Monday, November 18, 2013

Why McAuliffe Is Saying No to Uranium Mining


By Peter Galuszka

Why McAuliffe Is Saying No to Uranium Mining

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 independent citizens’ groups need apply) and then shielded them from the state Freedom of Information Act. When he held energy fairs, they typically were dominated by oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power representatives with only a token showing from wind, solar or other renewables.

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  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 When it looked like the moratorium bill was dead, it was quickly withdrawn.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.

 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.

These are real concerns, but the kicker and killer is the global price of uranium ore.