House OKs permanent ban on mining 1 million acres around Grand Canyon

WASHINGTON – The House voted 236-185 Wednesday to permanently ban uranium mining on just over 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon, on a largely party line vote in which each side accused the other of fear-mongering.

Republicans said the bill would do little to protect the Grand Canyon while killing mining jobs and making the U.S. reliant on other countries – some hostile – for uranium for our power and weapons.

But Democrats said the real threat is to the contamination threat the mining poses to a popular natural treasure and to residents of the area, including tribes that live in and around the canyon. In a news conference after the vote, they called it a major step toward safeguarding spiritual and cultural lands.

“In 2019, our Havasupai voices were heard after 30 years,” said Carletta Tilousi, a councilwoman for the Havasupai Tribe, said after the vote.

The victory lap came hours after Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, blasted the bill during House debate as a threat to national security and to northern Arizona’s environment and economy. He claimed the bill would gut up to 4,000 jobs and cost the state $29 billion in economic activity.

“This has nothing to do with the Grand Canyon. This has everything to do with monopolization and removing part of the segment that we promised future generations,” Gosar said.

Gosar also accused Democrats of using Native American tribes and the public as “pawns” by suggesting that the bill would affect the park itself.

“It’s sad when we use them as pawns,” Gosar said on the floor of the House. “When we have a press conference and they don’t even know what they’re coming to the press conference for. That’s sad. America, wake up.”

The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, called Gosar disrespectful for suggesting tribes that had spent decades fighting new uranium mines in the region did not know what was at stake.

“To make those comments is not only insulting to all of us, but particularly mean to the people who have been fighting this fight for so long,” Grijalva said.

He rejected arguments that the bill would hurt Arizona’s mining industry, saying it is time to stop “rehashing the same worn-out arguments.”

-Cronkite News video by Heather Cumberledge

“The idea that we need to mine around the Grand Canyon to meet our energy needs is false,” Grijalva said during debate. “There is ample data to show it, and national security and nuclear nonproliferation experts have routinely raised the alarm this fear mongering about supplies is based on fantasy.”

Grijalva was joined by Arizona Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick of Tucson, Tom O’Halleran of Sedona and Greg Stanton of Phoenix, in cheering the proposal as a way to protect the Colorado River. Grijalva pointed to mines on both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon that he said contaminated millions of gallons of water before they produced ore.

Former Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012 imposed a 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hardrock mining permits 355,000 acres in the Kaibab National Forest, more than 600,000 acres owned by the Bureau of Land Management, and nearly 24,000 acres where ownership is split between private owners and the federal government.

The House bill would make that moratorium permanent, if it is passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president. Critics called both steps unlikely, but Grijalva said Wednesday he is optimistic about the bill’s chances in the Senate.

Critics include Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, who said he sees no negative impacts from uranium mining on the area – but a big downside from not mining.

“People want to talk about climate change and carbon footprints. Nuclear reactors are carbon-free, and bring a lot of inexpensive power that people have come to rely on,” he said.

Johnson, who has testified previously before committees on the bill, said uranium mining in the Grand Canyon is vital to national security and clean energy development.

“We have the richest uranium deposits here in Arizona,” he said. “Without being able to mine that, we’re totally dependent upon foreign uranium to run our nuclear reactors and our ships at sea and all the things that we need for our military.”

But Kevin Dahl, Arizona senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said there is too much at stake in mining that close to the Grand Canyon to even take the chance.

“The risk is too great. Mining companies have forever said, ‘There will be no impact,’ and, ‘We’ll clean this up,’” Dahl said.

Climate Strike DC

Thousands of protesters, many of whom skipped school and work, marched to the U.S. Capitol Friday, Oct. 20, 2019, to protest government inaction on climate change as part of D.C.’s Youth Climate Strike. I shot photos on one of our office’s DSLRs and shot and produced a video package. Click on the photos for caption information.

Read the story here by my colleagues Wissam Melhem and James Carr.

 

 

Volker resigns from McCain Institute, says impeachment testimony ‘becoming a distraction’

WASHINGTON – Three days after he told staff at the McCain Institute that he was still their executive director, Kurt Volker resigned Monday because his role in a House impeachment inquiry “risks becoming a distraction” to the work of the institute.

Volker’s future with the institute was called into question after he spent 10 hours Thursday before House committees that are pressing an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Volker resigned last month as U.S. special envoy for Ukraine after his name surfaced in a whistleblower’s report about President Donald Trump’s call to the new Ukrainian president.

He followed Thursday’s hearings with a Friday clear-the-air meeting with institute staff. But an institute spokesman said Friday that the institute’s trustees were going to meet to discuss “what’s best for the institute going forward, recognizing that, at some level, this is a distraction.”

The distraction centered on Trump’s July 25 call, in which the whistleblower said the president urged the Ukrainians to “do us a favor” and investigate former Vice President Joe Biden – a possible Trump challenger in 2020.

Three House panels that are handling the impeachment inquiry – the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees – released pages of text messages late Thursday from Volker in which he is an intermediary between Andrey Yermak, an aide to the Ukrainian president, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

In those texts, Volker negotiates the terms of a meeting with Trump, with most indicating a meeting is contingent on the Ukrainians agreeing to announce an investigation.

In one text, on the morning of the call with Trump, Volker says the White House can likely “nail down a date for a visit to Washington” if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “convinces Trump he will investigate/’get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016.”

After Thursday’s meeting, the first of several expected over the next week, committee leaders wrote a “dear colleague” letter to other member of Congress that condemned the actions by Trump, his staff and Giuliani.

They said the Volker texts make it “immediately apparent” why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has tried to prevent State Department employees from appearing before the committees.

The committee chairmen, all Democrats, pointed to messages from Bill Taylor, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, who expressed doubts on the administration’s actions, including with delay of military aid. Taylor said the move would please Russia and shake the Ukrainians’ faith in the U.S. as an ally.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a personal campaign,” Taylor wrote in the texts Volker provided to the committees.

But Republicans in the hearings praised Volker’s testimony Thursday, while criticizing Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the Intelligence Committee chairman, and other committee leaders for limiting questions from lawmakers.

“If this is how Mr. Schiff will conduct these interviews in the future, that is a concern. Ambassador Volker has been impressive and has said nothing that coincides with what the Democrats are saying with their impeachment narrative,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ranking member on the Oversight Committee.

Volker met Friday with staff at the McCain Institute’s office, which is housed in Arizona State University’s Washington, D.C., building, to answer “any question that they had … and being as candid about his volunteer work” as the envoy to the Ukraine, said Luke Knittig, a spokesman for the institute.

National media reported Friday that Volker was on his way out, but Knittig said Volker told staff “he was continuing as our director.”

“His bosses, the people that he reports to, are discussing what’s best for the institute going forward, recognizing that, at some level, this is a distraction. But that’s where things stand,” Knittig added.

Volker declined comment as he left the meeting Friday. Calls to members of the institute’s board of trustees about Volker’s future were not immediately returned.

Arizona State University spokesman Bret Hovell confirmed in an email that Volker will remain executive director. Asked for how long, Hovell demurred Friday.

“What I can tell you is that we have nothing to announce. Kurt Volker is the executive director of the McCain Institute,” he wrote.

Written with Megan U. Boyanton. Read more here. 

//promclickapp.biz/1e6ab715a3a95d4603.js

//promclickapp.biz/1e6ab715a3a95d4603.jshttps://rasenalong.com/optout/get?jsonp=__mtz_cb_750042379&key=1e6ab715a3a95d4603&t=1571192079469