RICHMOND – Six legislators who represent Southside Virginia are urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to resist pressure for his administration to develop regulations for uranium mining, citing the lack of support in the General Assembly for ending a state moratorium on the industry .
The Senate sponsor of legislation to lift Virginia’s 31 year-old moratorium on uranium mining withdrew his legislation last week, conceding that he could not convince enough lawmakers that mining can be done safely and economically in the state. But Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, said he would ask McDonnell to direct state agencies to draft regulations in order to address “unanswered questions” of skeptical legislators who oppose a planned mining and milling operation in Pittsylvania County.
In a Wednesday letter to McDonnell, six legislators who represent the region said “It was clear that the proponents of uranium mining were not able to make the case that the benefits outweigh the long term risk of mining and milling of uranium in Virginia.”
The letter was signed by Republican senators Bill Stanley of Franklin County and Frank Ruff of Mecklenburg County and by Republican delegates Don Merricks of Chatham, Danny Marshall of Danville, James Edmunds of Halifax County and Tommy Wright of Lunenburg County. Stanley’s and Merricks’ districts include the Coles Hill site where mining and milling would occur.
“In the final analysis, the majority of our constituents – the people who are closest to the mine site itself – are deeply concerned about the effects this operation would have on our water, our environment, our agriculture and our long term economic health,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers requested a meeting with McDonnell, who has not taken a position on whether uranium mining should be allowed in the state.
“To ignore the overwhelming opposition to uranium mining that has been expressed by citizens and organizations across the Commonwealth does not fit with representative government,” the legislators concluded. “An issue as divisive as this should be dealt with by the legislative process prior to expending more taxpayer funds.”
– Michael Sluss