Catron County Uranium Exploration Application Withdrawn
Uranium Exploration Dropped in Cibola National Forest West of Socorro, NM.
Additional Contact: Calvin Parsons, Cibola National Forest (505) 346-3836
Albuquerque, NM—A Uranium exploration project on the Cibola National Forest was dropped by the company that proposed it. Approved on Sept. 17, 2010, the White Mesa Uranium exploration project would have allowed exploratory drilling in the Datil Mountains of Catron County. In April 2011, WildEarth Guardians filed suit in federal court in California to overturn the administrative rules that allowed the exploration decision.
The Cibola National Forest continues to employ a categorical exclusion under its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations that allows it to exempt these decisions from administrative appeal. WildEarth Guardians would have liked to appeal the project to alter it or mitigate its harm. So in April the group filed suit along with others harmed by the abbreviated rules in federal court in California seeking to restore their rights to appeal excluded projects.
“Uranium exploration and mining should not be permitted behind closed doors” said Bryan Bird, Program Director with WildEarth Guardians. “Uranium poses a significant threat to human health and safety and if we are going to pull it out of the ground shouldn’t we consider all of the risks?”
The lawsuit challenging the Bush regulations is ongoing, but the Uranium exploration challenge will now be moot. However, the Cibola National Forest continues to employ the truncated review for numerous Uranium exploration permits and WildEarth Guardians hopes to end the practice so that the public has a full and complete opportunity to challenge the exploration approvals. There are numerous permits for Uranium exploration in the Cibola National Forest undergoing review at this time.
“The Uranium rush is on in New Mexico and the public is being excluded,” Said Bird. “We’ll be watching every move the state and federal government makes to ensure a bright light is shined every step of the way.”
The Appeals Reform Act (ARA) requires that all “proposed actions of the Forest Service concerning projects and activities implementing land and resource management plans” must be subject to public notice, comment, and administrative appeal, yet the challenged regulations illegally exempt all actions that are “categorically excluded” from the need to prepare an EA or EIS under NEPA from notice, comment and appeal. The Bush rules are problematic because they allow many harmful projects to go forward without appeal.