With a stroke of his pen, President Biden on Tuesday walled off from development nearly a million acres of land that includes some of America's richest uranium deposits. This is another monument to the Administration's destructive energy policy.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 lets Presidents set aside federal land for national monuments to protect historic objects. Barack Obama used the law to remove millions of acres of federal land from oil and gas development. Yet even he resisted progressive calls to set aside uranium-rich land outside the Grand Canyon. Mr. Biden shows no such restraint.
On Tuesday he declared a national monument on 1,562 square miles in Arizona called Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni, meaning "where tribes roam." The monument will conserve "landscape sacred to Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples and advance President Biden's historic climate and conservation agenda," the White House says.
The statement omits that the land also includes America's only source of high-grade uranium ore that is economically competitive on the global market. The U.S. imports about 95% of uranium used for nuclear power reactors, mostly from Kazakhstan, Canada, Russia and Australia. Russia is the U.S.'s third biggest uranium source.
Mr. Biden banned imports of Russian fossil fuels by executive order last spring, but U.S. nuclear plants continue to rely on Russian uranium for 12% of their fuel supply. The new national monument—the fifth of the Biden Presidency—will make it that much harder for the U.S. to replace Russian uranium. Vladimir Putin sends his thanks.
The unstated purpose of the national monument appears to be to block uranium mining. Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva has proposed legislation that would permanently withdraw the Grand Canyon area from new mining claims. Democrats couldn't pass this through Congress, so Mr. Biden is doing so by decree.
Tribes claim that uranium mining could contaminate water and wildlife. But a U.S. Geological Survey in 2021 found springs and wells in the region met federal drinking-water standards despite decades of uranium mining. President Biden doesn't seem to think it's possible to develop and protect America's natural resources at the same time, though miners have been doing so for decades.
Progressives want to block all mining in the U.S., including for critical minerals such as lithium and nickel that are needed to power their green-energy transition. But that means mining will occur in countries with fewer environmental protections.
There is currently no limit to a President's power under the Antiquities Act to remove land from development and public use. Environmental groups even argue that Presidents can't roll back predecessors' designation. This interpretation of one-way executive power is more sweeping than the Grand Canyon and is crying out for a legal challenge.