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Uranium opponents: Governor sidestepping process to lift ban on mining

Representatives of the Piedmont Residents in Defense of the Environment (PRIDE) and Roanoke River Basin Association (RRBA) attended the Uranium Working Group's public briefing at the Chatham High School Monday afternoon in Chatham. 

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

None of the studies make a conclusive finding that uranium mining and milling can be done safely in Virginia's wet climate prone to hurricanes, high winds, tornados, earthquakes and tropical storms, uranium opponents said Monday afternoon. 

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. 

Yet, in January 2012, sidestepping Virginia's legislative process, Governor Bob McDonnell established a Uranium Working Group (UWG) to draft a uranium mining regulatory framework, the opponents said in a 5 p.m. meeting held prior to the Uranium Working Group's public briefing at the Chatham High School.

“The Governor and legislators said they were waiting for the science to make a decision.  The verdict is now in.  The National Academy of Sciences report revealed many challenges and unknowns associated with uranium mining and milling in Virginia.  It seems that the governor was unhappy with the National Academy of Sciences results and formed his own panel from his own staff rather than relying on the findings of independent technical experts and the prestige of the National Academies,” said Paul Robinson, research director, Southwest Research and Information Center and Harrisonburg native.  

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. 

“Taxpayers should be concerned about such 'cavalier and hokey' handling of public funds to accommodate the industry that will devastate our water here in Virginia and North Carolina all the way to the Sound,“ said Karen Maute, PRIDE president and long-time Roanoke River basin resident.  

 “Seven counties and one million North Carolina citizens draw their water from the Roanoke. The entire economy of the region depends on the clean water from the Roanoke River, and this river is a strategic drinking water reserve for the Raleigh-Durham triangle region for its future growth. Uranium mining in a hurricane zone is a foolish and unreasonable risk as the data now clearly shows,” said Mike Pucci, chair of the recently formed North Carolina Coalition Against Uranium Mining that includes county and township governments, chambers of commerce and property owners.