Friday, May 22, 2009

Uranium Study OK’d

Please...could someone please take the Kool-Aid away from Patrick Wales? It's making him talk out of his head. This is his quote from the local story:

Patrick Wales, a VUI geologist, spoke in favor of the study, saying that health and safety are important issues, and that he hopes uranium can be mined in a way that would protect citizens and the environment.
This is his quote from The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

But Patrick Wales of Danville, a Virginia Uranium geologist, said he hoped the study would show how to mine uranium "in a way that protects the health of our neighbors, protects our environment and brings hundreds of well-paying jobs to our region."

Besides being a bit dismayed by Mr. Wales' complete misunderstanding of the study and of mining processes, we are deeply disappointed that the proposed amendment to study tailings, leaching, leaking, and water contamination failed. Tailings should be a major consideration given the weather and water-flow patterns in Virginia.

By John Crane
Media General News Service

Published: May 22, 2009

RICHMOND — The uranium-mining study has begun. The Virginia Coal and Energy Commission’s Uranium Mining Subcommittee, tasked with overseeing a study to determine whether uranium can be mined and milled safely in the commonwealth, approved a revised final draft of the study Thursday.

But Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said he is disappointed with the decision. Marshall asked the subcommittee to post Thursday’s citizen input on its Web site and wait 60 days before deciding whether to approve the study.

“We’re not in a hurry to do this,” Marshall said during an interview before the meeting.

Subcommittee members pressed ahead after taking public comment, rearranging and adding amendments to the study’s 11-item “statement of task” before approving it by an 8-2 vote. Delegate William Janis, R-56th District and Delegate Watkins Abbitt, I-59th District, opposed.

One of the biggest alterations the subcommittee brought to the document was making the public-safety and health-impact items the top priority on the statement of task, moving them from No.7 on the list to No. 1. Reviewing global and national uranium market trends had been in the top spot.

Virginia Uranium Inc. wants to mine and mill a 119-million-pound uranium ore deposit at Coles Hill, about six miles northeast of Chatham. Virginia currently has a moratorium on uranium mining.

Subcommittee members received an earful from uranium mining skeptics and opponents. More than 100 people attended the meeting and about 20 publicly commented.

Eloise Nenon, a board member of Southside Concerned Citizens, said uranium mining and milling causes male sterility and would spell disaster for Pittsylvania County farmers.

“This is going to destroy agriculture,” Nenon said.

George Stanhope, an SCC member, said mining would send dust with low-level radiation into the Banister River heading toward Lake Gaston.

Mining opponent Phillip Lovelace told the subcommittee that if health is not the No.1 topic of the study, “I don’t want it.”

Lovelace said he is against lifting the moratorium on mining and milling uranium. If the state allows mining across the commonwealth, five major rivers will be contaminated in other parts of Virginia, he said. Major military installations would relocate from the state as a result, causing major damage to Virginia’s economy and leaving the commonwealth vulnerable to terrorists, he said.

“(If the moratorium is lifted) you’re putting the whole East Coast in jeopardy,” Lovelace said.

Marshall Ecker, a Pittsylvania County supervisor who represents the Staunton River District, said the subcommittee should make health, safety and the economic concerns of uranium mining its main focus.

“Your decisions will affect the citizens of Pittsylvania County and the citizens of Virginia forever,” Ecker said.

Amanda Wydner, a Pittsylvania County native, said the study should address what uranium mining could portend for culture and quality of life in the area. Land values, population density and demographics should be measured and compared before and after mining. She said the study should find out how it will affect the area’s skyline, aesthetic appearance and reputation as a quaint Southern town, she said.

“How will the perception of Chatham change?” she said.

Some opponents also called for a site-specific study to examine areas similar to Pittsylvania County in geology, hydrology, climate and population density, and to find out how those regions were affected by mining.

“What we have heard here is a real strong desire to make clear that safety is our top priority,” said Delegate Kristen Amundson, D-44th District, a subcommittee member.

Amundson proposed moving the seventh item listed, addressing health and safety, under the statement of task to the top slot. The subcommittee unanimously approved the motion. Another motion from Amundson to amend language in part of the statement also passed unanimously.

Patrick Wales, a VUI geologist, spoke in favor of the study, saying that health and safety are important issues, and that he hopes uranium can be mined in a way that would protect citizens and the environment.

The subcommittee also green-lighted added language proposed by Abbitt that calls for analysis of mining impacts on public health and safety in areas with comparable geologic, hydrologic, climatic characteristics and population density.

In response, Sen. Frank Wagner, R-7th District, proposed language stating that if negative consequences were found in those areas, then options would be presented by the National Research Council for elimination or mitigation of the effects. The language was approved.

Abbitt requested that the study include available methods for management of tailings to prevent or mitigate leachates (leakage). The motion failed 4-2.

As a result, Abbitt voted against approving the revised draft.

“I can’t vote for this,” Abbitt said.

Janis voted against the study because he was absent during discussion. Janis had a scheduling conflict and was unable to attend the meeting until it was almost over.

Sen. John Watkins, R-10th District, told attendees that the subcommittee’s aim is not to hurry through the study, but to be conscientious.

“We’re not here to run this through without due diligence,” he said.

Delegate Lee Ware, R-65th District, said Michael Karmis, director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Coal and Energy Research, will take the revised document to the National Research Council and “things will get under way.”

The study will take about two years.

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