservation Bill, Companion Bill Still Alive in NM House

On Monday night, a bill that would have thwarted New Mexicans’ ability to protect sacred, cultural, and historic sites was stalled in Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) by a tabling motion that passed 6-4.

“The Pueblo of Acoma is pleased with the committee’s decision,” Governor Randal Vicente of Acoma Pueblo said after the vote. “Tonight’s vote affirms the right of New Mexico Tribes to protect our culture and historical heritage for future generations.”

Senate Bill 421, Cultural Property Registration and Acquisition, sponsored by Sen. Rod Adair (R-Roswell), went through many iterations and amendments in a confusing hearing. The version that was voted on required a majority of all property and mineral rights owners to submit written consent before nominating a property for designation. Because property or mineral interest owners may not be New Mexico residents, this change could have transferred the decision-making power from New Mexicans to out-of-state entities -- and from property owners to extraction industries. Crazy stuff.

“New Mexico is home to rich cultural and historic sites that bolster the tourism industry in many local communities,” said Sandy Buffett, Executive Director of Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM). “Protecting the lands that are important to New Mexicans is not only responsible, but ensures that our communities are culturally and economically sound. We applaud the committee’s action to table SB 421.”

SB 421 has an identical companion bill, HB 422, which passed out of House Energy & Natural Resources Committee today (HENRC), and will move on to House Judiciary Committee (HJC). HB 422 is sponsored by Rep. Richard Vigil (D-Ribera).

Take Action: Contact your representative and members of the HJC and urge them to vote no on HB 422.

March 8, 2011 at 12:51 PM in Environment, History, Mining, Native Americans, NM Legislature 2011, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hell Froze Over! Uranium and Conservation Advocates Unite to Defeat Uranium Mining Bill

You know what they say: politics makes strange bedfellows, and that's exactly what happened today. An unusual aligning of interests led the conservation community and the uranium industry to jointly oppose and defeat House Bill 111, the “Uranium Legacy Cleanup Act.” The bill was heard this Friday morning in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee (HENRC), and was tabled in a vote of 11 to 1. House Bill 111, sponsored by Rep. Patty Lundstrom (D-Gallup), sought to create a fund to begin to pay for the cleanup of uranium mining legacy waste sites.

Although cleanup is a desirable goal, this bill failed to create a fund of sufficient size and also would require new mining to begin in order for the fund to be capitalized, according to Conservation Voters of New Mexico (CVNM). Some residents of polluted mining communities viewed this bill as a “Trojan Horse,” teasing community members with the promise of paltry funds to clean up legacy wastes -- but only if new mining occurs.

“The priority for community members affected by legacy mining is to clean up the decades-old radioactive waste that still pollutes our land and water," said Sandy Buffett, CVNM Executive Director, “but communities should not be forced into accepting new mining as a condition for cleaning up the old mess.”

CVNM points out that an inventory of legacy uranium mine and mill sites has identified nearly three thousand mines or processing sites, most of which have had no remediation to clean up or repair damage done. Requiring responsible parties to clean up their old sites has proven to be nearly impossible. So far, anyway.

February 11, 2011 at 12:59 PM in Energy, Environment, Mining, NM Legislature 2011, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 07, 2011

NM Energy Sec Nominee Harrison Schmitt Holds Forth at SFC Meeting

SFCCr2
JerryOrtizYPino CarrollLeavell
SFC, Sen. Ortiz y Pino, Sen. Carroll Leavell

Last Thursday, Harrison Schmitt, Gov. Susana Martinez's nominee to head the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD), discussed his department's funding needs at a meeting of a Senate Finance Committee (SFC) hearing in Santa Fe. The nomination of Schmitt has already generated a slew of criticism because he has said he believes environmentalists are "communists" and he has long insisted there is no human component to climate change caused by increasingly massive greenhouse gas emissions.

SFCLegis HarrisonSchmittSFC
SFC, Harrison Schmitt

Despite the near complete consensus of the world's most prominent climate scientists that greenhouse gases have a huge and incredibly damaging role in causing and speeding global warming, Schmitt -- a geologist -- claims that consensus is wrong and is, in fact, part of some kind of plot by scientists and others to institute some nefarious form of world domination over business interests. Or something.


Harrison Schmitt: Solar flares and sunspots cause drought

Solar Flares
During Thursday's SFC meeting, Schmitt was asked about his thoughts on climate change and New Mexico's worsening drought by Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort. Schmitt claimed the drought was being caused by solar flares and sunspots, discounting any impact greehouse gases and global warming might be having. I didn't know he was an expert on solar flares and climate, being a geologist and all. Certainly solar activity is seen as something that can affect climate on earth, but to claim they're the primary or only thing causing increasing drought conditions in our state and elsewhere is rather narrow minded, to say the least.


Harrison Schmitt on life, career

Career
Committee members also got to hear a rather long-winded recap by Schmitt of his life and career. For the most part, he didn't get any close questioning about any aspect of his testimony. Perhaps some lawmakers are suffering from celebrity-itus given that Schmitt is a former NASA astronaut who walked on the moon, as well as a past one-term U.S. Senate from New Mexico.

Budget
It's ironic that Gov. Martinez's right-wing nominee to head the Energy Department appeared to be in some conflict with her on cutting the budget -- at least the budget he will have to work with at Energy. Schmitt noted that the department is already suffering the effects of a 2009 hiring freeze, with 18% of its staff positions in the Oil Conservation Division unfilled. EMNRD also is missing an environmental specialist, field inspectors, a geologist and analysts, which Schmitt said would make it hard to handle a backlog of 3800 pending oil and natural gas permits. 

Schmitt admitted such understaffing might stop the department from fulfilling its responsibilities, as well as result in some losses of federal funding. In the end, though, Schmitt seemed content with Gov. Martinez's budget proposal, saying he had the power to move funds around within the department to ensure that it could operate effectively.

Details, Details
Gov. Martinez's general fund budget request for the department is even lower than that proposed by the Legislative Finance Committee. Legislators expressed concerns about additional cuts for the state's Healthy Forests (fire suppression) project, as well as state parks. When Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino asked Schmitt if he had thought about how he would reallocate the funds -- where he would cut further to permit adequate funding for fire suppression and state parks -- Schmitt had no definitive answers. He did mention possible fee increases for things like state parks and boat registrations, although it wasn't clear whether the Secretary has the power to increase such fees on his own.

Although Sen. Ortiz y Pino pushed him to provide more detail about that and how anticipated levels of federal funding and other revenues would impact the proposed budget, Schmitt didn't provide many answers. He said more details would be forthcoming as the process moves along. The Senator also noted that the numbers provided by Schmitt were incomplete -- including what revenue might be expected from other sources -- and didn't seem to add up saying, "You may be an astronaut, but I don't know if magic is one of the ...." What we have here is a magical budget?

 
Schmitt rambles about old technology

Renewable Energy
When asked to discuss renewable energy by Sen. Beffort, Schmitt rambled off into a discussion of technology problems during his astronaut days and how battery storage was a problem. Sen. Befford noted that back in the era he was discussing, computers were huge, while today they are very small. You might say! Schmitt seemed more than a little mired in the past and basically unaware of the many advances in battery and other technologies being achieved since he was in NASA.

Uranium Mining
Sen. Ortz y Pino noted that New Mexico has a number of legacy uranium mines that still need reclamation before we can even begin to think about new uranium mines, and asked Schmitt where the money would come from to pay for cleaning up the old sites. Once again, Schmitt didn't seem to have a definitive answer. Ortiz y Pino noted we have some good programs regarding reclamation, but unfortunately they're not funded.

Next Up, Senate Rules
All in all, the questions and answers at the committee hearing were all over the ballpark in some respects, and not many clear or detailed answers were provided by Schmitt. Before he can officially become EMNRD Secretary, Schmitt will have to be approved by the Senate Rules Committee. Let's hope they give him a thorough vetting on both his current ability to grasp the details required to run the powerful and critical energy department, and how his radical views on global warming and environmentalists might prevent him from doing the job -- and New Mexico -- justice.

Photos and video by M.E. Broderick.

February 7, 2011 at 04:26 PM in Climate, Economy, Populism, Energy, Environment, NM Legislature 2011, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bill to Honor Former Secretary Stewart Udall’s Legacy Passes U.S. House

Stewartatdesk
Stewart Udall as Secretary of the Interior, 1961

In a 409 to 1 vote, legislation to name the building that houses the U.S. Interior Department in Washington, D.C. after the late Stewart Udall passed the House of Representatives today. H.R.5128 was introduced by Rep. Martin Heinrich, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, on Earth Day last month to honor former U.S. Interior Secretary Udall’s legacy. Congressmen Harry Teague and Ben Ray Lujan signed on as original cosponsors of the measure. U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

The bill would rename the Department of the Interior Building the "Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior Building.”

“Though quiet and humble, his impact was that of a giant, and his defense of our nation’s environment will remain immeasurable,” said Rep. Heinrich of the late Stewart Udall yesterday during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. “However, Secretary Udall’s lifetime of work will continue to be felt by every American. Thanks to his work, our national parks and public lands now belong to every American and will remain a treasured part of our nation’s spirit for generations to come."


Rep. Heinrich and Rep. Teague speak about bill on House floor

“Secretary Udall’s work to protect our most significant public spaces and his commitment to public service are renowned. Naming the Department of Interior building in his honor is a small step in helping preserve his legacy,” said Sen. Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I will work to ensure that this bill passes the Senate as quickly as possible, so that we can send it to the president for his signature.”

“Just as Secretary Udall’s legacy lives on in our national parks and protected lands, his memory will continue to be honored at the Department of Interior, the agency where so many of his accomplishments remain as policies today,” said Rep. Harry Teague. “He was truly one of the great stewards of our environment and it is more than appropriate that he and his accomplishments are remembered in this way.”

“Secretary Udall’s work is seen across the country, from our pristine wilderness to our clean rivers,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján. “And his legacy is also seen in the people he impacted throughout his life -- from those in Indian Country who suffered the effects of uranium mining to young conservationists. In naming the Department of Interior building after Secretary Udall, we honor not only his incredible professional contributions—we honor a wonderful, compassionate person who tirelessly fought for both our resources and for the people who depend on them.”

Stewart Udall, the father of U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), was the U.S. Interior Secretary from 1961 to 1969, serving in the cabinets of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He also served in the U.S. Congress from 1955 to 1961. Stewart Udall died on March 20, 2010.

The only House member to vote no was Rep. Donald Young (R-AK). H.R.5128 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

May 20, 2010 at 07:13 PM in Environment, History, Land Issues, Native Americans, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sen. Tom Udall Leads Bipartisan Group in Introducing Bill to Expand Relief for Americans Sickened by Radiation Exposure

TomUdall-1 Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) today led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendments of 2010, which would provide expanded restitution for Americans sickened from working in uranium mines or living near atomic weapons tests.

Senator Udall was joined in introducing the legislation by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mark Udall (D-CO), James Risch (R-ID), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). Companion legislation will be introduced in the House this week by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-3).

Among other things, the RECA Amendments of 2010 would build upon previous RECA legislation by further widening qualifications for compensation for radiation exposure; qualifying post 1971 uranium workers for compensation; equalizing compensation for all claimants to $150,000; expanding the downwind exposure area to include seven states; and funding an epidemiological study of the health impacts on families of uranium workers and residents of uranium development communities.

“Uranium and weapons development of the Cold War era left a gruesome legacy in communities of mine workers and downwinders,” Tom Udall said in a statement released today. “For more than two decades, the United States has tried to compensate in some way for the resultant sickness and loss of life. Today we are taking the next step to close this sad chapter in history and to improve the reach of compassionate compensation to those Americans who have suffered, but have not qualified under RECA in its current form.”

“This bill extends the life of the original compensation initiative, expands the list of compensable diseases, and makes it easier for claimants to prove their illnesses are related to their exposure to uranium. Enacting this bill would ensure that more Americans made sick during the Cold War finally get the compensation they deserve,” said Bingaman, who worked on the original RECA law, as well as the 2000 law that made several improvements to the program. “I’m particularly pleased that it recognizes Trinity site down winders who have suffered much, but who have never been compensated.”

“The legacy of uranium mining still afflicts families and communities today, and it is critically important to ensure that these Americans are compensated for what they’ve endured. Senator Udall’s legislation recognizes the many individuals who have been impacted but unable to receive compensation for their suffering. These Americans have waited long enough,” Luján said.

Specifically, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2010 would:

  • Extend compensation to employees of mines and mills employed from Dec. 31, 1971, until Dec. 31, 1990. These are individuals who began working in uranium mines and mills after 1971 when the U.S. stopped purchasing uranium, but failed to implement and enforce adequate uranium mining safety standards. Many of these workers have the same illnesses as pre-1971 workers who currently qualify for RECA compensation.
  • Add core drillers to the list of compensable employees, which currently only includes miners, millers and ore transporters.
  • Add renal cancer, or any other chronic renal disease, to the list of compensable diseases for employees of mines and mills. Currently, millers and transporters are covered for kidney disease, but miners are not.
  • Allow claimants to combine work histories to meet the requirement of the legislation. For example, individuals who worked half a year in a mill and half a year in a mine would be eligible for compensation. Currently, the Department of Justice makes some exceptions for this, but the policy is not codified in law.
  • Make all claimants available for an equal amount of compensation, specifically $150,000, regardless of whether they are millers, miners, ore transporters, onsite employees, or downwinders.
  • Make all claimants eligible for medical benefits. Currently, only miners, millers and ore transporters can claim medical benefits through the medical expense compensation program.
  • Recognize radiation exposure from the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico, as well as tests in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Expand the downwind areas to include all of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah for the Nevada Test Site; New Mexico for the Trinity Test Site; and Guam for the Pacific tests.
  • Allow the use of affidavits to substantiate employment history, presence in affected area, and work at a test site. Current legislation only allows miners to use affidavits.
  • Return all attorney fees to a cap of 10 percent of the amount of the RECA claim, as was mandated in the original 1990 RECA legislation.
  • Authorize $3 million for five years for epidemiological research on the impacts of uranium development on communities and families of uranium workers. The funds would be allocated to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to award grants to universities and non-profits to carry out the research.

Tom Udall's father, Stewart Udall, was a former Secretary of the Interior and a strong advocate of compensation for dead and dying Navajo uranium miners. Udall fought battles in court and in Congress, and his work was instrumental in getting the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act of 1990 passed. Stewart Udall passed away peacefully last month at age 90.

April 19, 2010 at 02:33 PM in Healthcare, Mining, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bill Would Fast Track Cleanup of Old Uranium Sites, Create Jobs in New Mexico

This week, Congressmen Harry Teague (NM-02), Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) and Martin Heinrich (NM-01) introduced legislation (H.R. 4817) to make all Surface Mine and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) funds eligible for the remediation of old uranium mines and mills. If the bill were to pass, it would make $14.5 million in existing SMCRA funds available for use to clean the 137 uranium sites across the state that need remediation, according to a statement released by the Congressmen.

“Cleaning up the legacy of the uranium mines and mills is something we owe to our land, our people and our water,” said Congressman Harry Teague, who represents all of Cibola county and part of McKinley county where many of the sites in need of remediation are located. “Making these funds available for uranium site remediation would create jobs in areas where people need to be put back to work, and we would be able to do it using existing funds.”

“Accessing SMCRA funds to reclaim abandoned mining and milling sites creates jobs for New Mexico and begins the long process of restoring our lands and making them accessible to future generations,” said Congressman Ben Ray Luján.

“These contaminated uranium mine and mill sites in New Mexico need to be cleaned up,” said Congressman Martin Heinrich. “This action will create clean-up jobs and protect New Mexico’s most important assets—the health of our citizens and our water.”

According to the Department of Interior, a state cannot use certain SMCRA funds for uranium site remediation until the state has certified that all coal remediation has been completed. Congressmen Teague, Luján and Heinrich introduced the legislation to make all SMCRA funds available to uranium sites immediately because uranium clean-up is a bigger need in the state.

March 12, 2010 at 09:06 AM in Environment, Mining, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Uranium | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Almost 100,000 Citizens Express Support for Protecting Grand Canyon from Uranium Mining

GrandCanyon

As of the end of the public comment period this week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar received input from 98,285 citizens supporting his proposal to protect the lands around Grand Canyon National Park from mining. The move would protect nearly one million acres from new mining claims for up to 20 years, the longest duration possible under current law, according to a statement released today by Environment New Mexico. The administration will take two years from the date of the proposal to decide whether to implement the withdrawal, during which time no new mining claims can be placed on the land.

“It is clear that Americans understand the value of this beautiful landscape and don’t want to see it destroyed,” said Kim McMurray of Environment New Mexico. “More mining would ruin the experience of families who travel from across the country expecting to see the grandeur of the canyon, not an industrial wasteland. If we fail to protect the Grand Canyon, the ghost of mining will haunt the land for centuries.” McMurray added.

In addition to the 98,285 individual comments, 34 groups submitted a joint letter of support for protection of the canyon from mining, and a coalition of organizations has been urging members of the U.S. House to cosponsor H.R. 644, the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act, a bill that would permanently protect more than one million acres of land around the Grand Canyon from mining. The bill currently has 40 cosponsors.

The landscape is not the only thing at stake. The Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon, provides drinking water for 25 million Americans living as far west as Los Angeles. Furthermore, the canyon and the surrounding areas are home to a rich diversity of plant and animal life, including 25 threatened and endangered animal species. The visible strata in the canyon walls also provide one of the most complete records of geological history in the world.

Due to the rising price of gold and uranium, the number of hardrock mining claims across the West has increased exponentially in recent years. As of January 2009, there were about 8,500 mining claims in the area near the Grand Canyon proposed for withdrawal. This is up from about 100 claims in January of 2003. Most, if not all, of these claims are for uranium and 1,100 of the claims are within five miles of the canyon.

“The Grand Canyon is a timeless national treasure. Its jagged red cliffs and winding Colorado River offer recreational opportunities for visitors that range from hiking and rock climbing to camping and river rafting,” said McMurray. “Mining so close to the Grand Canyon could wreak havoc on the landscape and release toxic chemicals into the drinking water supply for millions of Americans,” McMurray concluded.

November 6, 2009 at 02:29 PM in Environment, Land Issues, Mining, Uranium, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum Set for Oct. 22-24 at Acoma Pueblo

The 7th Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum will be held at Acoma Pueblo's Sky City Hotel and Casino located at I-40 Exit 102 on October 22, 23 and 24, 2009. The Forum will feature a myriad of speakers, workshops and other activities, including a keynote speech by activist Winona LaDuke, a performance by Santa Fe musicians Indigie Femme and a screening of the documentary film, "The Return of Navajo Boy."

According to the event's organizers:

"The Forum proposes to focus much needed public attention on the rape of Mount Taylor and to serve as a vehicle to launch a regional inter-tribal campaign to end this madness in the Grants Mineral Belt, Lakota Lands, and elsewhere in Indian Country from the Grand Canyon to White Mesa where deadly and runaway uranium technology threatens the lives of future of our water, land, people, and our winged, four legged and those that crawl relatives."

"The Forum we will focus on the recent onslaught of exploratory measures to mine and mill uranium in the Grants Mineral Belt. Due to recent price fluctuations of uranium on the world market and United States energy policy still emphasizing nuclear power as an answer to global warming and climate change, we will inform and educate participants of local, national and international nuclear issues impacting Indigenous peoples.

"The Forum will also prioritize presentations on health issues impacting both mining and non-mining populations living in contaminated communities. We will use the forum as an organizing and network initiative to help us better understand the work Indigenous people are doing to fight nuclear power in their communities and move toward alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar."

Event sponsors include the 7th Generation Fund, Lannan Foundation, Western Mining Action Network, Bioneers, Available Media, Inc., Beyond Nuclear and Phil Harrison, Navajo Nation Council Delegate (Cove & Red Valley).

Visit the Forum website for more information on the event, its history and how to register.

October 14, 2009 at 10:41 AM in Energy, Environment, Events, Film, Land Issues, Mining, Music, Native Americans, Uranium, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)