PHOENIX - Each Sunday, ABC15.com debuts an Arizona issue - along with two opposing sides on the topic.
Don’t worry, you always have the opportunity to make comments at the bottom of the page. Yeah, your opinion matters, too.
This week we’re tackling the debate on whether or not an extension of a moratorium on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon is good for Arizona.
In January, the Obama administration banned uranium mining near the Grand Canyon for the next 20 years. It would put a million acres outside the national park off limits to any hard-rock mining operations.
Some hail the moratorium as the right choice to protect the environment while others say it is a job killer.
Steven Arnquist, Executive Director of the Arizona League of Conservation Voters and Education Fund, says he supports the moratorium. He says mining near the Grand Canyon puts a national treasure at risk, as well as drinking water for nearby communities.
Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, (R-D2) says he opposes the plan, saying it will cost Mohave County a thousand jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
Click “next page” to read the first of two positions, “Moratorium costing county thousands of jobs ”.
“ Moratorium costing county thousands of jobs ”: By Congressman Trent Franks, summarized by communications director Matt Benson
It should perhaps not be surprising that an Administration with such consistently misguided priorities (energy and otherwise) would deem the seizure of 1 million acres of uranium rich land (containing enough uranium to singlehandedly power the state of Arizona for 80 years) a good idea.
Whether telling Brazil we'd be their number one customer for oil while blocking domestic drilling efforts, obstructing the vital Keystone Pipeline, or seizing this vast swath of land, President Obama seems to be doing everything he can to stand in the way of our domestic energy production. Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that this decision has all the unfortunate hallmarks of so many Obama policies, harming our economic, national security, and energy interests in one fell swoop.
For starters, the ill-conceived initiative will cost the community 1,000 jobs and about $30 billion in revenue, even as Mohave County already suffers through a 10.6% unemployment rate (with rates in some areas in excess of 23%), courtesy of the Obama economy.
To make matters even worse, the draconian initiative seeks to address a problem that doesn’t actually exist. The Administration claims its reasons are environmental, but for decades, uranium mines have operated without impacting the surrounding parks. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Arizona have shown no threat to the surrounding water supply by mining this uranium, and there has been NO evidence from the Bureau of Land Management evidencing the unsafe operation of these uranium mines.
Specifically, studies by Dr. Charles Sanchez and Dr. John Chesley of the University of Arizona have shown no threat to the Colorado River by mining this uranium. According to their results, uranium levels "in the main channel of the Colorado River are generally consistent with the normal weathering of uranium containing geomedia within the watershed and rule against major contamination from uranium mines." Regarding agriculture soils in the Lower Colorado River Region, the study concludes "no increase in bioavailable uranium after 35 years of irrigation and fertilization." Regarding uranium exposure to food crops, the study concludes "potential uranium exposure to vegetable and food crops produced in the Lower Colorado River Region are negligible relative to health risks."
In 1984, Congress passed the Arizona Wilderness Act that specifically recognized the uranium potential of 490,000 acres of BLM land and 500,000 acres of Forest Service lands by releasing them from wilderness study classification so that they could be mined. The bill was a collaborative effort that included the mining and livestock industries, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Wilderness Society, and the Sierra Club. To this day, uranium mining activities on these lands have a record of productive operation and successful reclamation without impacting the environment or our awe-inspiring National Parks.
Perhaps most importantly, this terribly ill-conceived plan is a national security threat. The United States currently imports 90 percent of our nation's uranium from overseas. 90 percent! That means the 104 nuclear reactors in our country and many defense applications are wholly dependent on our ability to get uranium from other countries – including, rather ironically, from countries that don't like us very much. Just thirty years ago, the United States was mining 100% of the uranium needed for its own electricity production. Despite the undeniable realities of the situation, it seems this Administration is set on ensuring that trend continues for decades to come.
Unfortunately, common sense has thus far failed to deter the Administration in this regard, as Mr. Obama continues to place the concerns of a few radical environmentalists over our own national security and energy security interests. But this is far too important an issue, both to Arizonans specifically, and Americans collectively, to stand idly by, which is why I will continue to work toward passage of the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011 (H.R. 3155) and toward the restoration of a more energy independent, more prosperous America.
Do you agree with this opinion? Add a comment below to sound off.
Click “next page” to read the second position, “Mining is an unsustainable economic activity ”.
“ Mining is an unsustainable economic activity ”: By Steven Arnquist
, Executive Director of the Arizona League of Conservation Voters and Education Fund
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular, beautiful and iconic natural attractions in the world, a major economic driver for our state, and a point of pride for every Arizonan. Every year 5 million people flock to the Canyon from all over the United States and the world to bask in awe of the crown jewel of Arizona’s natural heritage. These tourists eat at restaurants, stay in hotels, purchase fuel, rent equipment and spend between $600 and $700 million every year. Tourism is responsible for more than 260,000 jobs in Arizona and the Grand Canyon alone supports 12,000 of those jobs. The Canyon’s economic impact extends beyond those 12,000 jobs however. For many tourists the Canyon may be the primary reason for their visit but they stay in Arizona for additional days or weeks to visit one or more of Arizona’s other treasures, spending more money and creating and sustaining even more jobs.
Mining, on the other hand, is by definition an unsustainable economic activity and the only jobs created after the ore runs out (or the price of uranium goes down) are the ones to clean up the mess created by the mine in the first place. Mining is often seen as a major employer in Arizona but according to the Arizona Department of Administration, mining is the second smallest employment sector in the state (only “Furniture and Home Furnishings” is a smaller sector). This report shows that mining employs fewer than one half of one percent of Arizona’s workforce. Job creation estimates for the proposed mines vary depending on who you ask, but even the rosiest projections put the job creation at fewer than 500 jobs for 20 years, other estimates put the number between 100 and 200 jobs. While Arizona needs every job we can get, we can’t afford to risk the 12,000 jobs created by Grand Canyon tourism and we certainly can’t risk any of the 260,000 jobs created by tourism statewide for a couple hundred of relatively short term jobs.
And that’s just the jobs argument. Uranium mining in or near the Grand Canyon also puts the drinking water for 25 million people in Arizona, Nevada and California at risk of contamination, raises the risk of billions of tax-payer dollars being spent on cleanup and mars the pristine beauty of our nation’s greatest natural treasure.
The Grand Canyon is simply too valuable as a natural wonder of the world, as a job creator and as the symbol of our great state to risk permanently harming its’ beauty on such a dangerous and unsustainable venture.
Do you agree with this opinion? Add a comment below to sound off.
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