O’Halleran’s Effort To Protect the Grand Canyon Passes the US House
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, legislation introduced by a group of lawmakers including Arizona Democrat Tom O’Halleran. The bill would permanently ban uranium mining in and near the Grand Canyon if it goes through the Senate successfully.
In a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, O’Halleran urged his colleagues to support the legislation, saying, “This common-sense bill protects our Canyon, the people of Northern Arizona, the water supply of the Southwest, and the growth of our state’s economy by banning uranium mining in and near the Grand Canyon.”
Rural and tribal communities throughout northern Arizona are still grappling with negative health effects left behind by toxic, abandoned uranium mines dating back to the Cold War; many continue to fight the cancers and disease caused by radiation exposure decades ago. Expanding uranium mining capabilities in the area would aggravate these serious public health risks, as well as make the Colorado River susceptible to uranium mining pollutions. Currently, the river and nearby aquifers are the main water source for over 40 million people across the Southwest.
In his speech, Rep. O’Halleran also addressed the economic benefits of preserving the Grand Canyon for generations to come, saying, “The Grand Canyon brings in over six million visitors each year. In 2018, these visitors spent $1.2 billion in the local economy and supported over twelve thousand jobs.”
The Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act (H.R.1373) passed on a 236-185 vote. The bill enjoys support from 122 congressional cosponsors, the Havasupai Tribe, the Mayor of Flagstaff, the National Parks Conservation Association, and many other local, state, and national advocacy groups.
“Today, I could not be prouder to represent Arizona’s First Congressional District, which includes the Grand Canyon, a place of cultural significance to many Native American communities, and home to the Havasupai Tribe,” said O’Halleran in a statement after the vote. “Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit this natural wonder knows that it must be preserved for future generations. Today, the House of Representatives took historic action to protect this treasure from the multifaceted damage of uranium mining by passing the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act.”