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Area lawmakers talk mining with governor / February 18, 2013
Six Southside lawmakers sat down Friday with Gov. Bob McDonnell to talk uranium, a topic the governor assured them was “not on his radar,” said Del. James Edmunds of Halifax, one of the participants in the meeting.

The anti-mining Southside delegation sought the meeting with McDonnell to ask him not to use his executive authority to move forward with regulations for the mining and milling of uranium in Pittsylvania County. A sponsor of mining legislation, Sen. John Watkins of Powhatan, asked the governor to proceed with rule-making under the Administrative Process Act after his bill stalled earlier this month in the General Assembly.

Edmunds said McDonnell told the lawmakers “he was not going to do anything prior to the session ending or before the veto session,” but acknowledged that the governor might revisit the issue later.

“We went to try to re-emphasize again that we feel the legislative process worked, the system worked and the people’s voices were heard,” said Edmunds.

He added: “On a scale of one to ten, with a ten being don’t worry about it, I’m not going to be touching this thing with a 10 foot pole, and a one [being] ‘sorry, Edmunds’ … I got the sense he was about a seven.”

Participating in the 30-minute meeting at the governor’s office were Edmunds, fellow delegates Danny Marshall of Danville, Don Merricks of Chatham and Tommy Wright of Lunenburg, and senators Frank Ruff of Clarksville and Bill Stanley of Franklin.

The sit-down follows on the heels of a joint letter signed by all six lawmakers urging McDonnell not to take up the mining cause. Watkins and Virginia Uranium, Inc. have urged the governor to intervene after the Assembly balked at uranium legislation, but Edmunds said McDonnell made a point of saying he has not received a formal request to use the Administrative Process Act to proceed with mining and milling regulations.

McDonnell also has not met with Watkins to discuss his request, according to the governor’s office.

Merricks, who represents the Chatham community where mining of the ore deposit estimated at 119 million pounds would take place, told the Associated Press that McDonnell has other priorities to focus on this session, including passage of his controversial transportation package.

“He’s got too many other things on his plate to be thinking about uranium,” Merricks told the AP. “I don’t even think it’s on his radar screen right now. Not saying it won’t be down the road.”

Edmunds echoed that view: “I do think when he says it’s not on his radar in the session, I don’t know if that tells me that he’s going … to not worry about it, or if he wants to get his agenda through and then he’ll add [uranium] to that.”

Edmunds said he has hand-delivered to the governor’s office letters from area business and medical leaders opposing uranium mining, and “there have been a tremendous amount of calls to his office.”

“We’ve done all we can do,” he said.

Nevertheless, Edmunds said he plans to pay the governor one more visit this session to convey his feelings personally, and to counter what he said is the impression fanned by mining advocates that Southside lawmakers are merely pandering to public fears in opposing the project.

“The response that everyone who wants [mining] gives is, ‘You’re just doing what your constituents want you to.’ No, I’m doing what I think is right,” said Edmunds.

“I’m not just grandstanding for my constituents.”

After the meeting, McDonnell spokesperson Tucker Martin e-mailed the Associated Press to state that the governor “appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from local legislators on this issue” and confirmed that his top policy advisors sat in on the discussion. The administration has not taken a position on the Chatham project and says it is continuing to study it.

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Please save us from the evil uranium monster Mr. Government. Edmunds, Ruff and Stanley AKA: The Three Stooges will save us all from any jobs that may try to attack this prosperous ares.

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