Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge Bill Passes Senate

$30 Million for Uranium Mining on Dine Land Included in House Bill

* The Senate passed a defense bill this week that would convert the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant to a national wildlife refuge. The bill proposes to protect the 6,000-acre site from development and further preserve the wildlife habitat where deer, elk, and birds flourish.

Rocky Flats is located between Boulder and Broomfield, Colorado, at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Representative Mark Udall, of Colorado, supporter of the bill, said, "We're saving [this] for our children and grandchildren. And in the process we're protecting the backdrop which makes Colorado so special."

Plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons were produced at Rocky Flats until 1989, when federal agents raided the complex due to serious environmental issues. Cleanup at the site is expected to be complete on December 15, 2006, when the Department of Energy would transfer control of the land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for use as a wildlife reservation.

Activists are concerned cleanup at the site will be less exhaustive if the site is left undeveloped. As stated in a recent editorial by Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and LeRoy Moore of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, "...What is the life of a law compared to the half-life of plutonium? The former may be as little as an election cycle and, in any case, may not long endure in the face of mounting property values. Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years."

* Recently the House passed an energy bill that would allocate $30 million to support uranium mining on Dine (or Navajo) land. The bill would fund Hydro Resources, Inc. to begin a process of in-situ leach uranium mining. Because of uranium mining practices in the last century, uranium levels on some Dine land are more than 200 times those that are designated safe by the World Health Organization.

This bill comes shortly after former Dine uranium miners demanded recompense for the illnesses they sustained due to their work with uranium during the Cold War. President Bush recently said that he was going to halt those payments until further investigations of these illnesses could be completed.

Lori Goodman, spokesperson for Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, said, "While we're told there is no money to pay the ill uranium miners, funds are being set aside [for] corporations to start uranium mining in New Mexico. Where is the compassion for the miners made ill by their work?"

Representative Heather Wilson, who has faced heavy scrutiny because of her introducing the bill, said in defense of her amendment, "The industry has convinced me that this is worth looking into."

Representative Tom Udall, who staunchly opposes the bill, said, in a speech to Congress, "This legislation is not needed for research and development purposes. In fact, this in-situ leaching process causes radioactive uranium and other toxic chemicals to leach into groundwater, threatening the public health of the communities surrounding the mines."

The Senate's Committee of Energy and Natural Resources, through its chair, Senator Jeff Bingaman, is developing its own energy bill currently.

Please call Senator Jeff Bingaman and ask him not to include $30 million for Hydro Resources Inc. for in-situ leach uranium mining in the Senate energy bill. His numbers are, (505) 346-6601 in Albuquerque, (505) 988-6647 in Santa Fe, (505) 523-6561 in Las Cruces and, (505) 662-7113 in Roswell. .

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