Biden Hails New Monument Near Grand Canyon as Investment in US

President Joe Biden declared a new national monument near the Grand Canyon, a designation that restricts future uranium mining in the area, touting it as part of his climate agenda.

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden declared a new national monument near the Grand Canyon, a designation that restricts future uranium mining in the area, touting it as part of his climate agenda.

“These are investments in our planet, our people, in America itself,” Biden said Tuesday speaking at an abandoned airfield a few miles south of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

“Preserving these lands is good, not only for Arizona, but for the planet. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for the soul of the nation, and I believe with my core it’s the right thing to do,” he added.

The president is on a four-day tour of western states promoting his “Bidenomics” agenda, an effort to reverse his poor marks on the economy. Biden has grown frustrated that voters disapprove of his handling of the economy despite cooling inflation, solid gross domestic product growth and a strong jobs market.

With voter perceptions critical to his chances of reelection, Biden has hit the road to sell the public on the notion his policies deserve credit for the resilient US economy. This week’s trip will also take him to New Mexico and Utah and is focused on his climate actions, in particular billions of dollars in the Democrats’ landmark Inflation Reduction Act for clean-energy projects.

Biden said the law is bringing high-paying jobs to the US and transitioning the country away from fuels that contribute to global warming and criticized Republicans who have vowed to roll back its provisions.

“I didn’t get any help from the guys on the other team,” he said. “Now many of them are trying again to repeal these parts of the bills. But we won’t let them. There’s too much at stake.”

Read more: Biden Protects Land By Grand Canyon But Will Still Allow Mining

The designation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni—Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, which preserves an area about three times the size of Los Angeles, highlighted the political challenges of Biden’s approach. 

The area effectively cements a 20-year ban on uranium mining in the area the Obama administration imposed in 2012. Native American tribes and environmental groups sought the stoppage out of concern mining would contaminate lands and harm the Grand Canyon. The announcement doesn’t affect existing uranium mines in the protected area. 

The designation is not expected to block Energy Fuels Inc. from mining for uranium at its Pinyon Plain Mine located within the monument. The company’s rights to uranium and high-grade copper deposits at the mine have been affirmed by federal courts, Energy Fuels Vice President Curtis Moore said, and the company is preparing for production to begin sometime within the next two years.

White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said the designation aims to strike a balance by keeping uranium mining “off-limits for future development in that area” while “being respectful of existing rights,” he told reporters Monday aboard Air Force One.

Biden said his actions, which protect sites sacred to area tribes, would “help right the wrongs of the past and conserve this land of ancestral footprints for all future generations.”

“At a time when some seek to ban books and bury history, we’re making it clear that we can’t just choose to learn only what we want to know. We should learn everything that’s good or bad, the truth about who we are as a nation. That’s what great nations do,” Biden said Tuesday.

Still, the designation sparked opposition from the mining industry, which said it will undercut efforts to boost domestic uranium production. Uranium is a key fuel for nuclear power plants, which some advocates see as a critical source for the nation’s energy transition. 

Energy Department data in June showed Russia remained the leading supplier last year of nuclear-reactor fuel to the US, even as the administration has sought to boost domestic capability to produce enriched reactor fuel at scale.

Earlier: Russia Still Top US Uranium Supplier Despite Efforts to Wean Off

The monument is the fifth Biden has created in office. But his efforts to protect natural resources and promote clean energy are facing the same voter skepticism plaguing his overall economic record.

Almost six in 10 Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of climate change, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. Most Americans said they knew little about climate incentives, including expanded tax credits for solar energy and to buy electric vehicles, Biden has signed into law.

“America’s natural wonders are our nation’s heart and soul,” Biden said. “There is no national treasure, none, that is grander than the Grand Canyon.”

–With assistance from Akayla Gardner and Bobby Magill.

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