Archive for February, 2013

URANIUM ISSUE…Sleeping…But Not Dead

Radio advertising AGAINST and now FOR allowing Uranium mining in Virginia is blaring out all over the state as forces on both sides refuse to give in on whether Governor Bob McDonnell should sidestep the Virginia legislature and move to allow mining the radioactive material at Coles Hill.

KLPW is watching the issue intensely because of the huge impact such mining could potentially have on the John H Kerr Reservoir and ultimately on lake and park users. Within the last few days, 
Tim Davis, the Editor of the Star-Tribune put together this perspective that KLPW thought worthy of your reading. |

Southside Virginia lawmakers urged Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to respect the legislative process and not move forward on developing regulations on uranium mining during a meeting Friday in Richmond.

Delegates Danny Marshall, Don Merricks, James Edmunds, Tommy Wright and Sen. Frank Ruff requested the meeting after a bill on uranium mining was pulled from a Senate committee in January.

Sen. John Watkins withdrew SB 1354 from Virginia’s Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources Committee, where it faced certain doom, but called on the governor to direct state agencies to draft a permitting process for uranium mining anyway.

Virginia placed a moratorium on uranium mining in 1982 following discovery in the late 1970s of a huge deposit in Pittsylvania County.

In 2007, the two families that own the Coles Hill, Va. deposit along with other investors formed Virginia Uranium Inc. in hopes of eventually lifting the 31-year ban and mining the $7 billion lode.

Despite Watkins’ statement when the bill was pulled, the governor told Southside legislators he has not received any request to move forward on uranium mining regulations, Marshall said.

“This is not on his radar screen right now,” said the Danville delegate, noting the governor is focused on education and transportation.

Nevertheless, Southside lawmakers are worried uranium could come up even after the session ends Friday.

“The governor has the authority to move the football forward,” Marshall said. “We asked him to respect the legislative process.”

Marshall also urged the governor to take into account opposition to uranium mining from the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, Danville City Council, Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce and others.

“We have to live here,” he said.

Merricks said the governor kept a good “poker face” on uranium.

“I don’t know that we know much more than before the meeting,” Merricks said. “I don’t think he has any intention of doing anything right now. He’s not going to do anything behind our backs. He’s a good guy.”

Even if the state develops regulations on uranium mining, the General Assembly would have to vote to enact a new statute, the delegate said.

Merricks said it’s a classic “chicken and egg” riddle, with Virginia Uranium claiming regulations are needed to tailor a mining plan to protect public health and the environment.

Merricks believes legislators should vote on whether to lift the moratorium before developing permits.

“Why go through the expense and time of developing regulations if you are not going to mine?” he said.

Ruff said McDonnell promised not to use the budget process or a new nuclear consortium bill to get around legislators on the uranium issue.

“He made the statement that science and technology do advance, and, therefore, he would not commit into the future,” the senator said. “He did, however, assure us that before he takes any action in the future he will have further discussions.”

Spokesman Patrick Wales said Virginia Uranium is committed to the safe development of the Coles Hill deposit about six miles northeast of Chatham.

“The jobs, investment and economic prosperity our project offers are an unprecedented opportunity for our community, region and commonwealth,” Wales said in a recent statement.

According to studies, the proposed uranium mine and mill would create more than 1,000 jobs and have an annual economic impact of $135 million.

Wales said moving forward with regulations would answer many of the remaining questions about uranium mining and “foster comfort with this promising industry and confidence in its safety.”

Marshall and Merricks said the region may have a “reprieve” from uranium mining this year, but the issue is far from dead.

“Next year it will come back. It will always come back,” Merricks said.

Tim Davis is editor of the Star-Tribune in Chatham, Va. – Kerr Lake Park Watch will continue to monitor and inform members about this volatile issue.

Posted in: KLPW - Uranium Mining Upstream from Kerr Lake, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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NO PARTY YET! Virginia Senate Panel Kills Consideration of Lifting Uranium Mining Ban – Governor Now Considering

Kerr Lake Park Watch is refraining from rejoicing about a Virginia State Senate panel dumping legislation to lift the ban on Uranium mining at Coles Hill near Chatham, Virginia.  “The problem is that while everyone is celebrating about that Senate panel saying no, politics has shifted the decision and maybe even the power to lift the Uranium mining ban in Virginia to the Governor,” said Kerr Lake Park Watch Public Affairs Lead, Frank Timberlake. 

“We are still concerned about future contamination of Kerr Lake should the ban be lifted by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell,” added Timberlake whose group joined the Roanoke River Basin Association in opposing the Uranium mining project that is upstream from Kerr Lake.  “We have heard several stories and this Associated Press account sums up the current situation pretty good.”

Associated Press –

Gov. Bob McDonnell has become the sole focus of the tug-of-war over uranium mining in Virginia now that the sponsor of a House bill that would establish mining regulations agreed to drop his legislation.

Delegate Jackson Miller said he’s asked the chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, Delegate Terry Kilgore, to not bring forward his legislation, meaning it will likely sit in committee past crossover day on Tuesday. Legislation that has a chance of passing must move from one chamber to the other by that day.

“He said if that’s my wish, he’s happy to do that,” Miller, R-Manassas, said Friday.

Sen. John Watkins, a Powhatan Republican, is the leading advocate of uranium mining in the General Assembly. He withdrew his version of the legislation on Thursday with it facing almost certain defeat in committee and on the floor of the Senate. Watkins then asked McDonnell to direct state agencies to draw up regulations for the mining

The actions by Watkins and Miller shift what was expected to be a bruising battle in the General Assembly to squarely on McDonnell’s shoulders. A spokesman said Friday the governor’s position remained unchanged: he’s still reviewing the issue.

Anti-mining activists who had been targeting key legislators with emails and telephone calls are now turning their lobbying effort to McDonnell. His office received dozens of calls by noon Friday, spokesman J. Tucker Martin said.

McDonnell’s indecision has been curious for a Republican governor who has promoted U.S. energy independence and who has advocated an “all of the above” approach to achieve that _ from coal to offshore oil and winds.

Cale Jaffe, director of the Virginia office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, briefed McDonnell in December and was “impressed by his willingness to dig into the details of the issue” and his thoughtful questions.

“At this point, the studies have been done, and those studies _ particularly the peer-review National Academy of Sciences Study _ have validated a lot of our core concerns,” Jaffe wrote in an email. “The science has shed a lot of light on this issue.”

With the Legislature clearly not inclined to endorse uranium mining in Southside Virginia, the company that wants to tap the deposit endorsed what it called Watkins’ “alternative path” to the governor’s office.

“The legislation presented this year was lengthy and complex, but even so, did not address every detail that would ultimately be included in fully promulgated regulations,” Patrick Wales, project manager for Virginia Uranium Inc., said in a statement.

The matter will still have to return to the General Assembly for approval, but not this year.

Watkins, who expressed similar sentiments in spiking his bill, has questioned McDonnell’s silence on the issue. Miller said he has discussed the matter with the governor.

“He tells me he’s evaluating it,” he said. “I take him at his word. He doesn’t really like to say much more than that.”

Miller denied that the appeal to the governor is a back door effort to move uranium mining forward, as opponents have said. “They do stuff like this all the time _ Republican governors, Democratic governors.”

Virginia Uranium is seeking an end to a state prohibition on uranium mining that dates back three decades. It requires that regulations be in place. The company wants to mine a 119-million-pound deposit of the ore in Pittsylvania County that it says will bring hundreds of jobs to a region that sorely needs them.

Opponents argue that the environmental and public health risks outweigh the economic advantages.”

Several weeks ago, the Roanoke River Basin Association proved to the satisfaction of KLPW and many others that a flooding creek above the site where the tailings or contaminated waste would be held could be compromised sending contamination into the Banister River and ultimately into Kerr Lake.

Posted in: KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - Uranium Mining Upstream from Kerr Lake, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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