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SoVaNow.com / April 19, 2018
Quick programming note: As most readers probably know, the Monday print edition of the News & Record was delayed in getting to homes because, well ... it was delayed coming off the press, period. Our newspaper is printed by the crackerjack press crew at the Lynchburg News & Advance, which has one of the country’s most modern printing presses and a very impressive overall operation. Seriously, these folks are good. However, they’re not so good that they can run off papers during a blackout, which is what happened Sunday night when a fierce storm ripped through the region. I’m sure you’ve seen the images of destruction. We’re very fortunate Halifax County was spared.

The N&R has a Sunday night press slot that was lost to the storm, which spawned tornadoes in the Pittsylvania-Campbell area. The Lynchburg press operation handles the printing not only of their own paper, the News & Advance, and ours, but other newspapers in Lynchburg’s parent chain — Charlottesville, Danville and others. (These Virginia dailies are all owned by the publishing arm of Berkshire Hathaway; yes, we write checks around here all the time to Warren Buffett’s company. Maybe that’s why the guy has all the money.) On Sunday night, the Lynchburg printing crew had crazy snap decisions to make in order to get all their scheduled jobs completed, which meant sending newspaper runs to other company plants that were unaffected by the storm. Two options were Richmond and Bristol (the latter being out of the question for us, naturally.) The N&R ended up being assigned to Winston-Salem. By the time the papers came off the press, however, it was too late to make the morning’s postal deliveries. So that’s why your papers were late.

It’s good to be back!

***

Speaking of things that keep coming back: the N&R has a report out on Virginia Uranium Inc. and their new besties inside the Trump administration Justice Department. Between the two, they’re trying to overturn Virginia’s longstanding moratorium on uranium mining.

Long story short: the Justice Department has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that affirms Virginia’s authority to ban uranium mining in Pittsylvania County (and everywhere else in the state.) Justice Department lawyers weighed in earlier this month with a 28-page brief supporting Virginia Uranium’s claim that the state has usurped federal authority with its moratorium. VUI brought suit last year in federal court to strike down the ban, but the company’s argument failed at the federal appellate level (a panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against VUI in a split decision.) Now, VUI is asking the Supreme Court to intervene and turn the future of the Coles Hill deposit (upstream from us on the Banister River) over to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

If Virginia Uranium and Justice Department lawyers are successful in getting the high court to rule in their favor, Southside Virginia’s future as a uranium mine zone will rest with the same administration that employs Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke and other zealot despoilers of our environment.

Two things we’ve always known: first, as long as Virginia Uranium is sitting on an ore deposit worth billions of dollars, the company will never, ever give up its quest to dig yellowcake out of the ground. Second, while convincing the State of Virginia to green-light mining is probably a lost cause for the company, the possibility of the federal government stepping in with a regulatory end-around has always been a clear and present danger.

Like I said, this is all stuff we’ve long known. As such, it‘s always been reckless in the extreme for this region to cast its lot with Republican control of Congress and the White House. Yeah, I know — there he goes again, Mr. Hillary Endorser. But am I wrong? The national Republican Party’s drill-and-kill environmental policies are a matter of longstanding public record, completely erasing any conservationist vestige that, alas, was a genuine talking point in the GOP’s favor oh so long ago. That the Trump Administration would turn out to be Friends of VUI is utterly predictable. And even though the Trumpies are thoroughly incompetent in most respects, this latest threat to Southside Virginia is extremely serious — serious because the Justice Department has many able lawyers, serious because the Supreme Court is controlled by a corporatist, hostile-to-the-environment majority with Republican-appointed justices such as John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, and most of all, serious and scary because uranium mining remains an existential threat to downstream communities that will suffer most if mining and milling operations in Pittsylvania County ever go horribly wrong, as they sometimes do.

In light of these considerations, you can only shake your heads at those in leadership roles in the anti-uranium movement who somehow thought it was a good idea to support Donald Trump for president. Oh heck, let’s just go ahead and name names, shall we? You can start with Frank Ruff, James Edmunds, Bill Stanley (a wink-wink opponent of mining, methinks) and other area Republican lawmakers — hey fellas, I know party loyalty requires you to back the Republican candidate for president, but was any of this stuff really so hard to predict? Worse still are mining ban coalition leaders such as Jack Dunavant and John Cannon, two local business stalwarts who have worked heroically to keep the threat of uranium mining at bay. Yet somehow neither of these Trump supporters seems to think federal environmental policy is important in the grand scheme of things. What a terrible miscalculation.

With all the love in my heart and with utmost respect for the commendable past efforts of all our local activists, liberal and conservative — and I mean each of you, honestly — the only thing I can say to anyone who has fought uranium mining but enthusiastically supported Trump is that you’ve been played for a fool when it’s been obvious all along that something like this could happen.

Make America Glow Already?

***

Last item before we go: recently in this space, we opined on the Virginia Tobacco Commission’s efforts to promote the spread of broadband internet in Southside and Southwest Virginia. It’s an essential project but one has to wonder if the Tobacco Commission isn't over its head with this one. In fact, the Tobacco Commission is filling a void created by the abdication of federal leadership on rural broadband. Which is why this item in the news this week caught our eye:

A broadband advisor selected by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to run a federal advisory committee was arrested last week on claims she tricked investors into pouring money into a multi-million dollar investment fraud scheme, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The advisor, Elizabeth Pierce, is the former chief executive of Quintillion, an Alaska-based fiber optic cable provider operating out of Anchorage. In her capacity as CEO, Pierce allegedly raised more than $250 million from two New York-based investment companies using forged contracts with other companies guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue. Pierce resigned from Quintillion in August of last year, and she stepped down from her role in Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) the following month.


All the best people….



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