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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