Wednesday, September 23, 2009

AZ lawmakers urge caution on Grand Canyon mine

Working to protect the Grand Canyon region from uranium mining pollution.

FLAGSTAFF AZ -- Arizona lawmakers weighed in Wednesday to federal officials in support of a new study that would assess if it is safe to operate a uranium mine near the Grand Canyon.

Environmental consequences of the Arizona 1 uranium mine have not been assessed since 1988 —more than 20 years ago — and operating the mine could mean contaminating the water and air, sabotaging the reintroduction of the California condor and making extinct already endangered fish species. Toxins from uranium mining also have caused public health dangers including cancer and kidney damage.

“Interior Secretary Salazar made a wise move to put a hold on new mining claims and carefully study the environmental harm uranium mining could have on the Grand Canyon region and people downstream,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson, an ecologist and member of the House Water and Energy Committee. “We are troubled by Gov. Brewer's reckless rush to direct ADEQ to hand out uranium mining permits, and the effects these actions will have on public health, water and the environment.”

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, following Brewer’s direction to speed up the regulatory process, this month issued permits to Denison Mines Corporation Arizona 1 mine before a new federal study to determine the safety of operating a mine there could be completed. Several environmental groups also have said they intend to file a lawsuit if a study is not completed.

The study, or an Environmental Impact Statement, provides detailed information of significant environmental impacts and the reasonable alternatives that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment. The study is used by federal officials to plan actions and make decisions.

“If there is a question of danger to public health and harming families’ quality of life, I think we definitely need some answers before the mine begins and we end up spending millions on its possible devastating effects,” said Rep. Nancy Young Wright.

“The communities of Northern Arizona have legitimate concerns for their safety and the potential dangers of operating a uranium mine so close to home,” said Rep. Tom Chabin, of Flagstaff and northern Arizona. “It is incredibly important to study how these potentially harmful effects of uranium mining can have on Northern Arizona families’ health and livelihood.”

Lawmakers letter to feds available on request.

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