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Uranium opponents to meet before group’s public briefing in Chatham

The Piedmont Resident in Defense of the Environment (PRIDE) and Roanoke River Basin Association (RRBA) will hold a press conference Monday at 5 p.m. at Chatham High School prior to the Uranium Working Group’s public briefing at 6 p.m.

Hosting the press conference will be Karen Maute, a PRIDE representative; Mike Pucci of the Roanoke River Basin Association North Carolina Coalition Against Uranium Mining; and Paul Robinson of the Southwest Research and Information Center in New Mexico.

According to Maute, seven studies have been completed to date including a 300-page technical report by the National Academy of Sciences, at a total cost of $2.8 million. 

None of the studies makes a conclusive finding that uranium mining and milling can be done safely in Virginia’s wet climate prone to hurricanes, high winds, tornadoes, earthquakes and tropical storms. 

All studies have validated public health and environmental concerns voiced by over 100 groups and localities that have gone on record in support of Virginia’s 30-year uranium ban. 

In January 2012, sidestepping Virginia’s legislative process, Gov. Bob McDonnell established a Uranium Working Group to draft the uranium mining regulatory framework.

Maute said despite this year’s state budget constraints and impending school and library closings throughout the state, the Uranium Working Group recently retained an out-of-state consultant with close industry ties at the cost of over $500,000 to evaluate the feasibility of uranium mining in the commonwealth.

“Citizens in the Roanoke River Basin’s watershed that PRIDE and RRBA represent are concerned about such cavalier handling of taxpayer’s money, the constitutionality and legality of the governor’s undertaking, the lack of meaningful opportunities for public involvement, and the cloud of secrecy around the process employed by the UWG, as well as the possibility of unlimited access by the industry people and their lobbyists to the decision makers,” she concluded.