Colorado regulators refuse to release records of private meeting to discuss "regulatory scheme" for uranium mining
Public to have no input prior to final decisions on regulatory framework
Posted June 2007, Updated October 25, 2007
NOTE: This page has been modified in response to the written threat of a defamation lawsuit from Powertech Uranium Corporation by adding the following explanatory language:
When Powertech Uranium Corporation made known its intention to conduct in-situ leaching (ISL) and open pit mining in Weld County, it set in motion a chain of events within state agencies tasked with regulating mining and projects that may impact public health and the environment. Since ISL uranium mining is new to Colorado (with the exception of two short-term ISL projects near Grover and Keota in the late 1970s and early 1980s), regulators have had to scramble to figure out how to deal with anticipated permit applications from Powertech. State officials chose to conduct this "regulatory scheme" process without the benefit of public input or disclosure of related public records. Here is a timeline of events:
March 7 or April 5, 2007 - Powertech representatives meet with Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) officials for a "Pre-operation meeting (Indian Springs and Centennial Projects) for Uranium In-Situ Solution and Open Pit mining in NE Weld County". According to a pre-meeting email obtained under the Colorado Open Records Act, participants were to include Powertech representatives Lane Douglas - Colorado Project Coordinator, Richard Blubaugh - Vice President of Environmental Health & Safety, and George Robinson - senior permit consultant, R Squared, Inc. DRMS officials mentioned in the email were David Berry - Minerals Supervisor, and David Bird - Principal Scientist. (It is unclear from available documents if there were two meetings or just one.)
May 10, 2007 - Officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE), DRMS, and the Colorado Attorney General's office hold an unannounced, private meeting to discuss the regulation of uranium mining, in particular in-situ leaching. Present at the meeting are Ronald Cattany - DRMS Division Director, David Berry, Carl Mount - DRMS Senior Environmental Protection Specialist, Tanya Light - Assistant Attorney General, and unnamed officials from the CDPHE.
May 25, 2007 - Jim Woodward (Weld County resident and property owner, and powertechexposed.com webmaster) submits a Colorado open records request to Ronald Cattany to inspect notes taken at the May 10 meeting.
May 31, 2007 - Ronald Cattany denies Jim Woodward's open records request, citing attorney-client privilege and the "deliberative process privilege".
June 5, 2007 - Jim Woodward submits request to Ronald Cattany to comply with state law requiring him to provide a sworn statement justifying his refusal to release the meeting notes: "With respect to the notes from your meeting with the CDPHE and your claim of a deliberative process exemption from disclosure per C.R.S. § 24-72-204(3)(a)(XIII), the statute requires you to provide me with a sworn statement specifically describing each document withheld, explaining why each such document is privileged, and why disclosure would cause substantial injury to the public interest."
June 8, 2007 - Ronald Cattany provides affidavit stating "All of the documents referenced above contain the Division's non-conclusive thoughts concerning inter-agency regulation of uranium mining operations in Colorado. Because the notes are drafts only, and are non-conclusive, disclosure of the notes would cause substantial injury to the public interest by causing needless speculation about uranium regulation in Colorado. Disclosure of the records will have a chilling effect on frank and open communication in the future on inter-agency collaborative meetings to discuss pre-decisional issues".
BOTTOM LINE: The evolution of a "regulatory scheme" for uranium mining in Colorado is being controlled and directed by non-elected, non-accountable government employees who have met with Powertech officials while at the same time shutting down participation by members of the public, including those most affected by Powertech's proposal. JW
Affidavit from Ronald W. Cattany, Director - Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, stating legal basis for refusal to disclose public records requested by Jim Woodward - June 8, 2007 (pdf)