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October 14th, 2008
Chairman Grijalva Denounces Bush Interior Department’s Last Minute Effort to Strip Congress of Power to Protect Public Lands

Tucson, AZ— Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it will rescind a regulation that allows two congressional committees to withdraw public lands from mining and other extractive activities in emergencies.

The BLM will published a notice tomorrow in the Federal Register to rescind the rule (43 C.F.R. 2310.5) that allows the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to notify the Secretary to withdraw certain lands in emergencies in order to give Congress the opportunity to determine whether permanent protection for the lands is warranted. The notice tomorrow will give the public only 15 days to comment and provides no environmental analysis of the impacts of the proposed action.

“It is clear that this last-minute move by the Bush Administration, put out right before a three-day weekend when Congress is not in session, is designed to undermine our effort to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining and contamination,” stated Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “For the last eight years, the Bush Administration has done everything in its power to reward its friends in industry who seek to exploit our public lands for mineral wealth, timber, etc. but this goes beyond the pale. Instead of giving Congress time to consider how to protect the crown jewel of our National Park system, the Grand Canyon, from the impacts of dangerous and potentially life-threatening uranium mining, the Department is choosing instead to rush this regulation through, giving the public almost no time to comment.”

The emergency withdrawal authority has only rarely been used. It was previously used three times by Congressman Mo Udall to protect important lands that were under threat, and most recently when the House Natural Resources Committee, prompted by Grijalva, notified the Secretary to withdraw lands around Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining. The Department has refused to comply with the emergency withdrawal notification thus far, allowing uranium mining to continue on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

“The Interior Department is being sued by environmental groups for failing to comply with its own regulations that require it to withdraw lands when notified to do so by the Committee on Natural Resources. Instead of following the law and their own regulations, they are attempting to throw out the rule, subverting the will of Congress and the people of the United States who want to see the Grand Canyon protected,” stated Grijalva.

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