First came the 11th-hour bid to relax clean air standards for power plants near the nation’s national parks, then a battle backing power plants over nearby aquatic life that wound up before the Supreme Court, and now the Bush administration is pushing for a rule to block Congress from limiting uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.
What’s next, a Taco Bell atop Mount Rushmore?
The latest bid by the lame-duck Bush administration to roll back environmental regulations was announced late last week when U.S. Interior Department officials said they would move forward with a rule that would eliminate a provision that directs the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw lands from possible mining when Congress declares emergency conditions exist.
The new rule would fly in the face of a June 25 emergency congressional resolution that required the Interior Department to withdraw a million acres of federal lands near Grand Canyon National Park from the permitting process for uranium mining.
Conservationists and environmental watchdog groups say the increasing pressure from mining interests near critical federal lands not only necessitates the emergency provision staying in place but should lead to an immediate overhaul of antiquated mining laws.
“In light of the dramatic rise in new mining claims within a stone’s throw of the Grand Canyon’s rim, the administration should be moving to halt more claim staking, not rescinding rules that allow for emergency protections,” said Jane Danowitz, U.S. public lands program director at the Pew Environment Group.
“Ultimately, the best way to protect national treasures such as the Grand Canyon from uranium and other metal mining is for Congress to roll up its sleeves and commit to reforming the 1872 mining law in the coming year.”