AULT TOWN BOARD OPPOSES IN-SITU URANIUM MINING IN NORTHERN COLORADO
Vote is unanimous on resolution urging all federal, state, and county agencies to deny any and all permits
Posted June 10, 2008, Updated June 13, 2008
On Tuesday evening, the trustees of the Town of Ault, Colorado voted unanimously to oppose in-situ leach uranium mining in northern Colorado. Ault is nine miles southeast of Powertech's proposed mining area. Trustees Phil Tidwell, David Janssen, Jennifer Weichel, Kay Backstrum, Susan Pacheco, and Butch White courageously took a stand against ISL uranium mining in the area by not only Powertech, but any mining company.
Mayor Brad Bayne did not vote on the resolution since the town board recently changed its procedures so the mayor only votes in the event of a 3-3 split vote.
Tidwell, who was elected to the board on April 1 of this year, first approached the town board in August 2007 to urge the trustees to research the uranium mining issue. About the same time, residents of Ault asked the opposition group Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction to provide information to the town board about the Powertech proposal.
CARD leaders Jackie Adolph and Jay Davis made a presentation at one of the board's monthly work sessions. During this meeting they brought up the idea of the board voting on a resolution opposing uranium mining.
According to reports from meeting attendees, Mayor Bayne said the board would need to see some evidence of support for such a resolution before the board would consider it.
Adolph suggested that CARD and local supporters could circulate a petition and submit the signatures at a later board meeting.
In short order, 518 signatures of Ault residents were gathered on a petition opposing uranium mining in northern Colorado. This is significant since only 1,430 people live in Ault. At the time of the April 2008 election, there were 760 registered voters and only 209 voted in the election.
When Adolph, Davis, and Ault residents presented the 518 petition signatures to the board, Mayor Bayne was not impressed. (Bayne ran unopposed in the April election and received 158 votes.)
Powertech officials made a presentation to the town board, and then several months elapsed before the issue re-emerged. As a result of Tidwell's perseverence, a resolution was finally drafted by the town's attorney to be heard at Tuesday's meeting. The discussion was brief, with Trustees Tidwell and Janssen making supporting statements. The vote was 6-0 in favor.
The strongly-worded resolution is similar to measures passed by other cities and towns including Fort Collins, Greeley, Timnath, and Wellington. The resolution cites "inherent risks" from ISL mining, including the possible contamination of groundwater and the fact that such contamination may be hard to detect in a timely manner.
|Phil Tidwell, Trustee of the Town of Ault, Colorado|
It goes on to state that locating in-situ uranium mining projects in close proximity to populated areas is "ill-advised" and is "likely to be injurious to the health, safety and/or welfare of all residents in the area and may do irreparable harm to the economic well-being of the northern Colorado area."
And like resolutions from other municipalities, the resolution urges all government agencies to "deny any and all permit applications for in-situ uranium mining operations in the northern Colorado area." One of the required permits would be a "Use by Special Review" that must be approved by the Weld County Commissioners. The USR is described by Weld County as:
"A Use by Special Review (USR) are uses which have been determined to be more intense or to have a potentially greater impact than those allowed by right in a particular zone district. Those USR applications require additional consideration to ensure they are compatible and operated in a manner that is compatible with existing and planned land uses of surrounding property. This process is accomplished through the Zoning Ordinance."
Given the overwhelming and growing opposition to ISL uranium mining coming from northern Colorado residents and governing bodies, it would be politically risky for a Weld County Commissioner to vote to approve a USR permit for Powertech or any other uranium mining company. Current commissioners must surely realize this, but they're not talking since the Weld County attorney has advised them to not comment publicly on Powertech's proposed project.
If a USR permit application is submitted by Powertech, the commissioners would conduct a public hearing, take public comment, and approve or deny the permit. The position of the county attorney is that if commissioners communicate with their constituents about the proposal prior to a public hearing, or if they make a public statement in opposition, Powertech attorneys can have them removed from participating in the vote because they are "prejudging" the permit application.
This "appearance of fairness doctrine" has its roots in the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Powertech's permit application is considered a "quasi-judicial" matter rather than legislative. As such, the commissioners are supposed to avoid "ex parte" (one-sided) contacts with proponents or opponents, and should also not make public statements for or against the specific proposal. All evidence, data, and comments are to be presented at the public hearing.
Ex parte contacts or public statements exhibiting bias can conceivably result in a legal challenge by Powertech to disqualify a commissioner from voting on the application. However, such a challenge might not succeed unless Powertech can prove the commissioner has a personal, financial, or official stake in the decision.
Regardless, the commissioners certainly are aware of the depth of public concern over this issue. The Ault resolution adds to the momentum building against Powertech and its proposal to mine uranium in a heavily-populated area. The people are speaking. Are the Weld County Commissioners listening?
TOWN OF AULT, COLORADO - RESOLUTION NO. 2008-06 - EXPRESSING THE OPPOSITION OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE TOWN OF AULT TO IN-SITU MINING OF URANIUM IN THE NORTHERN COLORADO AREA. June 10, 2008 (pdf)
TOWN OF AULT, COLORADO
RESOLUTION NO. 2008-06
EXPRESSING THE OPPOSITION OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE TOWN OF AULT TO IN-SITU MINING OF URANIUM IN THE NORTHERN COLORADO AREA.
WHEREAS, in-situ uranium mining is a newer method of mining uranium, and the environmental impacts and threats to public health and safety posed by the process are largely unknown; and
WHEREAS, in-situ leaching mining technology holds inherent risks, including possible contamination of groundwater and degradation of natural groundwater conditions through the groundwater restoration process utilized after completion of the leaching operations; and
WHEREAS, because the mining operations involved in the in-situ process and the potential damage caused by such process occur below the surface, early detection of such problems may not be possible; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE TOWN OF AULT, COLORADO, THAT:
Section 1. The Board of Trustees hereby expresses its strong opposition to in-situ uranium mining in the northern Colorado area and urges all county, federal, and state agencies involved in the permitting process for such in-situ uranium mining to recognize that the locating of such projects along the north front range and in close proximity to populated areas is ill-advised because it is likely to be injurious to the health, safety and/or welfare of all residents in the area and may do irreparable harm to the economic well-being of the northern Colorado area.
Section 2. That for the aforementioned reasons, the Board of Trustees further urges such agencies to deny any and all permit applications for in-situ uranium mining operations in the northern Colorado area.
PASSED, SIGNED, APPROVED AND ADOPTED this ____ day of June, 2008.
TOWN OF AULT, COLORADO
Town Clerk, Sharon Sullivan Brad Bayne, Mayor