PETITION TO MICHAEL REGAN, ADMINISTRATOR, US. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, TO WITHDRAW UNDERGROUND INJECTION CONTROL PERMITS FOR THE PROPOSED DEWEY-BURDOCK URANIUM MINE UNTIL TRIBAL CONSULTATION IS COMPLETED.
The Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming are ecologically unique, rising as a forested island in the northern Great Plains. They have an important place in the history and culture of the continent, tribal nations, and the United States.
The Black Hills are the headwaters for groundwater that underlies the entire northern Great Plains and the headwaters for surface water that flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The Black Hills are the cultural and spiritual center for the Lakota Nation – “the heart of all that is” – and tribal treaty territory. The Black Hills economy is based on tourism, including Deadwood and Mount Rushmore, and on agriculture.
Historically, in the mid-1900s, the Black Hills were the site of uranium mining. This ended in 1972. A second uranium rush in the late 1970s was cut short by a coalition of native and white residents – the first “Cowboy and Indian” alliance – and an eventual drop in the price of uranium. In the early 2000s, the uranium companies returned to Lakota treaty lands, with eleven companies showing an interest in Black Hills resources.
One company, Powertech Uranium (now Azarga Uranium) applied for permits to mine in the southwestern Black Hills in an area known to have cultural importance to the Lakota – but that has never been properly surveyed for cultural resources, leaving those resources unprotected.
In the waning days of the Trump Administration, the EPA granted Powertech Uranium two Underground Injection Control (UIC) permits and a Safe Drinking Water Act aquifer exemption without meaningful consultation with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and without conducting a cultural resources survey of the proposed mine site. The Oglala Sioux Tribe has appealed these permits to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board.
We support the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s appeal and ask Administrator Regan to withdraw these permits and aquifer exemption immediately to ensure proper tribal consultation occurs and to ensure protection of cultural resources, a unique ecological island, the Black Hills economy, and the water of the northern Great Plains.
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