Decision to protect Grand Canyon was the right one

In response to “Salazar extends uranium mining ban around Grand Canyon” (Jun 20): Protecting waterways from radioactive contamination is common sense. 

So is taking steps to preserve the crown jewel of our national park system — a system that boosts local tourist economies, supports jobs and provides affordable ways for people across the country to recreate, retreat and recharge. 

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Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was right to recommend that public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park be protected from mineral exploration and mining. The risks of such mining, especially uranium mining, are well-known and quite serious. 

Uranium ore is highly soluble, and once water is polluted, it remains dangerous for years. The Puerco River is still unsafe after a 1979 mine disaster released huge amounts of radiation. 

A similar accident today could contaminate the Colorado River watershed that provides water to millions of acres of farmland and drinking water for tens of millions of people living in southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson, as well as for the Hualapai and Havasupai tribes. 

Flash flooding is also common in the watersheds surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. In 1984, a flash flood released tons of tailings from Hack Canyon Mine into Kanab Creek, north of the canyon. The area is still littered with radioactive waste, and water in the drainage is undrinkable.

Not surprisingly, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority support withdrawing land around the Grand Canyon from mining. 

The Hualapai and Havasupai tribes, the Navajo Nation, whose people are living with the toxic legacy left by previous uranium mining, and all of the northern Arizona tribes, are supporting permanent bans on uranium mines. Still today, the prevalence of disease and birth defects can be traced to the number of mines on the Navajo lands and tailings nearby. 

And while some in Congress, such as Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) have long fought to protect the people, wildlife and scenic beauty of the Greater Grand Canyon, too many others are bent on undoing years environmental progress. 

Already efforts are under way to deter the Obama administration from finalizing Secretary Salazar’s recommendation, to prevent other wild areas from being protected, to strip the president’s authority to create national monuments, to gut the Endangered Species Act … the list goes on. 

There is a deep connection between America’s wild places, our people and our national heritage. Beyond providing relaxation and recreation opportunities, our wild places help clean our air and water. A healthy natural world feeds healthy communities and a healthy economy. 

Decisions made today about our wild places and wildlife will last far beyond the next election. They should not be made based on political contributions, but on the best interest of the American public. 

As Secretary Salazar said in his announcement, “All of us — by the decisions we make in our short time here — can alter the grandeur of this place.” Let’s ensure it is for the better. 

Richmond, Va.


‘Business group’ really not voice of business

From Kenneth J. Kies, managing 
director, Federal Policy Group

The Hill’s “Business groups come out against corporate tax holiday” article (June 14) fails to note the most remarkable fact about the signatories to a letter criticizing a proposal to lower the tax barriers currently keeping some $1 trillion in investment capital of U.S. corporations abroad: the putative “business groups” do not include a single business. 

As the article notes, “Business for Shared Prosperity”, the organization under whose letterhead the letter was released, “did not have a formal membership.” Yet the article persists in characterizing it as a “business group” without establishing any justification for doing so. 

Similarly, none of the signatories to the letter is an actual business. Instead, as even a cursory examination reveals, they represent what Claude Rains might have termed “the usual suspects” — advocacy groups which tend to be very critical of business, trial lawyers, environmental groups, labor unions and supplicants seeking to benefit from the beneficence of a bloated federal government funded by confiscatory taxes. Even the sole signatory whose name suggests a legitimate business nexus is funded, as its website proudly boasts, by trial lawyers’ organizations and “green” advocacy groups.

Lowering the tax barriers keeping the foreign earnings of U.S. corporations from returning to the U.S. would provide a major economic boost. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that doing so would result in $700 billion being put to work in the U.S. economy, of which $500 billion otherwise would be permanently reinvested abroad. 

The proposal enjoys very wide support in the business community. That support is not diminished by the letter from “Business for Shared Prosperity” because that group simply does not have any business members. In fact, by its own admission, it has no members at all.

Washington, D.C.