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Put a period on uranium debate
McDonnell and budget leaders should reject schemes to keep a mining proposal alive.
Monday, February 4, 2013
Sen. John Watkins last week retracted his bill to pursue uranium mining in Virginia after failing to win support from his colleagues, but he immediately asked Gov. Bob McDonnell to press forward with development of regulations for the risky enterprise.
A spokesman for the governor said Friday he was reviewing that request. It should not take him long to conclude that pursuing rules for a prohibited operation would be a waste of staff time and taxpayer money.
House Appropriations Chairman Lacey Putney has wisely dismissed a request from uranium lobbyists seeking to sneak friendly amendments into the state budget. Senate budget leaders should do the same, and McDonnell should refuse to participate in any other schemes to put an expiration date on a 31-year uranium moratorium.
Virginia Uranium, a company eager to extract radioactive ore from a large deposit in Pittsylvania County, will likely try again next year and the year after next and so on. But it should be required to follow appropriate legislative procedures.
Watkins contends that opposition would melt away if regulations were put on paper.
“Let’s get the answers that the opponents keep demanding about what the regulations will say and what the safeguards will be so that we have those answers when we vote on this moratorium,” the Powhatan County Republican said last week.
But experts with the National Academy of Sciences who warned of “steep hurdles” in protecting the environment and public health weren’t talking about the process of writing rules. They were talking about implementation, particularly in a state with a weak record of investment and enforcement of existing industrial regulations.
The only answer mining opponents want is this one: No. No uranium mining in Pittsylvania County. No uranium mining in Virginia.
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