Donations Flowed to Lawmakers from Uranium Mining Interests Prior to Passage of $75 Million Slush Fund
HELENA, MT – An explosive story by The Salt Lake Tribune uncovered that the $75 million slush fund for uranium mining corporations slipped into the massive $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill passed during the Trump administration was pushed by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso as some $13,000 in donations from uranium mining special interests flow into his campaign account. Astonishingly, Senator Barrasso, also the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, previously received some $12,000 in campaign donations from fifteen different individuals and two committees linked to uranium mining special interests on the same day his pro-uranium op-ed ran in the Wall Street Journal.
“Senator Barrasso’s corrupt quid pro quo for foreign uranium mining interests is clear as day. Barrasso’s actions and involvement in the passage of this $75 million taxpayer slush fund — benefiting the same corporation that filled his campaign coffers — must be investigated, said Accountable.US spokesperson Jayson O’Neill.
Uranium mining corporations like Energy Fuels are based in Canada but set up subsidiaries in the United States to appear as domestic mining operations. Energy Fuels spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying through a well-connected lobby firm where former lobbyist turned-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler previously worked. Wheeler successfully lobbied the Trump administration to illegally reduce Bears Ears National Monument — directly benefiting Energy Fuels’ Utah operation.
But Senator Barrasso was clearly Energy Fuels’ favorite politician, with the majority of the corporation’s network of campaign donations flowing into his campaign coffers while his actions in the Senate mimicked Energy Fuels’ goals.
Barrasso has been one of the oil and gas industries’ most vocal opponents of the Biden administration’s reassessment of America’s centuries old public lands and waters oil and gas leasing system that is shortchanging taxpayers and fails to account for Big Oil’s climate change cost-shift.
Senator Barrasso Has A Habit Of Doing Favors Of The Domestic Uranium Mining Industry That Coincide With His Campaign Receiving Donations. The Uranium Mining Industry Has For Decades Wrought Environmental And Public Health Havoc In Indian Country.
The Uranium Mining Company Energy Fuels Gave Barrasso Over $50,000—And Then Thanked Him For Supporting A New, $75 Million Bailout They Got From Congress. “Over the next five years, the company’s leaders donated a total of $50,500 to almost exclusively Republican members of Congress from Western states who have championed domestic uranium mining. Barrasso — the only lawmaker thanked by name in Energy Fuels’ news release celebrating the passage of the $75 million fund — was the primary beneficiary, and donations to the senator correlate with public actions he took that align with Energy Fuels’ goals regarding domestic mining protections.” [Salt Lake Tribune, 02/22/21]
Barrasso Wrote An Op-Ed Supporting The Domestic Uranium Industry’s Section 232 Trade Petition… “On Feb. 7, 2018, several weeks after Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels filed the petition with the Department of Commerce, Barrasso published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing in favor of government support for uranium companies mining in the United States.” [Salt Lake Tribune, 02/22/21]
- And Then Got $12,000 From The Uranium Industry The Same Day. “That same day, 15 individuals and two political action committees with ties to the uranium industry donated nearly $12,000 to Barrasso’s Senate campaign. Donors included executives at Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy as well as Strata Energy, Neutron Energy, Uranium Energy Corp. and the National Mining Association as well as an attorney who has worked for uranium companies.” [Salt Lake Tribune, 02/22/21]
Barrasso Also Pressed For The Creation Of A Uranium Stockpile While His Campaign Was Stockpiling $13,000 In Contributions From Energy Fuels. “Another large rush of contributions came in late February and March last year, when seven board members and executives at Energy Fuels donated $13,000 to Barrasso. During that same time period, the senator was championing the creation of the uranium stockpile through legislation, and, on March 3, he pressed then-Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to provide ‘immediate relief’ to uranium miners in the United States.” [Salt Lake Tribune, 02/22/21]
Barrasso Enthusiastically Supported Energy Fuels’s Lobbyist For EPA Administrator In 2019, Despite His Lobbying On Behalf Of Energy Fuels To Reduce Bears Ears National Monument
John Barrasso Enthusiastically Supported Andrew Wheeler’s EPA Administrator Nomination. “Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor on the need to confirm Andrew Wheeler to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wheeler currently serves as acting administrator of the EPA. […] ‘President Trump picked the right person to lead this agency when he nominated Andrew Wheeler. […] During the last administration, the EPA issued punishing regulations that would hurt the economy and raise costs on families. Under Acting Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, the EPA has taken a different approach. […] He is the right person to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. I strongly encourage every Senator to support his nomination.” [Barrasso Press Release, 02/27/19]
Andrew Wheeler Had Former Lobbied On Behalf Of Uranium Miner Energy Fuels To Shrink Bears Ears National Monument. “A meeting between an Interior Department official and a company tied to mineral interests in the Bears Ears National Monument area — almost a month before President Donald Trump requested a review that substantially reduced its boundaries — may end up in the crosshairs of House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva. Documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian energy firm, met with a top Interior official who would be involved with the review before Trump requested it. […] Emails released in two different Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by the Sierra Club against Interior and the EPA also show Andrew Wheeler, confirmed Feb. 28 as the new EPA administrator, was integral to getting Energy Fuels Resources’ foot in the door before the review.”[Roll Call, 03/04/19]
The Uranium Industry Has Wreaked Devastating Havoc In Indian Country For Decades
Since The Uranium Boom Of The Cold War, The Uranium Industry Has Left A Trail Of Destruction Across Navajo Country, Decimating The Landscape And Contaminating The Water. “The federal government is cleaning up a long legacy of uranium mining within the Navajo Nation — some 27,000 square miles spread across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona that is home to more than 250,000 people. Many Navajo people have died of kidney failure and cancer, conditions linked to uranium contamination. And new research from the CDC shows uranium in babies born now. Mining companies blasted 4 million tons of uranium out of Navajo land between 1944 and 1986. The federal government purchased the ore to make atomic weapons. As the Cold War threat petered out the companies left, abandoning more than 500 mines.” [National Public Radio, 04/10/16]
Even Now, A Quarter Of Navajo Women And Even Some Babies Have High Levels Of Uranium In Their Bodies. “About a quarter of Navajo women and some infants who were part of a federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War weaponry ended on their reservation, said a U.S. health official Monday. The early findings from the University of New Mexico study were shared during a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque. Dr. Loretta Christensen — the chief medical officer on the Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service, a partner in the research — said 781 women were screened during an initial phase of the study that ended in 2018.” [Associated Press, 10/08/19]