Dept. of Interior sued over decision to end uranium mining

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the National Mining Association (NMA) are suing U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar, saying his decision to withdraw lands in Arizona from uranium mining activities is “unconstitutional, unlawful and violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” according to World Nuclear News.

The suit was filed with the US Federal District Court in Arizona. The DOI, US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service and US Department of Agriculture are named as co-defendants alongside Salazar.

The plaintiffs reportedly claim that the decision made in January to withdraw more than 1 million acres of federal lands from mining for the next 20 years is flawed for a number of reasons, including using old, outdated information in its economic assessment.

NEI said in the article that BLM’s economic assessment of the effects of the withdrawal and environmental impact analysis relied on outdated and inaccurate data and ignored more recent data, leading to an understatement of the potential adverse effects of uranium mining.

"The proposed land withdrawal is designed to protect against situations and circumstances that no longer exist. It is a mistake to judge today's uranium mining activities by practices and standards from 50 to 60 years ago. Yet that, apparently, is what the Interior Department has done in its final environmental impact statement," said Richard Myers, NEI vice president.

They also argue that Salazar does not have the legal authority to make withdrawals of public lands in excess of 5,000 acres, citing a landmark 1982 Supreme Court ruling that such withdrawals are unconstitutional. In addition, they claim the environmental impact statement and record of decision on the withdrawal violate the terms of the NEPA in failing to take a “hard look” at the economic and environmental consequence of the withdrawal, the article said.

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