Friday, November 15, 2013

McAuliffe Stories: says he would veto uranium legislation

  Ending, for now, uranium debate
The Virginian-Pilot
November 15, 2013
The effort to repeal Virginia's ban on uranium mining was buried this week, and it's likely to stay that way for the next four years.
Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe said he would veto any bill that makes it to his desk to lift the state's 32-year moratorium on uranium mining, citing risks to drinking water supplies near a cache of uranium ore underground in Pittsylvania County, The Pilot's Bill Sizemore reported.
McAuliffe also rejected calls to develop a regulatory framework while keeping the moratorium in place, a strategy that some uranium advocates have been pushing for.
On both counts, McAuliffe has made the proper call. His willingness to declare his intentions so early should eliminate a contentious issue from state government's full plate and an unnecessary threat to the drinking water for about 1 million people in South Hampton Roads, who get their water from a lake downstream from the proposed mine.
Walter Coles Sr. has been seeking permission for years to mine a 119 million pound reserve of uranium beneath his property in rural Chatham. He formed Virginia Uranium Inc., with the help of investors, to pursue the mining operation. The ore, which would be mined and processed into fuel for nuclear reactors, is worth an estimated $7 billion, and Coles' company has donated nearly $300,000 to various lawmakers in recent years in a bid to win support.
Still, environmental and public safety concerns have stymied his cause.
The benefits and risks of mining uranium extend far beyond Coles' property, and they've been studied exhaustively.
The economic analyses are mixed, given the risks to existing agriculture, and the possibility of radioactive tailings contaminating drinking water supplies have proved too much to ignore.
A report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences noted there is only a few decades of research on the efficacy of the tailing storage planned at Coles Hill; the mining debris, however, would be radioactive for centuries.
Those findings and others led Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the Danville-Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, a bipartisan bloc of state lawmakers and city councils from Roanoke to Virginia Beach to conclude that the benefits of mining uranium in Virginia simply don't outweigh the risks.
Virginia's next governor agrees. His refusal to draft regulations for an operation that may never prove safe enough to allow represents a pragmatic and auspicious start to his term.

Why McAuliffe Is Saying No to Uranium Mining

By Peter Galuszka
Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has made one of his first pronouncements and it is an important one: he will veto any law the General Assembly passes to lift the decades-long ban on mining uranium in Virginia.
The bigger question is whether he was start disassembling the energy-industrial complex that outgoing Gov. Robert F. McDonnell had put together that tended to serve such large-scale energy firms and utilities beholden to fossil fuels and nuclear power.
One unsavory part of McDonnell’s plan to make Virginia “The Energy Capital of the East Coast” was that he packed his study commissions with lobbyists and Big Energy types (no environmentalists or
McAuliffe’s stance is not unexpected but he did seem to wobble a bit about nuclear power in the campaign. Curiously, when Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling started his personal revolution about a year ago, knowing he was being shown the door by the tea party hardliners within the state GOP, he dramatically came out against ending the uranium moratorium.
About that time, a McDonnell study commission headed by Cathie J. France was finishing its work just before the moratorium issue was to come up before the General Assembly. Plans were afoot to develop state mining and milling regulations.
What then happened? When it looked like the moratorium bill was dead, it was quickly withdrawn. Now McAuliffe says there’s no need for state uranium regs because they won’t be needed if the moratorium stays. As for Ms. France, she’s off at Williams Mullen, the lobbying firm, of course, but says she won’t handle uranium.
Cuccinelli’s opinion seems moot anyway if the mining ban stays. But there’s a much bigger reason why the issue is going nowhere.
Global uranium prices are trading at roughly $35 a pound. When the Coles Hill Farm project was proposed back in 2007 or so, prices were at least four times as high.
The spike collapsed thanks to the global recession and the Fukushima disaster in 2011. While nuclear stations are being planned in Asia, they are getting nowhere in this country because they would need huge federal loan supports from Congress.
If one reads the typically clueless Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial page, they would assume that McAuliffe won’t give on uranium because of the oodles of campaign dough he got from the green movement and from people Tidewater cities fearful that mining uranium in Pittsylvania will contaminate their water supplies.
These are real concerns, but the kicker and killer is the global price of uranium ore.
(Be sure to read the comments at the site...folks are "getting this"!!!)

McAuliffe's Opposition to Uranium Mining Surprises Some on the Southside

Posted: Nov 13, 2013 5:02 PM EST

Chatham, VA - What seems like a never-ending debate on the Southside may have hit a temporary stall.
According to a Hampton Roads media outlet, Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe announced this week he will stand behind the ban on uranium mining, but Virginia Uranium officials say that's a big change from a more neutral approach McAuliffe had taken in the last few weeks.

"We understood that Governor-Elect McAuliffe had some reservations and needed to be convinced on the science, but I felt that it was a little bit inconsistent with his previous comments on the subject, " said Virginia Uranium Project Manager Patrick Wales. 

Now, officials say their determination to educate the community is stronger than ever.

"We're in this for the long haul and we're committed to seeing this project through to completion, " said Wales, but for those who disagree that mining can be done safely, McAuliffe's stand brings a big sigh of relief.

Supervisor Jerry Hagerman has been active in his opposition to mining. He wasn't sure which way McAuliffe would go, but he's glad to have some support in Richmond.

"It makes me feel good, for the safety of the public, all the way from Pittsylvania County to the beach, " said Hagerman. 

Everyone knows this isn't the end. Hagerman says, for now, he will count his blessings, but if McAuliffe changes his mind, he and others like him will be ready.

"I certainly don't think it's over, and if that does happen, it just means we will have to be better prepared, " Hagerman said. 

McAuliffe and those billboards

The Editorial Board | Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 7:00 am 
Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe made news this week when he told reporters at a Veterans Day event in Norfolk that he would veto any uranium mining legislation to overturn the state moratorium or establish mining regulations.

Of course, that’s exactly what Virginia Uranium Inc. and its allies in the General Assembly want — the establishment of a regulatory framework that would define the state’s rules and expectations for uranium mining in Pittsylvania County.

McAuliffe stepped into this debate when he told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, "I don’t support uranium mining. First and foremost as governor, my job is to make sure that our communities and our citizenry are safe. I’m not comfortable with the science to the point that I can say that with uranium mining, we would be safe. I’m afraid it would get into the drinking water."

In Hampton Roads, the drinking water issue has led those cities — especially Virginia Beach and Chesapeake — to support Virginia’s moratorium on uranium mining. They fear that any contamination that escapes from Coles Hill could affect the drinking water they need from Lake Gaston.

McAuliffe’s bold pronouncement stands in stark contrast to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is apparently the only Virginian who has not formed an opinion on this issue.

McDonnell probably favors uranium mining, but when the communities of Hampton Roads came out against it, along with the political leaders of Danville and Pittsylvania County, the business community in the Dan River Region and the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the governor probably figured the issue was too hot to handle.

Back along U.S. 29 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia Uranium is still trying to win the hearts and minds of local residents, this time with a billboard campaign that says, "Welcome to Pittsylvania County, future home of the safest uranium mine in the world."

Some mining opponents have wondered how VUI can advertise something that’s currently not allowed in Virginia.

Clearly, wanting to build "the safest uranium mine in the world" isn’t enough when most people think your version of safe isn’t safe enough to protect them and their community.

In McAuliffe, uranium mining opponents have a politically powerful friend who may wind up being the difference maker on this issue — and may turn those billboards into a memory.

McAuliffe says he would veto uranium legislation

Uranium mining opponents are taking encouragement from Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s promise Monday to veto any legislation to allow uranium mining in Virginia.

Speaking with reporters after a Veterans Day event, McAuliffe said he would veto any bill to lift the moratorium or to establish regulations for uranium mining.

“I don’t support uranium mining,” McAuliffe told the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. “First and foremost as governor, my job is to make sure that our communities and our citizenry are safe.

“I’m not comfortable with the science to the point that I can say that with uranium mining, we would be safe,” the governor-elect said. “I’m afraid it would get into the drinking water.”

McAuliffe also said he sees no point in developing regulations for mining.

“Why would we be wasting our time and resources drafting regulations if we’re not going to lift the moratorium?” he said.

A Democrat, McAuliffe defeated Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in last week’s gubernatorial election.

The new governor takes office in January.

Chatham businessman Ben Davenport, a founder of the Alliance for Progress in Southern Virginia, which opposes uranium mining, welcomed McAuliffe’s statement.

“It’s consistent with what he has said,” Davenport said. “From the perspective of the Alliance for Progress, we’re pleased to hear that.”

Andrew Lester, executive director of the Roanoke River Basin Association, said McAuliffe outlined his opposition to uranium mining at a meeting in April.

“We’re very happy he’s following through on his promise,” Lester said.

Sarah Dunavant, a spokesman for We the People of Virginia in Halifax County, another group opposed to uranium, was encouraged by McAuliffe’s statement, especially coming so soon after the election.

“We felt like he was on our side and willing to listen to the people, and he certainly has,” Dunavant said. “To get this confirmation that he’s behind us and looking out for us, I’m just ecstatic.”
Dunavant, who lives on the Banister River — “ground zero” — said the state needs to ban all exploratory drilling for uranium.

“This is a great first step,” she said. “We need to nip it in the bud and put a lid on it.”
Virginia Uranium Inc. has been working to mine a huge uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County since 2007.

Company officials were surprised by the incoming governor’s remarks, noting that during the campaign he expressed concerns about uranium mining but promised to keep an open mind.
“Of course we are disappointed with the statements attributed to Gov.-elect McAuliffe on the uranium issue,” spokesman Patrick Wales said.

Discovered in the late 1970s, Coles Hill, about six miles northeast of Chatham, is uranium deposit in the United States and is worth an estimated $7 billion.

Virginia placed a moratorium on uranium mining in 1982.

Legislation was introduced in this year’s General Assembly to draft a regulatory framework for uranium mining, but was withdrawn for lack of support

McAuliffe vows no uranium mining

By BRITTANY HUGHES (434) 791-7983 | Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 3:37 pm 
After a Veterans Day event in Norfolk, McAuliffe said he would veto any bill to lift the moratorium or to establish a regulatory framework for mining, according to a report by The Virginian-Pilot.
“I don’t support uranium mining,” he said. “First and foremost as governor, my job is to make sure that our communities and our citizenry are safe. I’m not comfortable with the science to the point that I can say that with uranium mining, we would be safe. I’m afraid it would get into the drinking water.”
According to the story, McAuliffe also said writing regulations would be “wasting our time” unless the General Assembly intended to lift the moratorium.
Brian Coy, McAuliffe’s communications director, said McAuliffe made the statement on the premise that he is not satisfied with current scientific data, adding the administration wasn’t yet prepared to speculate on the various “what-ifs” surrounding the issue.
“He’s read the reports, and he’s respectful of local concerns and wants to create as many jobs as possible, but the governor’s first job is to look after the safety of the citizens,” Coy said.
Coy added McAuliffe’s new transition team includes experts on uranium who will work to bring the future governor up to speed on the latest mining data and information.
But these advisors don’t just represent the anti-uranium platform. Among them is Transition Committee Co-Chair Whitt Clement, a former delegate for Virginia’s then-20th District, which included Danville and parts of Pittsylvania County, from 1988-2002 and Secretary of Transportation in then-Gov. Mark Warner’s cabinet.
Clement is a former lobbyist for Virginia Uranium Inc. and is the brother-in-law of VUI Chief Executive Officer and President Walter Coles Sr.
As for VUI, the company’s project manager Patrick Wales said McAuliffe’s most recent statements conflict with ones he made during his campaign, where he appeared to be more open-minded toward potential uranium mining.
“Of course we are disappointed with the statements attributed to Governor-elect McAuliffe on the uranium issue,” said Patrick Wales, VUI’s project manager.
“As we have said many times, Virginia Uranium is in this for the long haul and we will be carefully considering how to proceed,” Wales added.
While a governor’s decision carries weight when it comes to lawmaking, it’s not the final authority. Should the General Assembly choose to lift the Virginia’s decades-old ban on uranium mining, a gubernatorial veto of the bill could be overridden by a two-thirds majority in both houses.
Hughes reports for the Danville Register & Bee.

Jeff E. Schapiro: McAuliffe looks to bury uranium issue

Jeff E. Schapiro | Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 12:00 am 

Terry McAuliffe is issuing his first veto — and he hasn’t been sworn in as governor yet.
In Norfolk on Monday, the Democrat declared he would reject legislation lifting Virginia’s three-decade ban on uranium mining. McAuliffe said he wouldn’t even allow the state to write safety regulations; specifically, for a proposed mine in Pittsylvania County, hundreds of miles upstream from Hampton Roads, which draws its water, via pipeline, from a lake near the mine site.
Given that McAuliffe has always been a skeptic on uranium mining, it should not come as a surprise that he is willing to use the full weight of the governorship to block it.

So do Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms and other anti-uranium Republicans in Hampton Roads who broke with their party to support McAuliffe over GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli, a mining proponent.
And then there are the voters: The cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Suffolk — all on record demanding the legislature preserve the prohibition on uranium mining — fell to McAuliffe in the election last week. He barely lost Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city and the loudest voice in the anti-uranium choir.
“I don’t support uranium mining,” McAuliffe told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk after a Veterans Day ceremony.

“First and foremost as governor, my job is to make sure that our communities and our citizenry are safe. I’m not comfortable with the science to the point that I can say that with uranium mining, we would be safe. I’m afraid it would get into the drinking water.”
And so, the latest phase in the contentious, continuing debate over uranium mining may end before it begins, perhaps snuffing out the issue for the next four years — possibly longer, depending on the arc of the economy.

Even if the industry cobbles the votes to get a bill to McAuliffe, it is unlikely it could summon the required two-thirds of the House and Senate to override a veto.
As McAuliffe told in October, “I believe that right now the environmental risks of uranium mining are much too high. … Generally I know that, when properly crafted, we can advance policies that protect our environment, grow our economy and keep electric rates low for Virginia.”
As a governor-elect, McAuliffe doesn’t have to equivocate. A firm stance on a sensitive issue is a way of reassuring his voter base.
That’s why McAuliffe told The Pilot that he would not allow the state to even develop regulations: “Why would we be wasting our time and resources drafting regulations if we’re not going to lift the moratorium?”
McAuliffe’s pronouncement could discourage the industry from renewing in January its push for the General Assembly to authorize regulations or lift the 1982 moratorium.

 But if the industry, fortified with $25 million from Canadian mining interests, isn’t pushing, does it run the risk of discouraging its investors? Like McAuliffe’s deep-pocketed backers, they expect something for their money and trouble.
McAuliffe’s hardened stance may have a more immediate effect.
At the height of the gubernatorial campaign, another quieter campaign was unfolding. Lobbyists and experts for both sides in the uranium fight fanned across rural Southside and urban Hampton Roads, making their case — largely in anticipation of a potentially decisive vote by the Hampton Roads chamber.
But the group has been upstaged by McAuliffe and his veto threat. The guy who ran from his showman past suddenly — and on cue — reverted to form.
Contact Jeff E. Schapiro at