By STEVE HALL
A study released by the U.S. General Accounting Office determined that President Clinton’s designation of the Grand Staircase-Esclante National Monument will result in significant financial loss for Utah.
The report estimated the monument holds $223 to $331 billion in energy and mineral resources, which could have provided jobs for up to 900 Utah families.
“I consider the report damning,” said congressman Chris Cannon (R-UT), who released the GAO report. “Coupling the GAO report with the information that we received last week from the Resources Committee, it is obvious that the Administration sold-out the people of Utah at significant cost in order to satiate its lust for political points.”
Cannon’s comments came on the heels of allegations made by public by subpoenaed e-mail messages from the Clinton White House that the Administration created the Monument illegally and only for political gain.
“Proponents of the monument have tried to paint a warm-fuzzy image of life going on in the communities affected by the Monument,” Cannon said. “But to equate minimum wage tourism industry jobs with as many as 900 highly skilled, high-wage jobs is ludicrous. The facts are clear: the Monument cost our state significantly.”
The Department of Interior responded that many of the estimates were highly speculative and somewhat inaccurate.
In a written response to the GAO report, Bob Armstrong, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Interior said the report assumes the resources contained in the Monument of a higher quality than research shows.
“Proprietary … information suggests … that a significant amount of monument coat … would not comply with federal air-quality standards,” Armstrong wrote. “Available information also suggests much of the coal in the monument is of higher sulfur and lower heating value than most central Utah coal currently being mined.”
Cannon refuted the DOI’s claims, stating the DOI has not produced any evidence to contradict the GAO data.
“This fact calls into question their protests,” he said. “The arrogance and hypocrisy within this Administration is offensive. While not all of these numbers GAO used are new, this report puts into perspective the enormous impact the Monument’s designation will have on our state.”