Navajo tribal lawmakers leery of developing sacred land at one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World said no Tuesday to a multimillion-dollar project to build an aerial tram to take paying visitors to a riverside boardwalk in the Grand Canyon.
The Navajo Nation Tribal Council voted 16-2 during a special session in opposition of the legislation. It was the first time the full council had taken up the measure since it was first introduced last year.
The proposal had gotten a cold reception from lawmakers from the nation's largest American Indian reservation even before Tuesday's lengthy debate.
Some lawmakers raised concerns about the development resulting in more public safety demands, while others questioned a requirement that the tribe help fund infrastructure improvements in the remote area.
The development on 420 acres of the reservation that borders Grand Canyon National Park would have required $65 million from the tribe for roads, water and power lines, and communications. The legislation also would have prevented other development within a 15-mile radius and along access roads.
Developers had said the tram and accompanying retail and hotel sites at the East Rim could be running by May 2021 had everything gone as planned. They did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment after the vote.
Critics showed up to urge lawmakers to oppose the project as the debate finally got underway late Tuesday afternoon. Those included families who hold grazing permits and leases to build homes in the area.
They have said the area is sacred and the proposed development would mar the landscape where the Colorado River meets the blue-green waters of the Little Colorado River.
Declaring victory over what they termed a "monster," they praised the council's vote on social media and let out loud cheers outside the council chambers.
"They heard us," activist Renae Yellowhorse said of the council members. "We needed to be a presence there to let them know we're not going to go away. We're going to always be here to defend our Mother, to defend our sacred sites."
Environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts also decried the measure. Actor Robert Redford released a video last December voicing opposition, and an online petition against the proposal has collected thousands of signatures.
The vote came ahead of a tribal election year and as the tribe prepares for the loss of hundreds of jobs with the expected shutdown of a coal-fired power plant and its supply mine in 2019.
Lamar Whitmer, part of the Scottsdale-based Confluence Partners development group, had said previously that the East Rim project could employ up to 3,500 people on a reservation where half the workforce is unemployed.
The management team includes former Navajo President Albert Hale and others who have helped develop resorts and theme parks.
Under the legislation, the Navajo Nation's share of revenue would have depended on the number of visitors. The tribe would have been guaranteed a minimum 8 percent of gross revenue, developers say.
LOS ANGELES — Hollywood's widening sexual harassment crisis brought forth a second actor's allegation against Kevin Spacey on Tuesday, halted production on his Netflix series "House of Cards" and prompted CBS to check into an actress' claim she was groped by Jeremy Piven.
Mexican actor Robert Cavazos wrote on his Facebook page that he encountered Spacey at the bar of London's Old Vic Theatre, where Spacey was artistic director, and the actor tried to fondle him against his will.
"It was more common for this guy, when he was in the bar of his theater, grabbing whoever caught his attention," Cavazos wrote. "I didn't stand for it, but I know some people who were afraid to stop it."
Cavazos declined an interview request. There was no immediate reply to a request for comment from representatives for Spacey, who was artistic director from 2004-15.
In a statement Tuesday, the theater expressed "deep dismay" at the allegations and said "inappropriate behavior by anyone working at The Old Vic is completely unacceptable."
In recent days, Hollywood has reacted swiftly to allegations of sexual harassment and assault: Harvey Weinstein was fired from the company he founded within days after initial reports of sexual harassment were published in The New York Times earlier this month.
On Monday, Netflix said it would end "House of Cards" after its upcoming sixth and final season, although the streaming network said the decision was made before the BuzzFeed News report on Spacey last weekend. The network has not commented on plans for a Gore Vidal biopic starring Spacey that is currently in production.
The pause in production Tuesday shadows the fate of the last season.
Also Tuesday, CBS said it is "looking into" a claim by actress and reality star Ariane Bellamar that Emmy-winning "Entourage" star Piven groped her on two occasions.
On her Twitter account Monday, Bellamar alleged that one encounter took place in Piven's trailer on HBO's "Entourage" set and the other occurred at the Playboy Mansion.
Piven, who stars in the new CBS series "Wisdom of the Crowd," said in a statement that he "unequivocally" denies the "appalling allegations being peddled about me."
"It did not happen. It takes a great deal of courage for victims to come forward with their histories, and my hope is that the allegations about me that didn't happen, do not detract from stories that should be heard," he said.
In a Monday interview with The Associated Press, Piven said he was glad people had come forward with allegations against Harvey Weinstein and that he had never been in that situation.
HBO, which aired "Entourage" from 2004 until 2011, said in a statement it was unaware of Bellamar's allegations until they were reported by media.
"Everyone at HBO and our productions is aware that zero tolerance for sexual harassment is our policy. Anyone experiencing an unsafe working environment has several avenues for making complaints that we take very seriously," the channel said.
Bellamar's credits include "Suicide Squad" and "The Hangover Part III" and the reality series "Beverly Hills Nannies."
Netflix's actions involving "House of Cards" are rare in an industry that puts commerce first.
Shows are infrequently derailed by concerns other than their ratings performance, said TV historian and former network executive Tim Brooks.
"It usually depends on how popular the show is, not to put too fine a point on it," Brooks said Tuesday.
The widespread tumult has prompted unusual actions, such as Weinstein being booted from industry organizations, and created a climate of uncertainty. But a look back shows that Hollywood has dealt with disruption before, with even beloved shows and actors fighting to keep their balance amid controversy.
During the 1950s "red scare," Brooks said, "I Love Lucy" star Lucille Ball was accused of being a communist sympathizer. The sitcom co-starred her husband, Desi Arnaz, who took action.
"Desi came out before a studio taping and said, 'The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and even that's not real,'" using humor to effectively defuse the situation, Brooks said. The show's No. 1 status also helped.
Popularity and audience acceptance of a star's personal issues aided "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer" when lead actor Stacey Keach served six months in jail for a drug-related arrest in England in the mid-1980s.
The 1984-85 season was cut short but the series returned in 1986 with Keach aboard and a revised title, "The New Mike Hammer." It aired until 1987 on CBS.
"Grey's Anatomy" was swamped by controversy in late 2006 when an on-set scuffle broke out between stars Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington over Washington's use of a gay slur regarding another cast member.
After Washington repeated the slur at the 2007 Golden Globes while denying he had used it, ABC rebuked him publicly, as did co-star Katherine Heigl. He was subsequently fired, and the medical drama from TV hitmaker Shonda Rhimes sailed on even as Washington blamed racism for his treatment.
Bill Cosby has felt the professional as well as legal brunt of multiple accusations of decades-old sexual offenses.
Three years ago, when multiple women accused Bill Cosby of decades-old sexual offenses, the comedian's ambitious standup comedy tour was dotted with cancellations, NBC dropped development of a new show with him and Netflix pulled the plug on a stand-up special.
An actor's popularity with his cast mates can determine his fate, Brooks said.
"If they like him, if they get along with him, it's easy enough to say, 'If I don't get my career ruined in this, I'll stick with him,'" he said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday he intends to replace the outside experts that advise him on science and public health issues with new board members holding more diverse views.
In announcing the changes, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt suggested many previously appointed to the panels were potentially biased because they had received federal research grants. The 22 boards advise EPA on a wide range of issues, including drinking water standards and pesticide safety.
"Whatever science comes out of EPA shouldn't be political science," said Pruitt, a Republican lawyer who previously served as the attorney general of Oklahoma. "From this day forward, EPA advisory committee members will be financially independent from the agency."
Pruitt has expressed skepticism about the consensus of climate scientists that man-made carbon emissions are the primary cause of global warming. He also overruled experts that had recommended pulling a top-selling pesticide from the market after peer-reviewed studies showed it damaged children's brains.
Pruitt said he will name new leadership and members to three key EPA advisory boards soon — the Science Advisory Board, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Board of Scientific Counselors.
It was not clear from the EPA's media release if all current board members serving out their appointed terms were immediately dismissed. EPA's press office did not respond to messages seeking clarification on Tuesday.
As part of his directive, Pruitt said he will bar appointees who currently are in receipt of EPA grants or who are in a position to benefit such grants. He exempted people who work at state, local or tribal agencies, saying he wants to introduce more "geographic diversity" to the panels.
The five-page policy Pruitt issued Tuesday makes no mention of other potential conflicts of interest, such as accepting research funding from corporate interests regulated by EPA.
Tuesday's announcement comes after Pruitt in May said he would not reappoint nine of the 18 members of the Board of Scientific Counselors to serve a second three-year term, as had been customary.
Current board chairwoman Deborah Swackhamer said the members were already required to follow rules intended to prevent conflicts of interests.
"It obviously stacks the deck against scientists who do not represent corporate special interests," said Swackhamer, a retired professor who taught environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota. "It speaks volumes that people funded by special interests are OK to be advisers, but not those who have received federal grants."
Senate Environment Committee Chairman John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican who shares Pruitt's skepticism of mainstream climate science, cheered the move. He said EPA's science boards would now better reflect the views of rural states like his own.
But environmentalists worried that Pruitt will now select board members with financial ties to the fossil fuel and chemical industries.
"The Trump EPA's continued attack on science will likely be one of the most lasting and damaging legacies of this administration," said Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, the ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that approves EPA's funding. "Pruitt is purging expert scientists from his science boards — and replacing them with mouthpieces for big polluters."
Follow Associated Press environmental writer Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck
Visitor entrance fees aren’t the only ones set to climb in a recently released National Park Service proposal.
Included in the proposed hike are fee increases for companies bringing buses and vans of tourists into parks. Motor coaches sized to bring dozens of people into Grand Canyon National Park, for example, could be required to pay $900 to $1,200 each, up from $300 now.
On top of that, Grand Canyon National Park in August handed down an increase in fees charged to all other non-road-based, non-concessionaire companies doing business in the park.
In Grand Canyon, the changes could together impact a total of 563 businesses that hold commercial use authorizations, allowing them to provide a service to visitors in the park.
Businesses said the changes, both proposed and implemented, mean that in addition to entrance fee increases, costs for tour and recreation services in the park could inch upwards as well.
“We’re going to pass (the fee increases) along to people on tours. We still have to make money or else we're not in business so in the end it’s hurting everybody,” said Glenn Tamblingson, owner of Flagstaff-based Canyon Country Tours.
For operators of commercial road-based tours, the National Park Service is proposing a new $5 per-person management fee on top of vehicle fees specific to cars, vans and buses associated with commercial tours.
Vehicles would be subject to either off-season or peak-season prices that in Grand Canyon range from $80 for a sedan to $600 for a large motorcoach hauling more than 57 people, with those rates doubling during peak season months.
Before, the fee at Grand Canyon was $8 per person for vehicles with 25 people or less and $300 for vehicles carrying 26 people or more.
Tamblingson estimated he would increase prices about 10 percent to cover the proposed fee increases.
He said the proposed system would be a headache more than anything else. That's because the $5-per-person management fee is assessed at the end of the year, along with annual reports, which requires more bookkeeping compared to paying everything at the time of a trip, Tamblingson said. He said he would prefer a flat per-person charge paid upon entering the park that would encompass increased vehicle rates as well as the management fee.
Apart from the Park Service-wide fee proposal for road-based tour operators, Grand Canyon National Park this summer implemented a new management fee for all other commercial use authorization holders, from companies renting bikes and river rafting equipment to those leading day hikes or photography workshops in the canyon. Initially, that fee was set at 3 percent to 5 percent of a company’s total revenue beginning in 2018, which was a shock to many, especially those that had already set prices and accepted reservations at those prices for next year, said Lee Soifer, manager of Ceiba Adventures, which rents boating equipment for Grand Canyon river trips.
Before, there was a flat $200 to $400 fee for commercial use authorization holders, he said.
But 3 percent to 5 percent represents a significant chunk of revenues for these types of companies, Soifer said. According to a 2013 survey of tour operators worldwide by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, companies grossing between $1 million and $5 million annually report a net profit margin of 11.4 percent.
After writing letters and having discussions with the park, the businesses were able to get those fees lowered to between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent for at least next year, Soifer said. An official with the park did not respond to requests for confirmation of that arrangement.
It was a compromise that business owners were happy about, though that doesn’t mean customers won't see prices increase, Soifer said.
“You can expect industry-wide that folks will be increasing prices or adding on the park service fee in addition to what they are charging on invoices,” he said.
Like visitor entrance fees, the commercial use authorization fees go toward park improvements. All commercial use authorization fees stay within the collecting park and go to fund rehabilitation projects for buildings, facilities, parking lots, roads, and wayside exhibits that would enhance the visitor experience, according to a news release from the agency. The fees will also cover the administrative costs of receiving, reviewing and processing commercial use authorization applications and required reports, the agency stated.