“No Uranium Bailout”

Citing health and water concerns, advocates fight funding for new uranium reserve

Today 80 organizations sent a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging them to deny the Department of Energy’s requested $1.5 billion to establish a new reserve of domestically produced uranium, calling it a bailout for the foreign-owned uranium industry.

Companies mining uranium pay no federal reclamation fee or federal royalty in exchange for the profits they make from lands that belong to the American public. Thousands of abandoned uranium mines still dot the American Southwest, where domestic uranium mining is concentrated.

A recent University of New Mexico study found that more than one quarter of Navajo Nation women have high concentrations of uranium bioaccumulated in their bodies. Today, uranium mining not only threatens important drinking water resources through potential groundwater contamination, but also a pair of iconic American landscapes that are sacred to Native peoples: Grand Canyon National Park and Bears Ears National Monument.

The Trump Administration has already withdrawn long-overdue updates to uranium recovery standards designed to protect human and environmental health, and added uranium to its list of so-called critical minerals eligible for expedited permitting. The five uranium-producing companies operating in the United States are subsidiaries of parent corporations headquartered mostly in Canada.

Below are statements from signatory organizations. A full list of signatories is available here.

“It would be an abuse of power to enrich polluting industries with taxpayer resources so foreign companies can plunder national treasures like Bears Ears and the Grand Canyon,” said America Fitzpatrick, senior representative of The Wilderness Society. “Instead, we should be making investments that protect our land, water and public health while stimulating jobs in clean energy, recreation and tourism.”

“Uranium mining has left scars across the land and made the water undrinkable throughout the West,” said Senior Legislative Representative for Earthjustice, Blaine Miller-McFeeley. “Now unbelievably, the Trump administration is attempting to prop up the domestic uranium industry under the guise of national security to extend the damage to Indian country and the rest of the West.”

“Communities in the West are living with pollution from the toxic Cold War legacy of uranium mining, and taxpayers — not the polluters — often pay the cleanup bill,” said Aaron Mintzes, senior policy counsel at Earthworks. “Congress should provide support to reclaim these sites, not create new ones, nor threaten some of our most treasured landscapes.”

“The last time the U.S. government propped up uranium mines and mills across the Southwest, Indigenous communities paid the price; these communities are still dealing with the public health legacy of uranium contamination today,” said Amber Reimondo, energy program director for the Grand Canyon Trust. “As a global pandemic is killing tens of thousands of Americans, and disproportionately affecting Native communities, the last thing the federal government should be doing is allocating taxpayer dollars to again prop up an industry that is culpable in causing the underlying health conditions that have made so many people more susceptible to COVID-19.”