Posted May 5, 2008
Northern Colorado residents and legislators won a major victory today when House Bill 1161 gained final approval in the Colorado legislature and was sent to Governor Ritter for his signature. The Governor is expected to sign the bill. Among other provisions, HB-1161 establishes standards for the issuance of state permits for in-situ leach uranium mines.
To receive a permit, a mining company must provide evidence it can restore affected ground water to premining conditions or to state ground water standards. Competent evidence from at least five ISL uranium mines must be submitted to state regulators. The evidence must demonstrate the permit applicant's ability to conduct mining without any leakage or escape of radionuclides or heavy metals into ground water surrounding the mining zone.
The bill also addresses post-mining restoration of ground water aquifers. Unlike Texas and Wyoming law, HB-1161 does not allow mining companies to apply for relaxed water quality standards when aquifer restoration efforts fail to bring contaminants back to target levels. These are referred to as "target restoration value amendments".
Likewise, the bill does not utilize the "class of use" system that allows mining companies to contaminate an aquifer if they can demonstrate the baseline level of a single constituent exceeds a state standard for a particular use (domestic, agriculture, livestock, industrial).
A favorite phrase used by mining companies is that ground water has been restored to a condition "consistent with its previous use." Translation: If the water happens to have a constituent level that exceeds the drinking water standard, the aquifer is declared "undrinkable" and can therefore legally be polluted with various other contaminants "liberated" by the mining process.
The ISL uranium mining industry is very fond of "target restoration value amendments" and "class of use." Both have been used by most, if not all, ISL mining operations in Texas, Wyoming, and Nebraska when they have been unable to restore aquifers back to premining conditions.
HB-1161 avoids these archaic and dangerous practices. Instead, the bill sets forth more protective restoration standards that are reasonable and predictable:
(b) THE BOARD OR THE OFFICE SHALL DENY A PERMIT FOR IN SITU LEACH MINING IF THE APPLICANT FAILS TO DEMONSTRATE BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE THAT IT WILL RECLAIM ALL AFFECTED GROUND WATER FOR ALL WATER QUALITY PARAMETERS THAT ARE SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED IN THE BASELINE SITE CHARACTERIZATION, OR IN THE STATEWIDE RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS STANDARDS OR TABLES 1 THROUGH 4 OF THE BASIC STANDARDS FOR GROUND WATER AS ESTABLISHED BY THE COLORADO WATER QUALITY CONTROL COMMISSION, TO EITHER OF THE FOLLOWING:
(I) PREMINING BASELINE WATER QUALITY OR BETTER, AS ESTABLISHED BY THE BASELINE SITE CHARACTERIZATION CONDUCTED PURSUANT TO SECTION 34-32-112.5 (5); OR
(II) THAT QUALITY WHICH MEETS THE STATEWIDE RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS STANDARDS AND THE MOST STRINGENT CRITERIA SET FORTH IN TABLES 1 THROUGH 4 OF THE BASIC STANDARDS FOR GROUND WATER AS ESTABLISHED BY THE COLORADO WATER QUALITY CONTROL COMMISSION.
HB-1161 contains many other provisions designed to protect Colorado's valuable ground water. The full text of the bill is included below.
Many people worked for months on the drafting, revision, and adoption of HB-1161. They deserve our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for their dedication, focus, and expertise. A few of them are listed below:
Representative John Kefalas, Fort Collins
Representative Randy Fischer, Fort Collins
Senator Steve Johnson, Fort Collins
Senator Bob Bacon, Fort Collins
Jeff Parsons, Loveland
Tracee Bentley, Windsor
Solomon Malick, Denver
Charles Malick, Golden
Jay Davis, Nunn
Robin Davis, Nunn
Jackie Adolph, Fort Collins
Matt Garrington, Denver
Markus Mayer, Fort Collins
Marina Mayer, Fort Collins
Mike Williams, Carr
Linda Turner, Nunn
Tom Turner, Nunn
Lilias Jarding, Fort Collins
Full text of HB-1161 - May 2, 2008
Audio of House proceedings - May 5, 2008
Mining bills ready for governor's signature - Staff
Uranium mining bill goes to governor - Pamela
Loveland Reporter-Herald - May 6, 2008
Uranium mining bill heads to Ritter -
Caņon City Daily Record - May 6, 2008
Uranium bill heads to Gov. Ritter - Jason Kosena
Uranium bills on the way to Ritter - Rebecca Boyle
New uranium mining laws on governor's desk - Staff
Uranium Mining Bill Likely To Move to Senate - Kefalas, Fischer confident their bill will pass; Ritter says he supports it - Rebecca Boyle