Grand Canyon uranium mining ban withstands another test

Federal judge once again rejects mining industry challenge to withdrawal

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Speculative uranium plays have raised the prospect of mining in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A moratorium on uranium mining in the greater Grand Canyon region withstood another test this week, as U.S. District Judge David Campbell denied a uranium industry motion to reconsider his previous ruling to let the temporary ban stand.

Mining interests could still go to a federal appeals court, but for now, the withdrawal enacted last year by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will stand.

“It’s another good day for the Grand Canyon, and for rivers, wildlife, and communities across the West,” said Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice, one the attorneys representing conservation groups and the Havasupai Tribe in the case.  “The court has now twice rejected the uranium industry’s attempt to cripple the Interior Department’s ability to temporarily protect lands from destructive mining.” Continue reading

Court upholds ban on uranium mining near Grand Canyon

Conservation groups hail partial victory; more legal arguments on tap

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Th North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A federal judge this week partly rebuffed the mining industry’s attempt to pursue speculative uranium claims in the Grand Canyon region, saying that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acted within his authority when he ordered a temporary mining ban across more than 1 million acres.

The ban was adopted January 2012 to protect the Grand Canyon’s watersheds. The withdrawal prohibits new mining claims and development on old claims that lack “valid existing rights” to mine.

The National Mining Association, Nuclear Energy Institute, Northwest Mining Association and others last year filed four lawsuits challenging the withdrawal and the underlying federal authority to enact any withdrawals larger than 5,000 acres. The Havasupai tribe and conservation groups intervened to uphold both. Continue reading

Travel: Statue of Liberty to reopen for July 4th holiday

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Down, but not out. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to be repaired in time for the busy summer season

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with inundating residential areas in the Northeast, Hurricane Sandy also caused extensive damage to the Statue of Liberty, destroying  docks, crippling the energy infrastructure on Ellis Island and wiping out the security screening system.

But Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today said this week that the National Park Service expects to reopen the Statue of Liberty to visitors in time for Independence Day.

 

“[W]e are fully committed to reopening this crown jewel as soon as it’s safe for visitors and not a second later,”  Salazar said. “Based on the tremendous progress we have made, Lady Liberty will be open to the public in time for the July 4th celebration.” Continue reading

Will sequestration hamper energy development?

Budget cuts could slow review and approval process, Salazar warns

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Wind turbines off the coast of Denmark.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Looming budget cuts could hamper the government’s ability to review and permit both fossil fuel and renewable energy projects, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said this week, addressing offshore wind stakeholders at a conference in Boston.

Last spring, the federal government announced a $20 million grant program to spur offshore wind energy development and help address key challenges associated with installing utility-scale offshore wind turbines, connecting offshore turbines to the power grid, and navigating new permitting and approval processes.

By some estimates, offshore wind along the East and West coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes could potentially produce more than 4,000 gigawatts of power, not far from the country’s major coastal cities, where much of the nation’s population and electricity demand lies. Continue reading

National parks would take serious hit from sequester

Top officials warn of negative impacts to gateway communities

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Colorado National Monument could be hit by federal budget cuts under the sequester.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Visits to national parks in the U.S. climbed to 282 million in 2012, up 3.8 million from the previous year, top federal officials said this week, highlighting the role of parks tourism as an economic engine as they released the results of an annual analysis that details the financial contribution of parks to local communities.

According to the report, most visitor spending supports jobs in lodging, food, and beverage service (63 percent) followed by recreation and entertainment (17 percent), other retail (11 percent), transportation and fuel (7 percent), and wholesale and manufacturing (2 percent).

But Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and NPS director Jon Jarvis said that role is threatened by looming budget cuts that would delay openings at some parks and possible even curtail access based on concerns about public safety. Continue reading

$1.7 million grant boosts Rocky Mountain Greenway

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The Rocky Mountain Greenway will help connect residents if the Denver metro area with the great outdoors. Map courtesy USFWS.

Open space vision aims to connect cities with wildlife refuges, parks and open space

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A $1.7 million grant from the federal government will help move the metro Denver area closer to the final vision of the Rocky Mountain Greenway, with uninterrupted trails and open space connecting communities in the region.

“The Rocky Mountain Greenway is a shining example of what happens when strong federal, state, local and private partnerships align to take the vision of this uninterrupted trail and open space network and turn it into a reality for the Denver metropolitan area,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. “Already we’ve constructed important links in the Greenway, and today’s funding will help complete another critical section to connect Denver’s hundreds of miles of trails.” Continue reading

Conservation groups request Arctic drilling moratorium

Arctic oil drilling Beaufort Sea

Sunset over the Beaufort Sea. Photo courtesy USGS.

Recent mishaps, lack of data cited in request for suspension of operations

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Citing huge data gaps about the basic ecology of the Arctic Ocean, as well as a string of recent accidents and near-misses in Royal Dutch Shell’s ongoing efforts to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, a coalition of environmental groups this week asked the Obama administration to suspend fossil fuel development in the region.

The letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came just a few days after the Interior Department announced a 60-day assessment of the Arctic offshore drilling program.

In a press release, the groups said any investigation will show that oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean cannot be conducted now in a safe and responsible manner. Along with equipment issues, there are still unanswered questions about the ability to contain and clean up potential spills in the remote, harsh Arctic environment. Those questions remain despite the fact the federal government has already signed off on Shell’s emergency response plan. Continue reading

Colorado: Rocky Flats wildlife refuge land swap finalized

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A land trade adding new land to Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge will help connect the federal parcel to regional open space and trail systems.

Expansion helps link parcel to regional open space and trail networks

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal, state and local officials have finalized a complex land swap that expand Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge by about 1,200 acres and connect the refuge to regional open space and trail systems.

“Today’s action will significantly expand one of the cornerstones of Colorado’s open space and trails network and will protect the Front Range’s mountain backdrop as one of the state’s crown jewels,” said  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “I applaud all the partners who have come together with the state and local communities to connect people to the great outdoors and to take this key step toward realizing the Rocky Mountain Greenway as America’s next great urban park.”

The Rocky Mountain Greenway will connect hundreds of miles of trails in the Denver metropolitan area. linking the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Rocky Flats and Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuges, Rocky Mountain National Park, and community trail systems. Continue reading

Travel: National parks 2013 fee-free schedule announced

This land is your land …

The U.S. Department of Interior last week announced the 2012 schedule of fee-free days for national parks and other federal public lands. Photo courtesy Leigh Wadden.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — If you’re starting to think about your next trip to a national park, you could plan your visit around one of the fee-free days in 2013, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), Great Outdoors Day (June 8), or even national parks week (April 22-26), when entry to national parks and other public lands are free (full schedule below). Continue reading

Feds OK massive Wyoming wind energy project

Mapped wind energy potential in Wyoming, by NREL.

Site-specific reviews still to come for what could be a 3,000 MW facility

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — When it comes to renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gases, actions speak a lot louder than words. And despite almost constant carping from environmental groups, the Obama administration has made significant progress in four years.

Most recently, the Department of Interior announced approval of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project site in Wyoming. At completion, the complex could generate 3,000 megawatts of electricity — enough to power almost 1 million homes.

With the approval, the administration has reached its goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of renewable power on public lands, marking a sea change in the country’s energy mix. The project developers expect the proposal to create an estimated 1,000 construction, operation and maintenance jobs and generate enough energy to power nearly 1 million homes. Continue reading

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