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Throwing the Baby Out With the Heavy Water

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I had two interesting articles cross my radar the other day.

The first I read during prep for my radio show. It concerned two women in California, who were soliciting donations for the funeral of a dead baby. The pair had collected over $600 dollars before their story fell apart when questioned by police; and it was revealed that the picture of the baby on their sign was in fact the photo of a random infant downloaded from the internet. The two women were arrested for fraud. You can read the full story here.

The second piece was one I that I chanced to savor while trying to enjoy my tuna and provolone on ciabatta bread during lunch. (Alas, the toils of an ersatz political wonk and very junior member of the commentariot never end!)

It was a press release from Senator Orrin Hatch concerning an announcement by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that the Obama Administration will put on hold thousands of uranium mining jobs in southern Utah and northern Arizona. His press release can be read in its entirety here.

The thrust of Hatch’s press release was that by placing uranium development in time-out, 4 thousand jobs and 30 billion dollars in economic activity is now out of play for the time being. And that may be quite some time.

I have made the point before on these pages that energy development equals jobs, independence from the whims of foreign potentates, and lower prices not only at the pump but in your grocer’s freezer, at your local hardware store, and various and other sundry places in which we use what passes for currency in these Unites States to obtain goods and services.

And while one might debate the merits of uranium versus oil and gas, or the highly-touted, carbon free, if essentially useless solar and wind alternatives, it is not so much the type of energy that I am interested in at the moment as it is the way the announcement was delivered. In this case, the announcement was made against the majestic backdrop of the Grand Canyon.

This is not the first time a Democratic administration has used a glorious backdrop to announce that it was putting the screws to an industry, or a state. President Clinton made his announcement about creating the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Arizona from across the border from, and in more recent history Salazar has chosen Colorado to announce restrictions on gas leases for Utah in Colorado.

But the selection of the Grand Canyon as a backdrop for Salazar’s announcement is in fact a favorite trick of the Environmental Left. If Salazar had said “ We must curtail energy development to preserve this arid, desolate God forsaken plot of scrub brush, tumble  weeds, prickly pears and ugly jagged rocks that you and your family will never even fly over, much less visit on your next family vacation” most people would say “Are you out of your mind? Its closet space and ugly closet space at that.”

But the Secretary is a bit more media savvy than that. He knows desolate plots of scrub brush will not tug at the heart strings of America. He knows that most Americans would look at the land proposed for development and would not care one wit less if there was a rig on it or not. Let’s face it, I live within spitting distance of some this desolate scenery and if a rig there does not affect my way of life, chances are it will not affect the Mr. and Mrs. Middle America and their 2.5 kids who are planning their next family vacay.  

So instead, much like the picture of the baby downloaded from the internet, the Department of the Interior has opted to frighten the American populace and for that matter, tourists worldwide by instead showing them a national treasure, thereby intimating that the Grand Canyon itself was in risk of being strip mined. The problem with that tactic is that the Grand Canyon is not threatened by development. National Parks and Monuments are not on the lists of places to go in search of energy. In that vein, (so to speak) I feel that I should point out that the mining will not be going on in the Grand Canyon, but on land adjacent to the Grand Canyon. But because the land adjacent to the Grand Canyon is probably not as picturesque as the Canyon itself, it stands to reason that Salazar and Co. would choose the Canyon itself as a backdrop. The implication being that if  uranium mining is permitted adjacent to the Grand Canyon, it would only be a matter of months before the Grand Canyon itself began to crumble, sport glowing cacti and produce 40 foot long mutant prairie dogs and fish.

But then there is the concern over the groundwater. Ah yes, the groundwater. I was once a dyed in the wool, bottle fed left winger and I can tell you that the issue of ground water is the penultimate “In-Case-of Failure-Break-Glass” strategy for the environmentalists. I’ve seen it used many times as a roadblock to development. Just ask me about fracking. Seriously, email me and ask me about fracking.

In the case of the Grand Canyon brouhaha, the groundwater complaint doesn’t hold water, ground or otherwise. In fact quoting the website “Conservative Outlooks”:

In April 2011, the Arizona Geological Survey wrote a letter to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer with a report to reassure her that uranium mining near the Grand Canyon would be safe. Below are excerpts from the letter:

“We conclude that even the most implausible accident would increase the amount of uranium in the Colorado River by an amount that is undetectable over amounts of uranium that are normally carried by the river from erosion of geologic deposits.”

“Even if the entire annual uranium production from an operating mine were somehow implausibly dumped into the river, the resulting increase in uranium concentration in river water would increase from 4.0 to 12.8 parts per billion (ppb) for one year, which is still far below the 30 ppb EPA Maximum Contaminant Level.”

“We believe the fears of uranium contamination of the Colorado River from mining accidents are minor and transitory compared to the amounts of uranium that are naturally and continually eroded into the river.”


So, It begs the question: if two women in California are facing fraud charges for asking for funeral funds for a baby that is not dead, and in fact is not even theirs; is it fraud when an administration or an activist group uses pictures of an area that will never see a well or a mine to gin up support for funds to advance an agenda? Yes uranium and oil gas are to a degree apples and oranges, but the tactics used by the Environmentalists and by Democratic Administrations remain the same.

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