I've read and heard reports that some citizens are upset because there is no one from the immediate area serving on the uranium study group established by the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission.
As a native of Pittsylvania County and chief geologist for Virginia Uranium, I would like to offer several observations:
1) The proposed study is but the first step in a process that could take many years.
2) If the independent, science-driven study contains data showing that it is possible to mine uranium safely, then a legislative process will begin in which the merits of lifting the moratorium and writing a regulating statute would be debated with full citizen involvement.
3) If the National Academy of Sciences (or an equivalent credible institution) is commissioned to do the study, their usual practice is to hold hearings in the area where mining may take place to hear the concerns of local people, as well as expressions of support.
4) In the event that regulations are established and the moratorium is lifted, a process would commence in which the various regulatory agencies would conduct many hearings on all aspects of mining.
With these steps in mind, I would also suggest that another good reason for the current structure of the subcommittee is that a greater impartiality of the membership is possible.
This is intended as an objective study, and it is likely that any local representative would bring to the table a bias (either pro or con) that would disrupt the intended impartiality.
It's worth pointing out in this debate that the bill backed by Virginia Uranium last year would have created a legislative uranium study group that called for heavy citizen representation.
This bill died in a House subcommittee amid strong protests against the proposed study by the same people who are now asking for local representation.
Therefore, it seems inappropriate to ask the Coal and Energy Commission to disrupt its carefully structured approach. They have come to our region to listen and seek comments from everyone.
It is now time to let the subcommittee proceed with their impartial work so that a science-driven study may lead to a finding that either brings the whole matter to a halt-or sets in motion the myriad successive steps that include full and vigorous citizen participation.