Image of the Grand Canyon and surrounding area taken from the International Space Station
Exclusive: Powerful regional officials to ask administration to end 20-year ban, saying it is unlawful and inhibits economic opportunity
A coalition of influential officials in Arizona and Utah is urging the Trump administration to consider rolling back Obama-era environmental protections that ban new uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.
They argue that the 20-year ban that came into effect in 2012 is unlawful and stifles economic opportunity in the mining industry. But supporters of the ban say new mining activity could increase the risk of uranium-contaminated water flowing into the canyon. Past mining in the region has left hundreds of polluted sites among Arizonas Navajo population, leading to serious health consequences, including cancer and kidney failure.
The new appeal to the Trump administration appears in the draft of a letter expected to be sent on Monday to the US interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, by the Mohave County board of supervisors, whose region borders the north side of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Similar letters are being drawn up by other regional leaders in neighboring county governments in southern Utah, to be sent to Washington by the end of the week, according to officials.
The Mohave County leaders also plan to dispatch a second letter on Monday asking the federal government to scrap national monument protections for lands of natural wonder throughout Arizona, claiming their designation is unconstitutional and prevents economic development of coal, oil and gas deposits. Utah leaders will follow with letters requesting the government shrink national monuments in southern Utah, such as Bears Ears and Grand Escalante, in order to open up a greater area for mineral exploitation, the Guardian has learned.
The battle to restore mining activity near the Grand Canyon is part of broader push by conservatives to roll back protections on Americas 640m acres of public land. Earlier this year, Congress reversed the Bureau of Land Managements Planning 2.0 rule, an Obama-era initiative that gave the public greater input on how land should be used. At the same time, Zinke has ended the moratorium on federal coal leases while pledging to open up public lands to greater oil and gas extraction. Trump has also ordered Zinke to review 27 national monument designations and report as to whether some parks might be reversed or reduced in size.