ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO
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:
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.
March 31, 2008
bill passes state House, heads to Senate
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.