DENVER—The Washington Post is reporting that a uranium mining company “launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill.”
The story, which broke over the weekend, directly contradicts claims by the Trump administration that “this is not about energy.” The Center for Western Priorities issued the following statement from Deputy Director Greg Zimmerman:
“President Trump’s unprecedented and illegal attack on Bears Ears National Monument is just another in a long list of giveaways to special interests. A toxic history of failed uranium projects litters the southwest, especially on tribal lands. That President Trump and Secretary Zinke have the audacity to sell out Bears Ears, and its thousands of unique archeological sites, to a uranium extraction company is beyond the pale.”
The company, Energy Fuels Resources Inc. (EFR), has spent the last year lobbying the Trump administration to eliminate Bears Ears National Monument. It operates a uranium mill—White Mesa—and a uranium mine—Daneros mine—adjacent to Bears Ears National Monument.
In a May 2017 letter, Energy Fuels Resources wrote, “[We] respectfully request that DOI reduce the size of the BENM to only those specific areas or sites, if any, deemed to need additional protection beyond what is already available to Federal land management agencies.” Its reasoning for eliminating Bears Ears was simple: there are “many known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the newly created [Bears Ears National Monument] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”
The uranium mining company also hired a high-powered lobbying firm, FaegreBD, to carry its message into high-level officials at the Interior Department. According to a search in the U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, Energy Fuels Resources—which has no past history of federal lobbying—paid $30,000 to FaegreBD to lobby on its behalf.
Lobbying for Energy Fuels Resources were two prominent Washington operators: Andrew Wheeler and Mary Bono. Wheeler, who was included on the account during Quarter 1 and Quarter 2, is a long-time coal industry lobbyist and has been nominated by President Trump to serve as second-in-command at the Environmental Protection Agency. Mary Bono was a Republican member of Congress from 2003 through 2013, serving on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
On July 17th, 2017, Andrew Wheeler, Mary Bono, and Paul Goranson, an executive at Energy Fuels Resources, met with high-level officials in the Interior Department, including Downey Magallanes, the architect of Secretary Zinke’s national monuments report, to “discuss the Bear Ears [sic] National Monument.”
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