Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Do the Koch Brothers Want to Mine the Grand Canyon for Uranium?

Energy
Do the Koch Brothers Want to Mine the Grand Canyon for Uranium?

Do Charles and David Koch want to mine the Grand Canyon for uranium?

A "dark money" organization tied to the billionaire Koch brothers is allegedly aiding Arizona politicians' and special-interest groups' efforts to block a bill that would ban uranium mining around Arizona's iconic landmark, The Phoenix New Times reports.

Despite vast public support for permanent protection of the Grand Canyon area, "most of Arizona’s congressional delegation—including Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, and Representatives Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, Trent Franks and Matt Salmon—want the gateway to the Grand Canyon open to uranium mining."

According to the Grand Canyon Trust, here's what Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument Act would do:

  • Protects 1.7 million acres of tribal homeland around the Grand Canyon, including water sources and sacred sites

  • Bans new uranium mining claims (making the current 20-year ban permanent)

  • Still allows hunting, grazing, recreation and other uses to continue under existing law

The proposal, in so many words, deems the area around the Grand Canyon a national monument. The bill is supported by 80 percent of Arizonans as well as a number of environmental organizations and native tribes.

However, pro-mining Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Koch-linked Prosper Foundation have co-authored a report calling the efforts a "monumental mistake" and that monument designation for the Grand Canyon "will only hurt—not help—Arizona."

As it appears, the Prosper Foundation receives nearly its entire budget with funds from the Koch-backed American Encore, according to 990 tax forms seen by Greg Zimmerman, the policy director at the Center for Western Priorities.

As Zimmerman explained on ThinkProgress:

Prosper, which was formed in 2013, covers nearly its entire budget with funds from Koch-backed American Encore—formerly known as the Center to Protect Patient Rights. According to tax filings, American Encore has funded 83 percent of Prosper Inc.’s total budget since its creation, donating over $1.5 million to the organization in 2013 and 2014.

Despite vast public support for permanent protection of the area, Zimmerman pointed out that "most of Arizona’s congressional delegation—including Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, and Representatives Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, Trent Franks and Matt Salmon—want the gateway to the Grand Canyon open to uranium mining."

The state of Arizona has mined for uranium—the raw material needed to make nuclear power—since the early 1900s. Though it has created an industry for the state, the process "has caused cancer in miners who breathed it or the many Native Americans who drank it after their water became contaminated by it," Arizona's 12 News noted.

Still, Republican lawmakers have long been opposed to conservationists' efforts to protect the Grand Canyon from the uranium mining. McCain and Gossar proposed legislation Oct. 12, 2011 to open 1 million acres of public lands that form Grand Canyon National Park’s watershed to new uranium mining. The bill would have overturned an existing moratorium on new mining and mining claims and block Interior Sec. Ken Salazar’s proposal to extend those protections for the next 20 years.

In November, Gosar issued a scathing statement against the current Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument proposal that was introduced by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.:

“Rep. Grijlava’s bill, pandering to extremist environmental groups, will kill jobs, stifle development, permanently prevent mining and future grazing leases, impose significant OHV road closures and significantly restrict hunting, timber harvesting and commercial recreational activities on 1.7 million acres in northern Arizona. I encourage the southern Arizona Congressman to focus on killing jobs and locking up millions of acres of land in his own district.”

Grijalva's act would pave the way for President Barack Obama to declare a national monument in his last year in office.

"One of the complaints you hear from members, particularly on the Republican side, is the president shouldn't use his executive authority, that this is something we should do as law," Grijalva told The Arizona Republic. "Well, you've got a law in front of you. ... At some point, if the lack of response by the Republicans ... continues, then obviously the appeal is to the president to consider this legislation for a presidential designation of a monument."

Zimmerman has also expressed frustration at the GOP over the obstruction. “The thing that’s so fascinating to me is that the polls show [the monument] is overwhelmingly popular across Arizona, and yet the political establishment in the state is so diabolically opposed to it," he told The Phoenix New Times.

“There is a tight-knit community among right-wing Republican leaders who are strongly opposed to public-land protection,” Zimmerman said, adding “what these guys do to move money is incredibly sophisticated.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

San Francisco Becomes First Major City to Require Solar Panels on New Buildings

Celebrating John Muir’s Incessant Study That Saved Yosemite National Park

Bill Nye vs. Sarah Palin on Climate Change: Who Do You Believe?

Top 10 States Harnessing the Power of the Sun

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less
A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less
The Mountain Valley Pipeline proposes to carry natural gas for hundreds of miles over dozens of water sources, through protected areas and crossing the Appalachian Trail. Appalachian Trail Conservancy / YouTube

It's been a bad summer for fracked natural gas pipelines in North Carolina.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Atlantic puffins courting at Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge in 2009. USFWS / Flickr

When Europeans first arrived in North America, Atlantic puffins were common on islands in the Gulf of Maine. But hunters killed many of the birds for food or for feathers to adorn ladies' hats. By the 1800s, the population in Maine had plummeted.

Read More Show Less