The New York Times quotes Arizona congressmen Raul Grijalva and Ed Pastor as saying they expect the U.S. House to take up the issue of uranium mining on federal lands in northern Arizona after Labor Day, when the House reconvenes after their summer recess. There is a rider in the Interior and EPA appropriations bill that would overturn the Secretary of Interior's proposed 20 ban on mining in the region.
The debate over mining outside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park has become increasingly politicized since the Secretary made his decision before comments had been received on the BLM's draft EIS [right, map of the withdrawn areas. Credit, BLM].
On a phone call I had with BLM Deputy Director Mike Poole and other Interior officials the day of the decision, they were forthright in stating that neither they nor the Secretary had read much of the substantive comments from cooperating agencies in the EIS before making the decision. They also admitted that while they have been to the Park, neither they nor the Secretary have been to the lands proposed for withdrawal. They referred to 300,000 mostly pre-printed postcards received, as a basis for opposing mining in the area.
Subsequently, Rep. Jeff Flake introduced a rider into the Interior Approps bill in committee, that would overturn the Secretary's ban. That is winding its way through the process and has become the focus of the battle with a strongly partisan division.
The BLM EIS process continues, and AZGS is a cooperating agency. But the pessimist in me questions how much effort to put into a process where the outcomes are driven by politics and not the science.
[correction 8-12-11: I mistakenly stated my conference call was with Bob Abbey, Director of BLM. In fact, Bob was not on the call at all. I apologize for the error.]