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Project on Government Oversight




Big Victory for Colorado River and Those Who Drink From It

October 11, 2000 


The final puzzle piece initiating the removal of the Atlas uranium mill tailings pile from the Colorado River was set in place today as the House passed the Defense Authorization bill. The Senate is expected to approve the bill tomorrow, sending the bill to the President. The Project On Government Oversight, Representatives Chris Cannon (R-UT), Grace Napolitano(D-CA), George Miller(D-CA), Bob Filner(D-CA), Senator Bob Bennett(R-UT), the Grand Canyon Trust and Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson have worked toward this end, encountering many bureaucratic walls along the way.

"The change in purview of the Atlas site from the NRC to the DOE shows not all environmental problems have to slip through the proverbial bureaucratic cracks," said Danielle Brian, Executive Director of POGO.

The bill, including Senator Bob Bennett's(R-UT) amendment not only authorizes the transfer of the purview over the Atlas site but also provides a potential funding source for its removal. POGO has sought this remedy due to the systemic problems in handling these types of sites within the NRC and the urgent need to remove the tailings away from the river.

Bill Hedden of the Grand Canyon Trust had this to say about the legislation, "This is a landmark piece of legislation for everybody who cares about the Colorado River. We are removing a major source of contamination from the most important water source in the southwest."

In 1998, POGO released a report entitled, NRC Sells Environment Down the River: Radiation Flows Unchecked into the Colorado River. This report detailed the internal struggle between the differing agencies working on the site as well as our recommendation that the sites purview change from the NRC to the DOE, directing the DOE to remove the pile from the Colorado River.

Additionally, the legislation carries out a deal brokered by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, which returns federal lands to the Ute Indians of Utah in exchange for a portion of any realized profits from the exploitation for natural resources on the lands. These royalties will then go to a fund set up to pay for the reclamation of the Atlas site. The bill also protects scenic land along the Green River in Utah. 

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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