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Uranium mining opponents rally in Richmond
SoVaNow.com / January 28, 2013Halifax and Pittsylvania county residents dominated the turnout at an anti-uranium rally at the Capitol Square in Richmond that drew some 250 participants on a raw morning Monday.
Lining both sides of the walkway leading from the General Assembly building to the Capitol, rally goers greeted legislators with waves, good morning wishes and a smattering of applause for avowed opponents of the Coles Hill project in Pittsylvania.
Among the most well-recognized legislators were delegates James Edmunds of Halifax, Tommy Wright of Lunenburg, Danny Marshall of Danville and Don Merricks of Chatham. Strolling by mostly unnoticed were legislative heavyweights including Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, Minority Leader Dick Saslaw - a backer of Virginia Uranium Inc.'s plans to mine at the Coles Hill site - and, on the House side, Speaker Bill Howell and Majority Leader Kirk Cox.
Two busloads of Halifax residents made the trip to Richmond on Monday morning, with members of the Virginia Coalition, a business-oriented group, and We The People sharing seats on the charter buses.
John Cannon, chairman of the Virginia Coalition, said he felt "very optimistic" that the General Assembly will uphold the state's moratorium on uranium mining, in place since 1982. A bill to effectively lift the ban is expected the run aground this week in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources committee, considered hostile to uranium mining.
"They will be back, but I feel good about where we are now," said Cannon.
The assignment of the Senate legislation to the agriculture committee was a major setback for its sponsor, Republican John Watkins of Powhatan, who sought to have the bill taken up by the more industry-friendly Commerce committee, which Watkins chairs.
However, a Senate colleague, Creigh Deeds of Bath County, said the choice of committees was made by Senate clerk Susan Schaar, who ruled the bill was germane to natural resources.
The decision is likely to spell defeat for efforts to lift the mining ban this session, although Watkins attempted vigorously to bypass the ag panel to get a vote to advance his bill to floor.
"I know he tried," said Deeds.
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