SELC and Former DEQ Director Bob Burnley Respond to Gov. McDonnell’s Announcement on Uranium Mining

Today, Governor McDonnell announced that he will ask the General Assembly not to take any action this legislative session on uranium mining.

Bob Burnley, the former director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, responded, "It is encouraging that the Governor has elected to keep the mining ban in place.  At the same time, the details of the announcement raise some concerns." Mr. Burnley is serving as an independent consultant to the Southern Environmental Law Center on this issue.

On December 19th, the National Academy of Sciences released a report raising serious questions as to whether uranium could ever be mined safely in Virginia. 

Cale Jaffe, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, stated, "Given the significant warnings from the National Academy of Sciences, I think what we are seeing is that Virginia Uranium, Inc. lacks sufficient support in the General Assembly to move its agenda forward."

Burnley added, "The National Academy of Sciences report provides convincing evidence that uranium mining, milling, and waste disposal would be impractical in Virginia."

The Southern Environmental Law Center and Mr. Burnley also questioned the fiscal prudence of the Governor's approach, given that state agencies currently have no budget or staff devoted to uranium mining.  As the NAS concluded that "the state has essentially no experience regulating uranium mining..." [NAS Report, p. 179]

Jaffe stated, "DEQ is struggling to fund its existing obligations.  The Governor's budget, for example, calls for transferring the clean air program to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unless stakeholders can reach an agreement to increase fees."  Burnley added, "There are staffing shortages due to hiring freezes; there are already serious budget constraints at state agencies."
 

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