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Governors of NM and AZ Seek Federal help For Uranium Cleanup

A natural piece of uranium ore
A natural piece of uranium ore

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs called for significant changes in national abandoned uranium mine cleanup policy in a letter to the federal government.

In a letter to Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Lujan Grisham and Hobbs request a renewed commitment from the federal government, including

a clear point of contact to work with Arizona, New Mexico, and tribal communities to address long-standing uranium contamination on state and private lands.

The governors suggest a strategic partnership consisting of decision-makers from Tribal communities, New Mexico , Arizona and the federal government, to help streamline the work of more than 20 federal and state agencies.

Gov. Lujan Grisham said, “A new federal, state, and tribal governance structure is needed to bring rapid and transformative changes to communities that have suffered for decades from abandoned uranium mining sites. New Mexico is committed to nimble decision-making while ensuring safe cleanup and disposal of these legacy wastes.”

Most uranium mining started in the 1950s, decades before federal and state environmental protections went into effect.

As a result, many uranium mining sites were abandoned with no cleanup actions taken.

The governors said most of the mining supported federal government interests, primarily national security, which is why it is incumbent upon the federal government to financially assist with the cleanup.

Currently, there is no federal program for cleaning up these sites.

New Mexico and Arizona have more than 650 abandoned uranium mines combined, including more than 110 on state and private lands, that are not being addressed partially for the lack of funding needed for cleanup.

New Mexico was the largest producer of uranium ore, supplying over 35 million tons, which amounts to nearly half of total domestic ore, and suffered from one of the largest radioactive environmental disasters in American history during the 1979 Church Rock uranium mill spill.

Shantar Baxter Clinton is the hourly News Reporter for KSFR. He’s earned an Associates of the Arts from Bard College at Simons Rock and a Bachelors in journalism with a minor in anthropology from the University of Maine.