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State senator to introduce bill to lift mining ban

SoVaNow.com / December 03, 2012
Virginia State Senator John Watkins, R-Midlothian, announced Monday he intends to introduce legislation in the General Assembly next session to lift Virginia's 30 year moratorium on uranium mining.

Watkins, a member of the Coal and Energy Commission that has studied the issue since Virginia Uranium, Inc. revealed its intentions to mine the estimated 119-million pound ore deposit in Pittsylvania County, said he was satisfied that the state can safely regulate uranium mining. He said a report issued Friday by the multi-agency Uranium Working Group satisfies concerns about Virginia's ability to develop a robust and comprehensive regulatory scheme for mining.

If the moratorium is lifted and Virginia Uranium Inc. proceeds with mining at Coles Hill, the Commonwealth would become the site of the only full-scale uranium mine east of the Mississippi.

Foes say Virginia's wet-weather, hurricane-buffeted climate makes mining too dangerous even with strong regulations, and they cite a National Academy of Sciences report that cast doubt on the ability to prevent a mining disaster at some point in the future.

Watkins, in an e-mailed statement, said he believed that even with passage of his proposed legislation, uranium mining would take 5-8 years to become a reality. His statement is as follows:

"One of the very first issues I worked on as a freshman legislator in the Virginia General Assembly back in 1982 was uranium mining, and my interest in the possibility of it remains strong today. Uranium mining presents a unique opportunity to create jobs and economic development while contributing to our nation's energy independence.

"After studying the work that the Governor's Uranium Working Group (UWG) delivered last week, I believe it is appropriate for us to formulate legislation to lift the moratorium on uranium mining and milling. Toward that end, I have made a request to Legislative Services for legislation that adheres to the principles outlined by the UWG and intend to be the patron of such a bill. I invite my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation to establish a robust state regulatory program for uranium mining. Passage of this legislation would be the first step in a long (5-8 year) process; it will not authorize any mining activity.

"I am aware that some of my colleagues remain skeptical about this issue. But I am confident that the information contained in the many reports and studies that have been done over the past three years and the body of knowledge we obtained on the issue 30 years ago, as well as numerous examples of safe and successful uranium mining around the world, will lead them to the same conclusions to which I have come: Today uranium mining is done safely around the world and Virginia is capable of mining it safely too.

"This is same conclusion to which my colleagues on the VCEC and I came in 1985 when we, on a 16-2 vote, submitted our own report to the General Assembly based on the conclusions and recommendations of what was known as the Uranium Administrative Group. That report concluded that 'the moratorium on uranium development can be lifted if essential works of the [UTF] are enacted into law.' The report proposed draft legislation to lift the moratorium and establish necessary regulations for the industry. The General Assembly did not act because Marline made it clear that it was no longer economically viable to develop the deposit due to a downturn in the market for uranium. The General Assembly moved on to other pressing business, effectively leaving the moratorium in place by default.

"I thank the Governor's team for an outstanding work product that accomplishes what the Coal and Energy Commission's Uranium Subcommittee asked of the Administration last January.

"The goal in asking the regulatory agencies to formulate a conceptual framework prior to our recommending legislative action was to ensure that my colleagues in the General Assembly had adequate information to make an informed decision on the matter. With several studies complete and accompanied by significant public input, it is my view that we have arrived at the point of proposing legislation. I look forward to the legislative debate."



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Comments

Thanks Senator Watkins for having the courage and intelligence lacking in this area. Finally a politician trying to help this area. Bless you sir.

Comments

With billions of dollars of uranium at stake I wonder which politicians will be lobbied to "help this area"?


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