Western Caucus Slams Grijalva With “Real Russia Collusion” Claim

Raul Grijalva
Rep. Raul Grijalva

Rep. Raul Grijalva’s opposition to mining has prompted Western Caucus members to accuse him of “real Russian collusion.”

On Wednesday, June 5, the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a legislative hearing on Grijalva’s H.R. 1373, dubbed the “Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act.” Prior to the hearing, Congressional Western Caucus Chair Paul Gosar called the bill “anti-American” and released the Top 20 Reasons to Reject H.R. 1373.

“We already know that the House Science Committee found Russia funneled cash to extremist organizations to intentionally undermine important American energy projects. It should come as no surprise then, that many of those same groups are strong supporters of Rep. Grijalva’s one million-acre land grab and are seeking to make the U.S. reliant on unstable American adversaries, namely Russia & Kazakhstan, for 99% of our domestic uranium needs,” said Gosar in a press release. “Rep. Grijalva’s bill is an anti-mining, anti-American attack on my district that aims to prevent development of the highest grade and largest quantity uranium reserves in the country. The real Russia collusion involves Rep. Grijalva and his desire to make the U.S. dependent on Russian uranium.”

Gosar also dubbed H.R. 1373, “Grijalva’s One Million-Plus-Acre Land Grab.” In fact, Grijalva’s bill would prohibit mining on 1,006,545 acres of federal lands north and south of Grand Canyon National Park.

In 2012, the Obama administration instituted a 20-year ban on uranium mining on those same lands. Grijalva’s bill would create a permanent uranium mining ban.

Gosar is not alone in his opposition.

Eric Duthie, Tusayan Town Manager, complained in a open letter last week that his town “would be swallowed up into the monument” but Grijalva had not even “approached or included” the Town “in any discussion concerning the monument.” In 2016 and last week, Duthie said the “land grab” portion of the bill was nothing more than “federal overreach to appease special interest groups who do not represent the views of the many life-long residents who cherish and manage the Grand Canyon.”


Mohave County Supervisor of District 3, Buster Johnson, testified against the bill. “Fundamentally, it is a direct attempt to undue the commitment given in 1984 to the people of Arizona by former House Interior Committee Chairman Morris Udall, Senator Barry Goldwater, Senator Dennis DeConcini, Congressman Bob Stump, then freshmen House member and later Senator John McCain along with Utah’s former Senators Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch and former Chairman of this Committee, James V. Hansen, also from Utah,” alleged Johnson.

“As we meet here today, this nation’s nuclear power plants are inexplicably importing 98 percent of the fuel needed to power those plants from foreign sources; much of it from Russia and Kazakhstan Nuclear power provides 20 percent of this country’s daily requirement for energy,” testified Johnson. “As one who is deeply concerned about climate change, I know the Chairman shares my view that nuclear power is a clean safe way to provide electricity to our people. What I do not understand is why America’s utilities are importing so much even though we have vast supplies of it right in our own back yard in northern Arizona.”

Johnson concluded, “As the supervisor who represents the county where the uranium and Grand Canyon are located I can tell you that if I had even the slightest indication that mining would affect the Canyon or the health of the people I represent I would be adamantly opposed to it but the Canyon and people are protected and the economic benefit of over $29 billion and the security of our Nation are what is at stake.”

Gosar’s “Top 20 Reasons to Reject H.R. 1373, Rep. Grijalva’s One Million-Plus-Acre Land Grab:”

1.  On Monday, June 3rd, the US Energy Information Agency (a part of US Department of Energy) reported that domestic uranium production has collapsed.  For Q1, 2019 production totaled 58,481 pounds. Our 98 domestic operating nuclear power plant reactors require roughly 50 million pounds annually. Thus, domestic production for calendar year 2019 is on pace to be a fraction of 1% of total demand. We will be importing well roughly 99% from unstable American adversaries; namely Russia & Kazakhstan.  The US Navy, which is rapidly depleting stockpiled uranium supported adding uranium to the critical minerals list. Uranium is on the critical minerals list.

2. There is n o reason America should be importing 97-99% of our uranium necessary for domestic reactors from countries with Russian influence when we have an ample supply here at home that will create good-paying jobs and be mined under higher standards that protect our environment.

3. The breccia pipe formations in the withdrawal area represent the largest deposits of uranium in the United States and contain the largest quantities of reserves and the highest grades of American uranium ore by a factor of 6.  The withdrawal area constitutes the bulk of a 326,000,000 acre uranium reserve which the Nuclear Energy Institute estimates would provide California’s 45 million residents 22.5 years of electricity. Thus, the Northern Arizona deposits constitute the crown jewel infrastructure for America’s nuclear power generating capability and represent the nation’s most critical reserves for such purposes.

4. Located within the withdrawal area there are 4,204 acres owned by the Arizona State Land Department for the benefit of Arizona’s school children. Locking away this resource will cost Arizona and Utah hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues that would help local communities and schools.

5. Located within the withdrawal area are 19,789 acres of land held in private ownership.

6. Uranium is critical for nuclear power, the most reliable and clean zero-emission energy source.

7. Members of the Western Caucus wrote DOI twice asking the Department to overturn this political mineral withdrawal. 

8. The bill is a partisan attack and has 0 Republican cosponsors.

9. Reps. Gosar held a field hearing where he heard from Representatives from dozens of local organizations that were opposed to a similar Grijalva effort.

10.  Industry studies have shown direct adverse impacts from this withdrawal to rural portions of six counties in Arizona (Mohave, Coconino) and Utah (Kane, Garfield, San Juan and Washington) of between 2,000-4,000 lost jobs and $29 billion in overall economic activity in the region at peak production. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl wrote in 2009 that the “mere threat of a withdrawal” forced banks to stop lending money for mineral exploration and made industry hesitant to commit capital to mining projects.

11.  Somewhere in the range of 30-40% of the withdrawal lands are in Rep. Gosar’s district, the rest is in Rep. O’Halleran’s and NONE is in Rep. Grijalva’s district. Having said that, the majority of the mining claims are in Rep. Gosar’s district. In fact, just about all of the active and historic mines are in Rep. Gosar’s district.

12.  This fundamentally-flawed legislation has existed in one form or another for more than a decade. On July, 21, 2009, Dr. Madan M. Singh, Director of the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources for the State of Arizona, testified in strong opposition to a nearly identical bill.

13.  Dr. Singh testified there is no threat to the Colorado River or surrounding watersheds if uranium mining in the area was allowed to occur. In fact, successful uranium mining in the area occurred in 1980s. These mines were reclaimed and you can’t tell where they existed. There was no damage done to the Grand Canyon waters or surrounding communities.

14.  Dr. Singh testified that removing uranium from the ground and reclaiming this area is better for the environment and the Colorado River, as water passing through the uranium bearing breccia pipes, because of erosion, is flowing into the Colorado River, even though these pipes have never been touched by mining. Despite this occurrence, the erosion into the water is not causing the Colorado River to be at dangerous levels.

15.  Dr. Singh testified that in 2009 over 55.6% of the total area of the State of Arizona was already withdrawn from mineral exploration and mining.

16. The Obama Administration proposed at least 31 domestic mineral withdrawals to prevent mining and this was a 1.01 million-acre withdrawal implemented for 20 years in 2012. It is not 2032 yet and there is no urgency or justification for this bill. There is no current threat to the Grand Canyon associated with uranium mining.

17. Besides uranium, flag stone, sand and gravel, vanadium, copper, oil, coal, rare earths as well as other critical and strategic metals would be locked away forever under Rep. Grijlava’s bill.

18. Similar proposals put forth by the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Wilderness Society didn’t even try to hide their true goals, explicitly stating their intent was to lock-up this large swath of land in order to prevent mining, retire grazing permits, close roads to OHV users, and prevent forest thinning activities.

19. Leaving the withdrawal in place is a direct attempt to undue the historic 1984 Arizona Strip Wilderness Act that was signed into law in the form of Public Law 98-406 and agreed to by the entire Utah and Arizona delegations. The compromise added 387,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System in exchange for releasing 540,000 acres to multiple-use (including mining).” Other stakeholders at the table at the time included the National Parks and Conservation Association, the Wilderness Society, Arizona Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, grazers, timber companies, the mining industry, local businesses, civic groups, regulatory agencies, local county and state governments from Arizona and Utah.

Unfortunately, many of the same environmental organizations involved in passing the groundbreaking Arizona Strip Wilderness Act went back on their word. In order to appease these extremist groups that double-crossed industry, elected officials and the people of Arizona and Utah; the Obama Administration unilaterally acted to upend the bipartisan and bicameral bill passed by Congress. As the American Clean Energy and Resources Trust points out, “Using inaccurate, outdated, unrelated, often downright fabricated ‘arguments’ as well as more than a little ‘in your face’ chutzpah, environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Grand Canyon Trust (GCT) and the Sierra Club pressured the then new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, to withdraw almost one million acres of land in northern Arizona from any and all mining activities.”

As Chairman Mo Udall stated on the House floor on April 2,1984, the Arizona Wilderness Act was “an extraordinary example of what cooperation and compromise between business and conservation groups can produce, even when the subject is as emotional and controversial a subject as wilderness.” Senators Orin Hatch and Dennis DeConcini wrote to Secretary Salazar, “This carefully crafted compromise provided new Wilderness designations to ensure that the Grand Canyon watershed was fully protected and allowed mining and grazing to continue in the remaining areas of the region. The agreement led to the passing of the Arizona Wilderness Act by large majorities in both the House and Senate. It is important to note that research conducted by USGS and preliminary findings by the University of Arizona confirm that uranium exploration and mining pose no threat to the Grand Canyon watershed or to the Park.”

20. The Arizona Geological Survey which published a report stating, “Uranium is one of the many chemical elements in Earth‘s crust that are gradually washed away by weathering and erosion and dissolved in very small concentrations in river water and groundwater. The seemingly large amount of naturally occurring uranium in the Colorado River reflects the large water flux in the river, not unusually high uranium concentration. Colorado River water is consumed by millions of people in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Uranium concentration in river water, at about 4 ppb, has been consistently well below the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 30 ppb for drinking water. Under the conditions modeled here for a uranium ore-truck accident, designed to represent an extremely unlikely, worst-case, mining-related uranium spill into the Colorado River, an increase of 0.02 ppb uranium would be trivial in comparison to the EPA drinking water MCL of 30 ppb uranium. Furthermore, such an increase of uranium in river water would be undetectable against natural variation as revealed by variability in past uranium measurements of river water.”

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