Monday, January 14, 2013

Va. uranium mining stirring on 2 fronts / Keep the Ban, Sen Ruff says / Our View: Make your voice heard against lifting uranium ban /

Va. uranium mining stirring on 2 fronts

The Associated Press 
The drafting of proposed uranium mining legislation is expected to be completed this week in Richmond as yet another study on the subject makes its debut.
Sen. John Watkins has proposed legislation that could open the door to the mining of a 119-million-pound deposit in Pittsylvania County.
Meantime, Gov. Bob McDonnell's Uranium Working Group expects to issue its final study, this one on the socioeconomic impact of allowing uranium mining.
Virginia Uranium Inc. has proposed mining the Southside deposit of the ore. Environmentalists and groups that include the NAACP and the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation want the 1982 ban to remain in place.
The issue is expected to be fiercely debated in the Legislature
Jeff's Notes: Uranium mining

Legislators make (Comments: Try with lies) case for uranium mining

A state senator and a delegate plan to introduce bills that would apply to Virginia Uranium Inc.

RICHMOND -- Lawmakers in both houses of the General Assembly outlined plans to lift Virginia's moratorium on uranium mining Thursday, and advocates of a proposed mining and milling operation in Pittsylvania County came to the Capitol to show support for the legislation.
Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, and Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, said they will introduce bills to establish regulatory and licensing requirements that would apply to Virginia Uranium Inc., which hopes to mine a 119 million-pound uranium deposit at Coles Hill near Chatham. The uranium legislation likely will be one of the most contentious issues the General Assembly takes up during this year's session.
Opponents of uranium mining held their own news conference in Richmond earlier this week, voicing concerns about the environmental and health risks associated with mining waste, or tailings, that would be stored on the site. Some opponents contend that a uranium mining operation would create a stigma in a region already struggling with high unemployment
Because the bills call for SCC oversight, they likely will go to the commerce and labor committees in the House and Senate. Bills dealing with mining typically get referred to the House and Senate panels on agriculture and natural resources.
Miller touted the Coles Hill project's economic and energy potential. He said some Southside Virginia residents and some of his own constituents have wrongly accused him of trying to "force something down the throat of someone at the opposite end of the state."
Even if the General Assembly lifts the moratorium and the state establishes regulations, Miller said, uranium mining at Coles Hill "will not be done without a special-use permit by the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors."
That would occur no earlier than 2017, according to a timeline that Virginia Uranium outlined for the Coal and Energy Commission earlier this week.
Two state legislators who represent the Coles Hill site - Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, and Del. Don Merricks, R-Chatham - oppose lifting the ban. Stanley said it appears legislators from other parts of the state want to impose their will on the region.
"It kind of reminds me of what my father used to say: 'When I want your opinion, I'll tell you what it is,'" Stanley said Thursday.
Stanley said his constituent surveys indicate that residents who live near the Coles Hill site are evenly divided on the issue. Stanley said he has not been convinced that uranium tailings can be contained "without risk to the life and property of our citizens."
Beyond Southside Virginia, the uranium debate doesn't break along partisan or geographic lines. Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County, voiced support for lifting the ban at Thursday's news conference. Earlier this week, Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax County, declared her opposition.
"They need jobs down there," said Saslaw, a member of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. "This economic prosperity that we have in Northern Virginia has got to be spread elsewhere, and while this will not solve all of the problems in Southside Virginia from an economic standpoint, it's certainly a start."
Stanley said uranium mining "is not the magic bullet that is going to save Southside."
"We don't have a lot of unemployed geologists down there," he said.

Keep uranium mining ban, Sen. Ruff says

Jan. 13, 2013
RICHMOND – Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville, says Virginia should keep its moratorium on uranium mining – despite a flurry of activity in recent days to lift the ban.
“We believe the ban on mining and milling in Virginia must be maintained, and any legislative effort to lift the ban must be defeated,” said Ruff, who represents a swath of Southside Virginia where a rich uranium deposit has been found.
Ruff, who has been a senator since 2000, joined five other legislators this week in submitting a letter to the General Assembly in support of the state’s existing moratorium against mining uranium.
A member of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, Ruff represents Senate District 15, which includes parts of Brunswick and Pittsylvania counties and surrounding areas.
Also signing the letter were Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, and Republican Delegates Tommy Wright of Victoria, Danny Marshall of Danville, Don Merricks of Chatham and James Edmunds of Halifax.
They cited recent studies about the proposed mining of a uranium deposit at Coles Hill near Chatham in Pittsylvania County.
“The people we represent have formed an opinion based on what they have learned from these studies,” the letter said.
“The majority of the people in our region want the ban on uranium mining and milling in Virginia to remain. Period. They have concluded that the unknown potential rewards of uranium mining are far outweighed by the unknown risks that may confront their families in future years.”
For example, the Southside Virginia lawmakers said they feared that mining operations could pollute water supplies.
“Understand that over 99 percent of the radioactive rock will be left on site for future generations to worry about polluting drinking water from Pittsylvania to Virginia Beach,” the letter said.
The letter came as proposals to lift the state’s 31-year ban on uranium mining ban gained momentum this past week:
  • On Monday, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission, an advisory panel, voted 11-2 to recommend lifting the moratorium. (Merricks and Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke County, voted against the idea.)
Lifting the ban would create jobs and have a positive economic impact, according to Virginia Uranium Inc. The company said Coles Hill holds an estimated 119 million pounds of uranium that could be used to fuel Virginia’s nuclear power plants.

On the WebThe website of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission is at

Opponents of uranium mining have a website at
However, uranium mining opponents say they fear the environmental consequences.
Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council, cited a report that the National Academy of Sciences released about possible uranium mining in Virginia.
“Our initial review of the report confirms that uranium mining would be a dangerous experiment for Virginia. The report establishes that neither the mining industry nor federal or state regulators have any experience with uranium mining or milling in climatic and hydrogeological conditions like Virginia’s,” Miller said.
“The risks of containing huge amounts of waste for thousands of years – especially in a wet climate like Virginia’s – have never been addressed.”
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Our View: Make your voice heard against lifting uranium ban

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 6:00 am
Many in the Roanoke Valley, including civic groups, chambers, local governments and elected leaders, have come out against lifting the mining ban. Unfortunately, no one in the Roanoke Valley has a vote in this case, but we will all share the impact of any decision made.

Cities that draw their water supplies from Lake Gaston rightfully fear the contamination of drinking water, saying Virginia would face formidable challenges to ensure the safe mining and milling of uranium, something that has never been done on the East Coast.
Locally, state Rep. Michael Wray, D-Gaston, has already spoken to the Virginia governor in person, saying Bob McDonnell received a letter from the N.C. General Assembly speaking in opposition to lifting the ban on uranium mining.
The Roanoke River Basin Association, a leading organization in the fight against lifting the ban on uranium mining in Virginia, is calling on Roanoke Valley residents to take a stand.
Concerned residents can visit www.common for information on how to contact Virginia legislators.
Virginia’s Katie Preston, of Keep the Ban, a coalition of groups opposed to mining, said one of her greatest concerns is the potential impact on water supplies for her neighbors in North Carolina — “who don’t have a voice in the General Assembly and need someone to speak on their behalf.”
The battle remains to keep the uranium mining ban in place. We in the Roanoke Valley may not have a vote, but there is still time for our voice to be heard.