Virginia Senator Withdraws Uranium Mining Legislation

Yahoo Contributor Network

For the moment, the fight to lift Virginia's uranium mining ban appears to have stalled in the state senate.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Sen. John C. Watkins, R-Powhatan, withdrew a bill he had sponsored that would have ended the moratorium and allowed mining at a location in south central Virginia. The move comes after the bill had been stalled for several days.

Here's a closer look at the legislation and its prospects for future passage in the General Assembly this session.

* The bill would have allowed a mining permit only for a site at Coles Hill in south central Virginia owned by Virginia Uranium, a 119 million-pound uranium ore deposit. The deposit is worth $7 billion and is the largest known deposit of uranium in the U.S. according to the Associated Press.

* A similar bill was proposed in the House by Del. Jackson Miller according to the Luray Page Free Press.

* The AP reported that though Watkins had withdrawn his request, his spokesperson noted that he had put in a request with Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell to draw up rules allowing mining and that the governor was reviewing the request.

* Watkins spokesman Patrick Wales said that "Some policymakers have suggested that unanswered questions remain. Sen. Watkins' suggested course of action would ensure that they have the benefit of all possible information on this issue before casting a vote on lifting the moratorium," according to the AP.

* As reported by the Luray Page Free Press, the bill had its opponents, including Cale Jaffe, director of Charlottesville office of the Southern Environmental Law Center. "Today's action sends a clear message that legislators have heard us," Cale said, "and whether we're business owners, farmers, doctors, or parents, we are not willing to risk our health, our water quality, and our economy on a high-stakes gamble with uranium mining."

* A study from the National Academy of Sciences found that "tailings disposal sites represent significant potential sources of contamination for thousands of years, and the long-term risks remain poorly defined," the Luray Page Free Press noted.

* Several legislators in southern Virginia opposed to uranium mining put out a statement on Thursday, according to the Washington Post, saying that "with the resolution of this issue at hand, business site selectors who are considering our region can now take any misgivings about an operating uranium mine off their list of concerns."

Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and lives near Washington in Germantown, Md.

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