Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Alliance’s tough talk on wrong road

By Published by The Editorial Board

Danville Register & Bee

Published: April 26, 2009

The Alliance, one of the groups fighting a proposed uranium mine in Pittsylvania County, hopes a petition it’s circulating will eventually be signed by tens of thousands of county residents.

Once The Alliance has signed petitions in hand, it will present them to the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors — and give supervisors just three months to do the right thing.

What’s the right thing?

In this case, that means banning uranium mining in the county.

If the Board of Supervisors doesn’t, it will not “… represent the majority of the people in the county …” and it will become “… illegitimate under the Virginia Constitution …,” the petition states.

“Our goal is not to stop uranium,” said Shireen Parsons, an organizer with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. “Our goal is to seize local governing authority.”

We’re not sure the Board of Supervisors has that legal authority to ban uranium mining, regardless of how individual members may feel about it or what their constituents are saying.

For that matter, we don’t think 30,000 to 40,000 people in one of the most conservative Republican counties in Virginia will sign a petition that would put their county’s government in the hands of The Alliance and other anti-uranium mining groups, regardless of how those residents feel about uranium mining.

Finally, we’re not sure how county residents really feel about uranium mining. If we had to guess, we’d say most of them are skeptical of Virginia Uranium’s plans but want more information.

But in tone and tactics, The Alliance is making a big mistake.

Uranium mining has been an environmental disaster all over the world. Pittsylvania County residents — and everyone in the Dan River Region — have good reason to be concerned about a uranium mine at Coles Hill. But even people who are against uranium mining should be concerned with The Alliance’s my-way-or-the-highway bullying.

Virginia Uranium has to prove that its project won’t harm the environment, the economy and the future of Pittsylvania County. The company has to overcome decades of mistakes by the uranium mining industry and deep skepticism of modern mining methods.

Virginia Uranium also has a large Canadian partner and paid lobbyists making its case in Richmond. The company is represented by a professional public relations firm and makes campaign contributions to the state’s politicians. While those things are common characteristics of modern companies, they are the kind of things that make people even more suspicious.

In contrast, the local uranium mining opponents are citizen volunteers spending their own time and money to oppose VUI.

We can all respect the passion and commitment members of The Alliance bring to this debate. But the group has taken a wrong turn and risks alienating more people than it could ever hope to bring to its side. They need to tear up their petition.


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