Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mining regulated, but to little avail

By Published by The Editorial Board
Published: June 10, 2010

To the editor:

Now we have another academic chiming in, not only about how safe uranium mining will be in Pittsylvania County, but also how we are all protected in the event that uranium mining in Pittsylvania County is not safe. (“Facts About Mining Refute Fears,” H.L. Dodds, Register & Bee, June 6).

We have all these government agencies, says Dodds — the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration — protecting us from contamination that won’t even occur because uranium mining and milling “is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States.”

And if the National Academy of Sciences, now being paid by Virginia Uranium to assess the safety of uranium mining in Pittsylvania County, should be given our “full trust and confidence,” according to Dodds, why does that agency need the gratuitous endorsement of a University of Tennessee engineering prof? Where’s the Harvard, where’s MIT, where’s Cal Tech?

As for “heavily regulated industries:” we’ve known for a long time that coal mining was a heavily regulated industry. We believed that oil drilling was a heavily regulated industry. We thought that banks and the stock markets were heavily regulated industries. We thought that automotive safety was a heavily regulated industry.

And as a nation, collectively we go to the funerals and we mourn the losses that occur with astounding and calamitous frequency in these “heavily regulated industries.” No sooner have we buried 29 coal miners working in their “heavily regulated coal mining industry” in West Virginia than we are off to the Gulf of Mexico to watch, in slow motion, the deaths of entire ecosystems from the “heavily regulated” offshore oil drilling industry.

And sooner or later, and mostly later, we learn that these “heavily regulated industries” have been “regulated” by political appointees, by representatives from the very industries they are supposed to be regulating, and by government employees ready to hop on board the payrolls of the industries they are regulating. (And, in the case of the Securities and Exchange Commission, we also have the lazy and the stupid accruing pension time watching internet porn while the nation’s economy crumbled.

So what we need to know now — more important than an NAS study, more important than names of legislators off to France on Virginia Uranium’s nickel, more important that the socio-economic studies by independent agencies — the most important information the public needs now are the names of the Virginia politicians or their families who hold financial interest in Virginia Uranium stock or stock options.

The recent and inadvertent disclosure by Buddy Mayhew, a member of the tobacco commission, that he owns stock in Virginia Uranium and didn’t consider that to be a conflict of interest in voting on whether to allocate $200,000 for a commission-sponsored socio-economic study of uranium mining in Pittsylvania County (to compete with private studies), should set off alarm bells.

The voting public has the right to full disclosure of the economic interests of the politicians who will be making the final determination on whether the uranium mining moratorium will be lifted. Any study can get gotten around. The NAS study will not be conclusive or dispositive.

Whether uranium mining will happen in Pittsylvania County will be a political decision, regardless of the known and unknown health and safety hazards.

Uranium mining is a “heavily regulated agency” precisely because it is a danger to health and safety.

So the public needs to know, now, which of their elected Virginia representatives will be voting their own pockets when it comes to uranium mining.

Chatham,  VA

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