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Pro-uranium senator to Gov. McDonnell: It’s up to you
SoVaNow.com / February 01, 2013Hours after suffering a major defeat before a hostile State Senate committee, the lead advocate for uranium mining in the General Assembly, Senator John Watkins (R-Powhatan) appealed to Gov. Bob McDonnell to draft regulations for the industry using his executive authority.
Saying he was “very disappointed” by the inability to overcome the “emotion and fear” that surrounds the uranium issue, Watkins said the death of his bill, Senate Bill 1353, to regulate the mining and milling of radioactive ore in Pittsylvania County was “a definite stigma and blot” on Virginia’s reputation “as a pro-business, pro-energy, pro-property rights state.
“It says to the business community here and around the country that Virginia may not be as open for business as we claim it is,” said Watkins.
Watkins was referring to his decision to strike the bill before it went down to all-but-certain defeat in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday. Watkins also said he would ask the Senate to shelve companion legislation to fix a severance tax on the production of uranium ore at Pittsylvania’s Coles Hill site.
While the demise of the Senate bills leaves no apparent legislative vehicle for lifting the ban, and would appear to preclude any effort this session to get around uranium opposition via the budget process, Watkins said he wasn’t giving up, and asked Gov. McDonnell to get involved.
The Governor’s Office offered no immediate comment other than to say it would study Watkins’ request.
“This is an issue that a lot of people have put a lot of time on over the last several years, and it is not going to go away,” said Watkins.
His suggestion was endorsed by Virginia Uranium Inc., which is seeking to mine the 119-million pound Coles Hill ore deposit, pegged by Watkins as having a value of $7 billion.
“The need for good jobs and investment in Southside Virginia and the need for domestic sources of fuel to power clean reliable nuclear power are compelling reasons why we will continue to make our case to the people and the legislature for as long as it takes to succeed,” said VUI Project Manager Patrick Wales in a statement.
Wales acknowledged that Watkins’ bill to establish a regulatory framework for uranium mining was “lengthy and complex, but even so, did not address every detail that would ultimately be included in fully promulgated regulations.” By directing agencies to go forward with the process of drafting regulations, the governor would “undoubtedly answer many remaining questions and we believe would foster comfort with this promising industry and confidence in its safety,” Wales added.
Watkins claimed the support of Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, the chamber’s top Republican, and Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, a Fairfax County Democrat, in seeking to shift the issue to the executive branch. “I have heard many in the other body” — the House of Delegates — “express a similar opinion,” said Watkins.
He said the Governor’s Office had the authority to promulgate regulations under the Administrative Process Act. It would still be up to the legislature to lift the mining moratorium, which has been in place since 1982, but lawmakers at the time envisioned that rules for the industry could be created before the ban would be lifted, said Watkins.
“Let's get the answers that the opponents keep demanding about what the regs will say and what the safeguards will be, so that we have those answers when we vote on this moratorium,” said Watkins.
The request brought a sharp reply from groups opposed to uranium mining, including the Roanoke River Basin Association, whose acting president, Gene Addesso, charged Watkins of ignoring the warnings of scientists who say uranium cannot be mined in wet-weather Virginia without running serious risks.
“Recent facts are that power companies are extremely wary of nuclear power costs and risks. What world is this guy been living in?” said Addesso.
CommentsTo the River Guy, Senator Watkins is no more ignoring scientific finding about the danger of uranium than you are ignoring the positive scientific findings saying that mining uranium is safe. I believe the later. What planet are these environmentalist wacko's from anyway. They want to destroy everything that makes the world modern and go back to cave living. Hold up progress for a owl, snail, lizard whatever.
- By Really? on 02 / 02 / 13
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