A Ute leader charged Wednesday that a group of Utah officials are lobbying at government expense for a company that wants to move uranium tailings from Monticello to Blanding - a move that American Indian groups oppose.

However, the officials involved said that is nonsense - that they in fact oppose moving the tailings, are not promoting it and are not improperly using any government money.The flap started when the Department of Energy paid to fly five citizen members of its Site-Specific Advisory Board - which is studying how to handle the Monticello tailings - to Washington, D.C., for a two-day seminar this week on how to be more effective.

One of the five is Norman Begay, a Ute Indian, who charged that the other four members were planning to extend their government-paid trip to lobby Utah's members of Congress on behalf of Energy Fuels Nuclear Inc., which operates a mill in Blanding, where it would like to move tailings for disposal.

The Energy Department has already rejected that proposal and has announced it will dispose of the tailings on-site. Indian groups also opposed moving the tailings because of possible danger on roads and because it might desecrate ancient Indian burial sites.

Begay issued a press release saying the other four members on the trip brought an information packet from Energy Fuels - seeking to reverse the Energy Department's decision - for use in meetings with Utah's members of Congress.

That amounted to lobbying at government expense, the press release charged, because the Energy Department flew them to Washington for seminars.

Trent Schaefer, Monticello city manager and vice chairman of the Site-Specific Advisory Board, said Energy Fuels had approached him with the materials seeking his help to try to reverse the Energy Department decision, but he had not agreed to give it.

He said Monticello is dedicated to the decision to handle tailings on-site, "and our purpose is to design and make a (disposal) cell near Monticello" in such a way to best protect the environment and be least disruptive to tourism.

He said he brought maps of the Monticello site to show to Utah members to update them on progress.

Site-Specific Advisory Board Chairman Dale Slade said he also received a packet from Energy Fuels, "but nobody is going to talk to anybody about that" in meetings with the delegation.

He added that he, in fact, plans to skip meetings with the delegation to perform other business.

Slade also said members are paying any expenses themselves for extending their trip for meetings or other business and said an Energy Department office in Grand Junction approved that.

Slade blamed the controversy on some "groups that just want to keep controversy going" over the tailings.

"There is a group of Native Americans that look at whatever you do as being part of a conspiracy," he said. "No matter what we do, they are suspicious."

Begay said he hopes to attend delegation meetings - although he had earlier planned to skip them - to "let them know that the people have come out strongly against Energy Fuels' proposal, no matter what these guys are telling them."