Transcript: Uranium mining returns to the Colorado Plateau

Feb 8, 2024

This is an automatically generated transcript. Please excuse misspellings, grammatical errors, and other mistakes. 

Aaron: Welcome to the Landscape, your show about America’s parks and public lands. I’m Aaron Weiss with the Center for Western Priorities Thawing out in Denver after some really thick, wet snow last weekend.

Kate: And I’m Kate Groetzinger in Salt Lake City. Today we’re talking to Amber Reimondo, energy director at the Grand Canyon Trust, and Scott Clow, environmental Programs Director for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. We’re talking to them about the impacts of uranium mining on the Colorado Plateau, and we’ll get to that in a second, but let’s do the news first.

Aaron: It’s been a pretty quiet couple weeks around here, but we did get some good news earlier this week here in Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management issued an updated finding on a controversial limestone quarry located near Glenwood Springs. The quarry’s owner was asking BLM to allow the mine to expand its operations from 16 acres to over 300 acres that would have sent hundreds of trucks going through tiny little Glenwood Springs every day. Also, could have threatened the geothermal water flows, of course, that feed the town’s famous hot springs. And BLM just rejected that proposal after several years of back and forth. Now, the interesting thing here, and you’ll remember this from a couple years back on the podcast, that limestone quarry is owned by the son of Norm Brownstein, a extremely politically connected Colorado attorney whose law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Shrek lobbies Congress and the Interior Department.

Aaron: When the quarry first asked BLM if it could expand, David Bernhardt was the Secretary of the Interior. Having just gone through the revolving door at Brownstein Hyatt, he has gone in and out and in and out from the Interior Department to Brownstein Hyatt over the course of his career. This was, of course, one of many conflicts of interest that Bernhardt faced while serving as the Interior Secretary. It was also one of the most egregious because it did involve not just Brownstein Hyatt, but the son of Brownstein Hyatt’s founder. So for now, with David Bernhardt out of interior, it looks like that quarry expansion is dead. And folks in Glenwood Springs are breathing a sigh of relief.

Kate: Our first guest today is Amber Reimondo, energy director at the Grand Canyon Trust. She lives in Durango, Colorado and tracks threats to the Grand Canyon, including uranium. Amber, thanks for joining us.

Amber: Thanks so much for having me.

Kate: Our next guest is Scott Clow, environmental programs director for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. He lives in Dolores, Colorado and monitors the effects of the White Mesa Uranium Mill on the tribe’s White Mesa, Utah community.

Scott: Thank you. Great to be with you.

Kate: Amber, how long has uranium mining been dormant in the United States, and why is it resuming right now?

Amber: So, uranium mining really only ever was successful in the United States when it had government support. And since the beginning of the 1980s when that government support sort of fell away, so did uranium mining. And part of the bigger reasons for that is because we just don’t have great quality resources in the United States. And so it costs a lot of money to pull uranium out of the ground and actually make it into a product. So essentially when that government support trickled off in the eighties and other countries that have higher quality uranium deposits like Canada and Australia started to bring more mines online that sort of really put a damper on US uranium development. And it’s been that way for a long time. But recently, kind of starting around 2020, we started seeing more speculative interest in uranium, partly because of the policy shift in the United States away from fossil fuels and more towards nuclear.  And at a very simple level, people understand that uranium is needed for nuclear power. And so that drives up interest. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a higher demand for uranium, it just means that people are more interested in it. It drives the price of uranium up. And then, I would say the other thing is that in 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine and there was a clear desire across the board to give less money to Russia, there’s been an across the board interest in getting our uranium from other resources or from other places. But again, the United States doesn’t have that creative uranium resources. So in theory, people want to find other resources in their mining companies like Energy Fuels that say they can be that source. But the reality just doesn’t match up.

Aaron: So right now we’ve got this Pinon Plain mine in Northern Arizona that has started production back up. Is there any other actual uranium mining happening right now?

Amber: So as far as I’m aware, the only mines that are actually operating are Pinon Plain, the LaSalle complex and Energy Fuels’ other mine, Pandora mine. And those are in southeastern Utah. Pinon Plain is in Northern Arizona. And really these are mines that have been developed and established. And so in some ways, their operations can also be looked at as an opportunity for the company to cash out on what’s more or less a bad investment.

Kate: Amber, I’m glad you brought up Energy Fuels. They own not only those three uranium mines that you mentioned, but also the White Mesa Mill. Can you tell us a little bit more about that company? I know that they’ve struggled in the past in maybe what this moment means for them.

Amber: Yeah, I mean, energy Fuels is a relatively small producer, compared to some of the big ones, the big names that people know of in Canada, like Cameco, and they’ve sort of had these smaller operations just on their docket for years. And so when we run into moments like this where there there is a brief price opportunity, it really doesn’t surprise me that Energy Fuels would be trying to at least give the impression that they’re going to really ramp up, if not actually try to mine out these small operations that they have, because they’re costing them money <laugh>. And so if there’s an opportunity where the price is is momentarily higher, it makes sense that they would be going that route.

Aaron: Scott, walk us through what is happening and what Energy Fuels is doing at the White Mesa Mill. What is the activity there and why does that become so much of a concern for the Ute Mountain Ute tribe?

Scott: Yes, as Amber pointed out, the actual milling of the uranium ore has not been profitable for a long time. That may change because Energy Fuels did sell $75 million of yellowcake to the US government last year as part of the strategic uranium reserve. And so that’s certainly a boon to them and gives them an ability financially they didn’t have. What they’ve been doing besides processing the uranium ore is processing what are called alternate feed materials. These are feedstock that come from as byproducts of other operations, and they are coming from all over the world, including Japan and Estonia and across North America. So these include Superfund wastes, FUSRAP [Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program] materials, former uranium military sites and other cleanup efforts where they have materials that have radioactive materials including uranium. There used to be a threshold that they had to actually extract profitable uranium to sell out of those materials, but that is not necessary anymore.

Scott: And they also have limitations on what they can dispose of. So they have to run some of these materials through their mill to change the definition to 11.e.(2) byproduct material to be able to store it forever in their tailings disposal cells. So they have been very much in the business of radioactive waste, receipt and disposal and getting paid handily for that. So, they’ve diversified their business to be very heavy on the alternate feeds. This was started in the mid nineties, so they did get license approval to receive and process some of those materials and dispose of them there. But it’s increased drastically in the last 10 years. It’s been a cornerstone of their business at the mill. They’ve also been doing some bench-top experiments, dabbling in the rare earth element market, trying to get a foothold on that market as well.

Aaron: I wanna ask about that $75 million yellow cake sale to the National Strategic Reserve. Would that be considered a market rate sale or is that effectively a, a government subsidy to keep Energy Fuels in business?

Scott: I’m not sure about a market rate sale. I’m not sure about the context for that, but yes, it’s a government subsidy. It’s kind of funny because I was talking with our congresswoman who was very adamant about the government not choosing winners and losers in private industry. <laugh> And I pointed out that in fact, that’s exactly what is happening with Energy Fuels.

Kate: Is that Lauren Boebert?

Scott: That is our representative

Kate: Amber, I saw you sort of make a face there. So do you know if this was a subsidized sale and are there other subsidies for uranium coming from the federal government right now?

Amber: Yeah, so the Strategic Uranium Reserve was established because the government wanted to be able to buy yellowcake from companies at above market prices because these companies haven’t been able to sell their product because the prices have been so low. So while we can’t know exactly what the price was that they purchased uranium from Energy Fuels at exactly, in terms of like price per pound, we know that of the $75 million that Congress allocated for the Strategic Uranium Reserve, Energy Fuels got $18.5 million of that. And then the rest of the $75 million was spread out between, I believe it was seven other operators. Strata Energy was one of them. They sold 300,000 pounds to the federal government. And all of that, again, is at above market prices.

Kate: So, Amber, tell us more about the Pinon Plain Mine. We mentioned it earlier, it’s obviously in the footprint of the new Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument. You mentioned that was preexisting before, or that it has been active before and that it’s becoming active again. Can you kind of explain why it’s allowed to keep producing even though it’s inside of a national monument?

Amber: Yeah. Well, I should be clear, Pinon Plain mine, it’s existed since the eighties. It was approved in 1986, but it actually has never commercially produced ore until this year. So it sat on Forest Service lands within the traditional cultural property for Havasupai. And it sits within a place that’s really significant to more than just the Havasupai, several tribes within the region. So yeah, the mine was approved in 1986 and in 2012 when the Obama administration established a temporary mining ban around the Grand Canyon, including in the area where Pinon Plain mine now exists. And for the record, it was formerly called Canyon Mine. Energy Fuels didn’t like the negative press that they were getting, and they tried to change the name.

Aaron: Because it is in fact right by the Grand Canyon.

Amber: Yeah, it’s within nine miles of South Rim. And so the mine has been on standby its whole existence. It had a 50 foot hole in the ground for all of the ’90s and into the 2000s. And it wasn’t until 2012 when the Obama administration put in that temporary mining ban that Energy Fuels said, Hey, we want to keep moving forward with this mine. You have to allow us to do that because we have valid existing rights, which is a stipulation under the 1872 mining law. Any mining ban has to allow for previous mines that have valid existing rights to continue moving forward. So the Trust, the Havasupai tribe and other organizations all filed suit, claiming that the mine does not actually have valid existing rights because one of the requirements of having valid existing rights is that at the time of the mining ban that the mine is sitting on top of economically viable deposits.

Amber: And if sitting on standby for the time, you know, close to 30 years and not being able to afford to mine doesn’t tell you that it’s not an economically feasible operation, I don’t know what does, but unfortunately, the 1872 mining law has created an environment where things are really, I guess the bar is low for mining companies. And so essentially what the court ultimately decided in February of 2022, it was a long time in court, 10 years. The court ultimately decided that the sunk costs that went into developing the mine were not something that the company needed to concern themselves with, but they only needed to worry about the costs and revenues going forward. And so we lost that lawsuit, and because of that Pinon Plain mine was able to move forward despite the temporary mining ban, and now also despite the new national monument.

Aaron: Walk us through the risks here. What’s so dangerous about a uranium mine being within nine miles of the rim of the Grand Canyon and Havasupai Tribal lands?

Amber: Yeah, so I mean, a uranium mine in general is high risk, and there’s no way of escaping that risk. Anytime you’re dealing with uranium, whether it’s milling or mining, you’re creating the potential for some pretty serious problems. Uranium has a half-life in the millions of years once you’ve created a problem. It’s no small deal to get rid of. That’s why we have all of these Tribal communities and other communities across the West still dealing with problems from the atomic era. So in general, uranium mining is high risk around the Grand Canyon. It is, especially, so the geology is very highly fractured and it creates a situation where groundwater systems are very complex and difficult to understand. So a highly fractured environment underground means that you can’t just do a few studies and understand how groundwater flows and how quickly it gets from point A to point B and exactly where it goes.  What we do know from the studies that have been done is that around the Grand Canyon water can travel from point A to point B in a matter of hours, to a matter of days, to a matter of thousands of years. We know that water can go from one place in multiple directions at once, and that it can travel up to at least 25 miles horizontally and several thousand feet vertically. And so what this means is that when Energy Fuels put Canyon Mine in operation, what they’ve done is they’ve created a conduit for contamination. It was already a conduit just by virtue of the fact that it had been developed and a mine shaft had been dug and groundwater was punctured. And now you have oxygen and water in contact with mineralized rock. That was dangerous enough. Now that they’re operating, they’re exposing more mineralized rock to more water and oxygen. And we don’t know for a fact that this mine is going to be safe. In fact, we have a lot of reasons to think it’s not going to be safe, that it’s going to cause problems for the R aquifer, which is the deep aquifer, a regional aquifer on the North and South rim, and it’s the source of water for the Havasupai people down in Supai Village, and it’s where Havasu Creek flows from. It’s a groundwater sourced creek. All those beautiful blue turquoise waterfalls that people come from all over the world to visit, those are at stake. And if there is contamination in such a complex environment, it will be impossible to clean it up. So it’s one thing to say, ‘Oh, we’ll catch it, we have monitoring wells,’ which we do think they need to have monitoring wells, and they need to have more than they have now, and deeper ones than they have now. But knowing that it’s there, if it ever shows up, doesn’t really do much for you.

Aaron: At that point, it’s, it’s too late because once you’re detecting a problem, it’s too late to do anything about it.

Amber: Right, right. So the major problem with Pinon Plain mine has to do with the contamination and depletion of valuable and limited groundwater resources. And the other huge component here is the cultural impact, because the water has cultural significance as well, but so does the land and the Havasupai people in particular have come to this place where the mine is located for centuries. They would conduct ceremonies, collect medicine, you know, things that a lot of folks don’t feel comfortable doing now that there’s a uranium mine there desecrating this sacred landscape. So, it has multiple layers of problems.

Kate: Scott going to you now, this mine is not all that far from the White Mesa mill, and that is I imagine where they would bring the uranium that they mine at the Pinon Plain mine to be processed. Is that correct? And if so, do you have any idea whether that’s already happening or when that might happen? And yeah, I’ll let you answer that <laugh>.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. They’ll mill it at the White Mesa mill that’s planned. We’ve seen the transportation routes. Those are in conflict with Navajo Nation’s ban on uranium hauling. But yeah, it’ll go to White Mesa. And I wanted to add, Energy Fuels actually was hauling some of the intercepted contaminated groundwater from that mine to White Mesa to dispose of it as a strategy there, to reduce the groundwater impact. But I don’t think they’re doing that anymore. As far as notification, we are not informed, the public and the tribe are not informed of ore shipments, and we only find out after the fact. And recently, if there are alternate feed shipments, the state of Utah has agreed to inform us when they get informed by the company that there will be a receipt of alternate feeds. But no, we’re not informed. However, from that direction, they drive that right through the White Mesa Ute community. So we know when the trucks go through,

Aaron: But no warning that they are coming. And is there any sort of monitoring that’s happening during that process? And then also obviously afterwards during the milling process, what sort of environmental monitoring is happening on Tribal lands?

Scott: Yeah, so on the Tribal lands, we have an air monitoring station in White Mesa. We collect particulate samples that we analyze for uranium and uranium decay products. And so far we haven’t really measured anything that is alarming. However, most of our monitoring program has existed during a time when they haven’t been processing uranium, or I mentioned the alternate feed processing, but that’s very minimal as far as what they actually generate for yellowcake on that and the emissions from the facility. In the 1980s and ’90s and the early 2000s when they were processing more ore, they do mill run campaigns where the mill would run 24/7 multiple shifts for weeks or months at a time, and we haven’t really had our air monitoring program operating during full-blown mill runs. So as far as monitoring on Tribal lands, that’s what we’re doing on air quality. And then we’re doing some groundwater monitoring as well. We’ve got a couple little seeps that come out from the Burro Canyon aquifer on Tribal lands. And then we’re doing some work with the US Environmental Protection Agency in between the mill property and the Tribal lands.

Kate: Scott, I know that you guys have had issues with Energy Fuels before and that you have detected different contaminants in some of those aquifers under the mill. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and also what is Energy Fuels’ response to that? Do they take any of this seriously?

Scott: Yeah, so one of the misconceptions out there is that we get our data and they get their data, and we’re in conflict that way. Mainly our conflict is in the interpretation of the data that’s collected at the mill facility. So they have a very robust self-monitoring program there, especially on the groundwater. And when we see the data that are collected, and the trends in those data, it’s alarming to us. And we try to compel the regulators of the state of Utah to regulate it in the manner that actually protects that aquifer. However we have been unsuccessful at that. Energy Fuels adamantly denies that the groundwater is being contaminated by the uranium mill on the site, that it’s being caused by things like the imposition by the state of Utah of increased monitoring causing oxidation of the formation and the oxidation of pyrite and creative things like that.

Scott: They’ve used drought conditions concentrating contaminants due to lack of water. They’ve used groundwater mounding as a result of filling unlined wildlife ponds as dissolving more contaminants. And so they’ve sort of grabbed ahold of both of those in the opposite directions. More water and less water in the formation. So, you know, I understand they’re not going to point a finger at themselves and say, ‘We’re polluting the groundwater.’ However, they’re running out of arguments that are scientifically viable, and we don’t think those have been scientifically viable. Another one of our favorites is the well construction one. So, the permit requires when they have exceedances of groundwater contaminant limits, that they do a source assessment report. And one of the sources is, ‘Oh, well, this well was constructed wrong.’ So what they get is they say, ‘Okay, well drill another well next to it and we’ll see what happens.’ But it buys them two years of monitoring before they have a baseline of data to make any decisions. And so they kicked the can down the road for a couple years with that argument.

Aaron: Alright. So, I mean, I think that’s a great view of what is happening right now at the very tip of this uranium boom, I guess we’ll call it now. But as Jonathan Thompson pointed out in High Country News, there’s very little difference between a boom and a bubble, except you only know it’s a bubble once it has burst. We’re seeing a lot of interest in uranium activity all across the West right now, thanks to these high prices. But Amber, from where you sit, is this a long-term threat to prices staying high, and/or, what happens if prices are high for a little bit, a bunch of uranium operations come online, and then there’s a bust and you’ve got a bunch of either newly built or half-built uranium operations now with no market because uranium prices have collapsed?

Amber: Yeah, I mean, I think, as I kind of said at the outset, the US uranium environment is one that requires government support to be successful. There’s just, it’s just too expensive to kind of fly on its own <laugh>. And so what we’ve been seeing, it is more of a speculative interest in uranium that’s driving the prices up. It’s not because there’s actual demand. If there ever were actual demand, that might change things. If the government subsidizes things more than they have beyond the Strategic Uranium Reserve, that might change things. But the problem that we have repeatedly in the West is that whether or not there’s a real need for uranium or whether or not there’s gonna be a longstanding rush to get a bunch of uranium, what ends up happening is that companies go out onto public or Tribal lands and they put a hole in the ground and they create a perpetual problem.

Amber: And so Pinon Plain Mine was a problem before they started operating this year, but now that they’re operating, it’s gonna be an even bigger problem, <laugh>. So I think one thing that’s just important to keep in mind is that a uranium mine doesn’t have to go into full blown operation to create a conduit for contamination that communities are gonna have to deal with for decades to come. The actual mining part just makes that problem worse. And so, whether or not we’re in a bubble, I can’t say <laugh>, but what I can say is that uranium has a terrible record of being able to stand on its own two feet in the United States of America. It’s just our uranium deposits are too low quality, they cost too much to extract. And so without substantive government support, it’s not going to be a longstanding thing. Without real demand, it’s not going to be a longstanding thing. And we talk about nuclear a lot, but the technology is farther than I think many people think it is from being a really viable option, in terms of advanced nuclear, et cetera.

Kate: Right. And that gets to a question I was going to ask you, Amber, which is that uranium is obviously hailed by many from both sides of the aisle as a clean energy or at least a renewable energy solution. Well, not that renewable, more of a clean, I don’t know, they say it’s a clean energy solution. What do you think about that? Do you think there is a responsible way to mine uranium domestically, or are the risks just too great?

Amber: I think if there was a way to mine responsibly, we’re still a far way, we’re still a long ways from it. And I say that in part because the way that uranium is extracted and handled in the United States, communities are not given a seat at the table in a substantive way to be able to be heard and say, this is the right place for it, and this isn’t. Because of that, there’s just those inherent risks that I was talking about that are associated with handling uranium, whether you’re mining it or milling it or processing it into something or enriching it, I guess I’m saying, into something like fuel. Without the public and Tribes having a real seat at the table to be able to dictate how and where and when that happens, I don’t think that there’s a clean, acceptable way for it to happen because otherwise, where we’re at right now, we’re just taking the company’s word for it. And the regulatory systems are working with imperfect laws that cannot perfectly control a very high consequence activity. And it just creates a situation where no matter what we do, there are gonna be people that pay. And unfortunately, we’re in a place where it’s the companies who get to say what risk is and isn’t acceptable. They’re not the ones who are going to be living in these communities dealing with the consequences of their actions years down the road. It’s the Tribes and the rest of the communities that they’re operating around. And those folks don’t get a substantive way to say, this is unacceptable.

Kate: Yeah. Scott, I guess you see that up close and personally every day. What is your thought on this? Is it similar to Amber? Do you think there’s a way to mine uranium or process it in the US that does justify the means?

Scott: I don’t think anyone’s done it safely. That’s a real tragedy, especially around this region, where you’ve got more than 500 contaminated sites on the Navajo Nation alone and, and thousands more around this Four Corners region. And the latest and greatest technology for extracting uranium from the earth is the in situ leachate, or in situ recovery, process. And that’s essentially injecting chemicals into the earth, bicarbonate-based chemicals, to dissolve uranium from an underground formation and then pulling that solution out of the ground with extraction wells. You are polluting those aquifers in that process, and that’s why the Environmental Protection Agency needs to give an aquifer exemption under the Safe Drinking Water Act. They literally need to permit the pollution of the aquifer for that technology, and it doesn’t end there. In situ leachate waste streams are delivered to White Mesa for permanent disposal. So we had a shipment of that where apparently a truck driver swerved to hit a deer in Wyoming and dripped those materials all the way down the highway through Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah on the way to the mill. So no, that’s not safe either.

Kate: So let’s turn towards the future and how to prevent this from expanding and occurring. Amber, what do you think the long-term solution is to protect the Grand Canyon? The monument obviously went a long way towards that. What more needs to be done?

Amber: In the case of Pinon Plain mine operating, the most near-term option that we have is to just raise awareness around what’s being allowed legally to happen in a new national monument near the Grand Canyon in a place where it’s been made clear for 40 years that this mine doesn’t belong here, and yet here it is still moving forward because of the legal and regulatory environment that we have in the United States. So I think raising awareness is the first thing that we can do. And then secondly, we really do need to take a hard look at our legal environment. And the very first thing that needs to happen is that the 1872 Mining Law needs to be substantively reformed. It was developed and created in 1872. It hasn’t been substantively revised since. It was made to encourage colonialism. And because of that, it really hobbles any other environmental law from being able to prevent a hard rock mine like a uranium mine from going into place. And so I would say awareness is one. And then revising the system that we’re actually operating within. Because right now, Energy Fuels loves to say that they are in compliance, they use that term all the time. And ‘in compliance’ doesn’t mean much when you’re dealing with the regulatory environment that we’re in.

Kate: Yeah, it clearly doesn’t mean safe or operating safely. Scott, let’s go to you to close here. What is the tribe currently doing to push back against the operations going on at the mill, and what more can be done there to protect the Tribe from this pollution that they’re being subjected to?

Scott: Well, we’re doing a lot. We evaluate the data that’s collected, as I mentioned earlier, in the self-monitoring program at the mill. And, as I mentioned earlier also, the groundwater regulation is not being done in a manner that we feel is protective. And so we are engaged with the state regulators on that front. They have been delayed now for well over a year, and it looks like it’s gonna be close to two years, on beginning the groundwater permit renewal process. So that’s a five-year permit that expired over a year ago and it’s in timely review. So Energy Fuels applied for a new permit, which gives them until the state acts upon it that the current permit is in effect. However, what’s happened in the last few years is that as they’ve exceeded the groundwater contaminant limits, the state has to respond and take actions, and they’ve relaxed those standards.

Scott: Again, like Amber was saying, to maintain compliance. So yeah, you can be in compliance, especially if the state regulators are relaxing the compliance limits for you to maintain compliance. And the last permit revision, they actually exceeded the relaxed standards before they were implemented. The state had not even implemented the relaxed standards on a few wells before the next quarters of monitoring data had exceeded those for the parameters they were exceeding. So we have a startling phenomenon going on with the groundwater there. So we’re doing what we can in dialogue with the state of Utah on that. We are also working on a research project with the US Environmental Protection Agency. We’re poised to drill four more monitoring wells out there this year. We’ve already put three in, in addition to the two the Tribe had before that out there. So we’re studying the groundwater and using techniques to understand groundwater quality and potential impacts from the facility there in ways that are not being done with the Self-Monitoring Program. So we want our decisions and what we’re trying to compel regulators to do to be done in a sound scientific manner. That is the cornerstone of what our program does with our air quality monitoring and our groundwater monitoring. And, we had a report that came out in 2023 from the ATSDR [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry]. We had reached out to them and asked for their help assessing environmental data and whether it could be a threat to public health. And their report said that based on the data we had, that it did not seem like there was a threat to public health. So that’s good news. It’s compelling to think about a smoking gun and responsibility there, but that’s good news for the community. However, we’re very concerned about the future. We’re concerned about what the next mill run has in store. The one thing about that report, as I alluded to earlier, is that we weren’t collecting data, while they were in an intensive mill run, on our air quality program. So we’ll see what happens when they do mill runs, and continue to base our efforts on sound science. We’re also very concerned about a lack of transparency with our federal government, whether that is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy or the Environmental Protection Agency also has a role in some of these decisions relative to the mill, and we want to make sure that all of the agencies are held accountable for their decisions and that the public understands all the roles and responsibilities here. So that’s another thing we’re doing outside of the scientific realm.

Kate: Scott, one quick question for you. You mentioned the ATSDR, what is that?

Scott: That’s the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and they’re part of the Center for Disease Control.

Kate: Wonderful. Thank you. Well, thank you guys both for being here. Again, we had Amber Reimondo, Energy Director at the Grand Canyon Trust, and Scott Clow, Environmental Programs Director for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. Thank you guys again.

Amber: Thanks so much for having me.

Scott: Thanks, Kate.

Kate: Let’s end this with some exciting news. The Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe is calling for the establishment of a new national monument in southern California. The monument proposal includes almost 400,000 acres near the proposed Chuckwalla National Monument and the recently-designated Avi Kwa Ame National Monument. The land is also adjacent to the Quechan Indian Tribe’s reservation, and the tribe hopes to co-manage the land if the monument is established.

Aaron:  I will just note it’s been six months since President Biden has designated a new national monument, so I would say we are due any day now. Time to break out that pen. Alright, that is it for us today. Thank you for sticking with us. Please reach out, of course, if you have any thoughts to share about the podcast. Also, leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to this. podcast@westernpriorities.org is where to send your emails.

Kate: Thanks again to Amber and Scott for their time today, and thank you for listening to The Landscape.