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Governor: No action for now on mine

SoVaNow.com / March 11, 2013
Gov. Bob McDonnell, in remarks Thursday in Richmond, said he is not giving any thought to uranium mining until after the General Assembly completes its veto session in April.

McDonnell was responding to the release by his office of a letter written by two veteran legislators, Delegate Terry Kilgore and Senator John Watkins. The Feb. 22 letter asks McDonnell to press forward with the drafting of regulations for uranium mining and milling at the Coles Hill site in Pittsylvania.

Watkins, sponsor of a regulatory bill that failed in this year’s General Assembly session, and Kilgore, chair of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission, wrote in their letter to McDonnell that “[o]ne does not have to be a supporter of uranium mining to see the ‘Catch-22’ that now impedes informed legislative deliberation on this important issue.”

The lawmakers, both Republicans, argue that the failure to draft regulations has prevented the General Assembly from “knowing what substantive and procedural safeguards” can be put in place to ensure uranium mining’s safety.

Drawing up regulations does not equate to a lifting of Virginia’s ban on uranium mining, in place since 1982, since “no mining can proceed unless and until the General Assembly authorizes a permitting program in lieu of the moratorium,” Watkins and Kilgore write.

Without proposed regulations on the books, legislators cannot get beyond the argument that uranium mining is plagued by “too many unanswered questions,” both lawmakers suggest.

Members of the General Assembly “have a responsibility as stewards of our resources to reach the merits of this issue and make the best decision possible, not get hung up in circular arguments that prevent informed decision-making,” the letter states.

McDonnell has said previously he would not act on requests to kick-start the regulatory process under the Administrative Process Act (APA) until after the General Assembly convenes, although his remarks Thursday in a media appearance appears to extend that timetable until after the veto session, when lawmakers return to Richmond to act on legislative changes proposed by the governor.





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