powertechexposed.com home




HB-1161 gains final House approval on lopsided 49-16 vote and heads to Senate; Loveland Representative Marostica argues for uranium leach mining, insults Musgrave

Posted March 31, 2008, Updated April 1, 2008



House Bill 1161 moves to the Colorado Senate after today's passage on third reading by the state House.  The recorded vote with no amendments was 49-16, or 75% for and 25% against.  On Friday, prime sponsor Rep. John Kefalas of Fort Collins described the impetus for the bill:


Audio of Rep. John Kefalas on the floor of the House - March 28, 2008


During the Friday debate, Loveland Representative Don Marostica argued against the bill and showed PowerPoint slides provided by Canadian company Powertech Uranium Corp. in an attempt to persuade fellow legislators that in situ uranium leaching is safe and benign.  His advocacy on behalf of Powertech is not shared by Republican U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave, who came out strongly against the mining proposal several months ago.  Musgrave believes the project has the “potential to contaminate the underground aquifers that our families, communities and agricultural producers rely upon for clean safe water.”


Rep. Musgrave's concerns are reinforced by recent revelations of serious and ongoing environmental problems at the Highland-Smith Ranch ISL uranium mining operation in Wyoming.  The mine operator, Cameco Corporation (another Canadian company), has been cited by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for numerous permit violations, and it appears the mining company is having difficulty restoring the ground water aquifers after mining has ceased.


In spite of widespread concerns about uranium mining in northern Colorado, Marostica has sided with Powertech in this fight.  In his Friday statements on the floor of the House, he went so far as to say Rep. Musgrave's letters to constituents on this matter are not credible.  Musgrave has sent similar letters to Larimer and Weld County Commissioners and state mining officials.  It is unclear why Marostica feels that Rep. Musgrave's concerns are not sincere, and he did not elaborate.  Here is Rep. Marostica's rather odd statement:

Uh, members, uh, I'll be, uh, it'll be the first time that you took a letter from our Congresswoman and, you know, felt like that, she's writing to one of the folks that live in the area there, but I don't see the credibility in that letter.  Thank you.

Audio of Rep. Don Marostica on the floor of the House - March 28, 2008





HB-1161 & HB-1165



Telluride Watch

March 31, 2008


New Rules for Uranium Mines Would Be Retroactive
by K.C. Mason
DENVER – A bill that would require shuttered uranium mines to prove they would not harm public health or the environment before they could reopen is headed to the Colorado Senate after final House passage Monday on a 49-16 vote.

Fort Collins Democrats Randy Fischer and John Kefalas successfully amended their House Bill 1161 to apply the standards of designated mining operations, or DMOs, to all uranium mines, not just in-situ leach-type operations contemplated in northeastern Colorado near Nunn.

“This bill ensures uranium mining doesn’t leave behind a toxic legacy,” Kafalas said. “By encouraging responsible mining practices now, we’ll protect our drinking water, our communities and our public health well into the future.”

The bill, which was heavily amended in both the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and on the House floor during preliminary debate Friday, would require mining companies to show they will reclaim and restore groundwater to pre-mining quality or to state standards.

The measure also would require mine operators to notify all landowners within the vicinity about the proposed permit.

Republicans tried unsuccessfully on Friday to replace the bill with a one-year moratorium on permitting any new uranium operations to give regulators and legislators more time to study the potential impact of new rules.

“What greater protection is there than a moratorium so we can study it,” said District 58 Rep. Ray Rose, R-Montrose. “That’s the ultimate protection.”

Fischer said the mine operators don’t want a moratorium because they need to know now what to expect.

“Powertech (USA) is up there now doing exploration and spending a tremendous amount of money gathering the information they need to submit their application,” Fischer said. “If we change the rules on them next March, they just lost a whole year of time.”

Fischer also discounted claims the new rules, if they make it through the legislative process to become law, would shut down uranium mining in Colorado.

“They always portray this as being totally safe and they won’t have any problem restoring the groundwater to existing uses,” Fischer said. “If what they are saying is true, they should not really have an issue with this.”

Three Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee who endorsed a weakened version of the original bill in committee were livid when Kafalas and Fischer offered the floor amendment that made the bill retroactive to existing uranium mining operations.

“We’ve been blindsided with a new amendment,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, in whose district the proposed in-situ mine is located. “We thought we had a solution going to (the) appropriations (committee). I sent a letter (to regulators) asking what more they needed to make sure uranium mining is safe and they said ‘right now we need nothing.’”

In the end, however, nine mostly rural Republicans, including Sonnenberg, voted for the final bill, largely due to the protections the new regulations would provide for groundwater. The only Democrat against the bill Monday was Rep. Bernie Buescher of Grand Junction.

Fischer and Kafalas claim the current high price for uranium is driving another mining boon in Colorado not seen in 30 to 40 years.

“There are a number of uranium mines that were active during the last boom in the 70s and 80s,” Fischer said. “All those mines have been mothballed and inactive since then. Now with the sudden increase in uranium prices, those mines are coming back and asking to reopen.”

With Friday’s floor amendment, the existing mines would not have to restart the permitting process, but would have to go before the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety with an environmental protection plan.

Supporters of the bill said the change was necessary to close an existing gap in the law that threatens to exempt all uranium mines as long as they do not leak acid water.

They also claim most companies applying for a new or re-opened uranium mine have willingly complied with DMO status and submitted environmental protection plans.

A second Kafalas/Fischer bill (HB1165), which would overhaul the Mined Land Reclamation Board in much the same way the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was changed last year, is up for its first hearing Wednesday in the House Agriculture Committee.

The second bill would require health, environment and wildlife issues to be considered in all hard rock mining operations with the exception of coal.

http://www.telluridewatch.com/pages/full_story?article-New-Rules-for-Uranium-Mines-Would-Be-Retroactive =&page_label=home&id=55534-New-Rules-for-Uranium-Mines-Would-Be-Retroactive&widget=push&instance=TW_2nd_top_story&open=&


Uranium bill passes state House, heads to Senate

Greeley Tribune

Staff Reports
April 1, 2008

A bill that would impose stricter standards for uranium mining in Colorado passed the state House on Monday morning.

The bill -- HB 1161 -- stipulates that uranium mining companies in Colorado clean up groundwater after they finish mining. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

A companion bill -- HB 1165 -- would give increased power to the Mined Land Reclamation Board to consider public health and the environment when considering a uranium mining operation. That bill will be heard in a House committee meeting Wednesday.

Powertech Uranium Corp., a company with plans to open a uranium mine near Nunn, lobbied to amend the bill and loosen language in the bill before it was heard in the entire House.

Opponents of the mine say uranium miners are never able to restore groundwater to pre-mining levels and that uranium mining is dangerous.

Powertech officials have said the in-situ -- literally "in-place" -- leach mining technique they are proposing to use at the mine near Nunn is safe and that groundwater will be protected.

The House passage comes after a group against the proposed Nunn mine sent a letter to legislators this week detailing violations at a uranium mine in Wyoming and urging them to vote for the uranium regulation bills.

The Wyoming mine -- which is not owned by Powertech but rather by a different company, Power Resources Inc. -- has had trouble cleaning up groundwater, has had about 80 spills of chemically treated water, leaks and other shortcomings, according to an investigation by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.