Monday, March 16, 2009

Time For an Update: Chatham to Reconsider Uranium Mining Issue

By Published by The Editorial Board

Published: March 16, 2009

Chatham Mayor George Haley believes the town’s official position on uranium mining and milling is “a sort of neutral type thing” that needs to be changed.

For a while, Haley wanted Chatham to follow the town of Halifax and enact a chemical trespass ordinance, basically making it illegal for pollution from VUI to enter the town. But an official opinion by former Attorney General Bob McDonnell found that chemical trespass ordinances were unconstitutional.

Haley now believes that Chatham’s town council should pass a resolution that reflects the growing consensus that uranium mining and milling shouldn’t cause problems for Pittsylvania County.

“I think people are beginning to awaken to the fact that this is a very dangerous situation,” Haley said. “… I really believe that people are beginning to take notice. We need to really look at this matter.”

To its credit, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission’s Uranium Mining Subcommittee — which is developing the state’s study — has come to Chatham to ask local people what questions should be answered.

But public opinion on uranium mining — through the passage of these tougher local government resolutions — appears to have changed over the past year.

The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors and the towns of Gretna and Hurt have all updated their resolutions.

The local consensus of support for the state’s study of uranium mining and milling remains. At this point, most county residents are probably still taking a wait-and-see approach to VUI’s plans. They want more information, and the company certainly hasn’t lost the public relations battle by any stretch of the imagination.

But if the resolutions are a reflection of public opinion — and it’s obvious that they are — the bottom line now appears to be a desire that uranium mining and milling not take away from what the community has today.

Chatham Town Council has picked a good time to reconsider uranium mining. Local people, through their elected representatives, need to speak loudly on this issue — no matter what position they’re taking.

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