The Trump administration released the long-delayed Nuclear Fuel Working Group report today. Buried in the report is a small provision that green lights uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area and on other public lands without environmental review.
“The Trump administration’s special interest, lobbyist driven recommendations are as toxic as the legacy and history of uranium mining. Moving forward with these actions would not only devastate the protected areas around the Grand Canyon but could potentially poison scarce water resources across the West,” said Western Values Project Director Jayson O’Neill. “With two former lobbyists in Trump’s cabinet that represented the same foreign-owned uranium mining corporations pushing for these handouts and rollbacks, don’t be surprised if this swamp team takes more action in the near future under the guise of national security before the impending Congressional Review Act deadline.”
On page 19 of the report, it recommends, in part, to “expand access to uranium deposits on federal lands, including support for necessary legislation; and better assess minerals on federal lands and consider categorical exclusions for uranium mineral exploration and development activities.” Categorical exclusions are bureaucratic speak for no longer requiring uranium mining exploration and mining development proposals to be reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Without NEPA reviews, it is unclear if the public would be notified of pending uranium mining proposals or have the opportunity to comment.
Interior Secretary Bernhardt provided ‘legal services’ for Ur-Energy from 2009 to 2012. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, another ex-lobbyist, previously represented Energy Fuels Inc., a Canadian corporation, where he successfully lobbied the Trump administration to illegally reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument because of its proximity to the uranium mine and processing facility in Utah.
Not to be outdone by big oil and coal corporations, the same two foreign-owned uranium mining corporations that Secretary Bernhardt and Administrator Wheeler lobbied on behalf of sent a letter requesting at least $150 million in taxpayer-fund monies from the Trump administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used the coronavirus pandemic to push factually inaccurate information that the United States relies on China for uranium.
E&E News reported that the United States actually imports no uranium from China. The latest data available on the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that Canada (24%) is the largest supplier of uranium followed by Kazakhstan (20%) and Australia (18%). U.S. domestic suppliers produced 10% of uranium purchases.