Doing Russia’s work
Here we go again. It may be a new Congress, but once again we are fighting the same issues, this time even more recklessly. On Friday (Feb. 26), the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 803, recklessly misnamed “The Grand Canyon Protection Act,” which has nothing to do with protecting the Grand Canyon. Instead, it is an open attack on Northern Arizona mining and the working people of my district.
This is a bill in which this Congress has not held a hearing, has never been marked up by the House Natural Resources Committee or even considered in any step of normal rules of the legislative process outside of Speaker Pelosi’s office. Once again, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Grijalva and Speaker Pelosi are shortchanging congressional practice and procedures in order to fast-track their radical ideas, sending this badly flawed legislation directly to the House floor without meaningful consideration or debate.
This legislation imposes a massive land grab of more than 1 million acres and permanently bans mining and other multiple-use activities in an area nearly the size of President Biden’s home state of Delaware. While the sponsors say this is about protecting the Grand Canyon, the reality is the Grand Canyon, like all of our National Parks, are some of the most protected lands in our nation. Rather, this bill is about destroying jobs and layering some of the most intrusive federal limitations on a million acres of lands.
Approximately one-third of the proposed withdrawal area in this bill is in my district, the remainder located in Representative O’Halleran’s district, and NONE of the lands are in the bill sponsor’s district – Representative Grijalva. It is estimated that this harmful bill would have direct negative impacts in six counties in Arizona and Utah, with an estimated 2,000-4,000 jobs lost and $29 billion in sacrificed economic activity. The withdrawal area also contains 4,204 acres belonging to the Arizona State Land Department for the benefit of Arizona’s school children. This withdrawal will mean hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues for local communities and for our schools.
Further, the main point of this bill is to lockup these lands from mineral development, in which the majority of active and historic mining claims are located in my district. In addition to this being an attack on Northern Arizona this bill is also a specific, targeted attempt to prevent access to the highest grade and largest quantity of uranium reserves in the country. In doing so, this legislation has serious national and energy security implications.
Uranium is a uniquely valuable element. It is a source of carbon-free renewable energy and also has irreplaceable applications in defense and medicine. Yet, domestic uranium production has fallen by more than a third in recent years and continues to collapse. Our domestic industry is disappearing. If nothing is done, it could be completely gone in just a few years. Some misguided Americans, including the bill’s sponsor, think that would be a good thing. However, the real beneficiaries are Russia and other bad actors who we must turn to in order to secure uranium for our domestic needs.
In the past my colleagues have said we don’t need to produce uranium because we can get it from allies like Canada and Australia. But those free democracies are seeing the same decline in their domestic uranium supply that we have here in America. Why is our domestic industry struggling to stay in business and the uranium supply from our friends in Canada and Australia shrinking?
Because the largest uranium producer in the world is Kazakhstan, and together with Russia and Uzbekistan, these countries have been deliberately trying to “corner” the global market. They are pushing the price of uranium down to artificially low levels and driving competitors in the United States and elsewhere out of business. Meanwhile, China is joining in, buying up mines in Namibia.
Today, the United States imports approximately 97% of our uranium from foreign sources. The majority of our uranium imports are from openly hostile nations, like Russia. If we are serious about stopping the Putin Russian regime, one good effort would be to cut off their funding by stopping the purchase of Russian uranium. Investing and building American mines in Northern Arizona will increase America’s supply of domestic uranium. Unfortunately, if we pass bills like the Grand Canyon Preservation Act we will forever close this area and be more beholden to Putin and dictators like him in the future.
(Congressman Paul Gosar represents the Kingman area in the U.S. House of Representatives.)
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