For immediate release:
April 17, 2008
Matt Garrington, Environment Colorado
(720) 206-4348 (cell)
(303) 573-3871 x310 (office)
Uranium pollution bill right for Colorado
The following is a press statement from Matt Garrington, Field Director of Environment Colorado and will be presented as testimony today in the Senate Local Government Committee hearing on House Bill 1161, the “Land & Water Stewardship Bill,”
“The uranium boom could be a big bust for Colorado’s treasured mountains, waters, and communities. Uranium mining can pose serious threats to our environment by leaving behind toxic and radioactive pollution.
“We shouldn’t put our groundwater, our environment and our communities needlessly at risk from uranium mining pollution. The Land and Water Stewardship Bill (House Bill 1161) provides sensible protections for Colorado’s groundwater, rivers and streams, and pristine lands. Environment Colorado commends Sen. Steve Johnson (R-Fort Collins) and Representatives John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins) and Randy Fischer (D-Fort Collins) for sponsoring this important legislation.
“The new uranium boom is real and happening now. In fact, uranium claims on public lands alone have soared from 120 in 2003 to 10,730 in 2007. Homeowners are getting notice of uranium exploration right beneath their homes. Farmers and ranchers are seeing uranium drill rigs on their lands without clean water protections for their well water. New projects in Park County, for example, could threaten the headwaters of the Platte River and the water supply of the Denver-metro area.
“Colorado’s laws are simply out-of-date and unprepared to deal with the new uranium boom. Some companies have gone so far as to say uranium mining is exempt from current environmental and public health protections.
“We need 21st Century protections to deal with a 21st Century threat. All uranium mining projects should be required to have environmental plans as required under a ‘designated mining operation.’ We also need to ensure mining companies clean-up after themselves and require that mining companies prove they can clean-up groundwater used for agriculture and domestic use before permits are issued.
“Some of Colorado’s treasured lands are too important for our environment and our communities to be developed for any uranium mining, but where uranium mining does take place, we need to ensure proper protections for our environment.”
– Matt Garrington, field director of Environment Colorado
Bill supporters include:
Alliance for Responsible Mining, Citizens Against Resource Destruction, Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, Colorado Counties Inc., the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the Colorado Medical Society, Environment Colorado, Information Network for Responsible Mining, Oil and Gas Accountability Project/Earthworks, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Sheep Mountain Alliance, Sierra Club-Rocky Mountain Chapter, Tallahassee Area Community, and Western Colorado Congress.
Jeff Parsons, Western Mining Action Project (720) 203-2871
About House Bill 1161, the “Land & Water Stewardship Bill”
Applies only to uranium mines. New groundwater quality standards apply specifically to in situ leach or injection uranium mining operations. The bill would not apply in any respect to any other hardrock mining operation (other than uranium mining) or to any construction material (sand and gravel) mines.
Ensures that all uranium mines are treated initially as “designated mining operations” to protect public health and the environment from possible toxic and radioactive pollution. The Colorado General Assembly enacted these protections in the wake of the 1993 Summitville mining disaster, but a loophole in the law has created uncertainty as to whether uranium mines qualify as “designated mining operations.” With a 2000% jump in uranium mining claims on public lands alone, the need to ensure more responsible mining is critical. However, HB 1161 specifically allows for uranium mines to seek an exemption from “designated mining operation” status that will not disturb such toxic or radioactive chemicals in quantities sufficient to have an adverse impact on people, property, or the environment.
Requires in situ leach uranium mining operations to restore effected groundwater supplies to meet either the pre-mining water quality or existing state groundwater standards. This eliminates concerns that the water would have to be returned precisely to pre-mining conditions.
Requires that a mining company be a “good actor” and not have outstanding and unresolved reclamation permit violations at other in situ leach uranium mine sites. The mining company itself would certify good standing in their application and no additional burden is placed on the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety (DRMS) to conduct time-consuming research into an applicant’s compliance history.
Requires that an in situ leach uranium mining operation applicant gives examples in the application of other successfully conducted in situ mining operations where groundwater supplies were not contaminated.
Allows the DRMS to retain outside professionals to oversee and review the initial groundwater baseline levels of pollutants for in situ leach uranium mining operations, at the applicant’s expense, so long as the scope of work is defined and the applicant has an opportunity to present legitimate objections to the choice of outside professionals.
Allows in situ leach uranium mining operations to qualify for temporary cessation status or temporarily cease mining reclamation so long as assurances are in place to prevent any leakage or contamination of groundwater outside the aquifer mining zone.
Allows the DRMS to deny, but not revoke, a permit for an in situ leach uranium mining operation if the operation could result in unacceptable negative impacts to existing agricultural or domestic water supplies.
Requires notice to neighboring landowners during the application process for an in situ leach uranium mine and in the case of accidents that may impact neighboring communities.