Piñon Ridge uranium mill hearing recap

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From email from the Sheep Mountain Alliance (Hillary White):

After opening statements by all the parties kicked off the proceedings on Wed., Frank Filas, Environmental Project Manager for Energy Fuels took the stand and remained there through most of today. Mr. Filas’ testimony generally covered the entire length of the application submitted by Energy Fuels and set up the opportunity for SMA’s experts to point several deficiencies during the next few days. Matt Sandler for Rocky Mountain Wild conducted his cross examination today focused on wildlife impacts and NEPA and ESA adherence.

After Mr. Filas the focus turned to air quality impacts. Dr. Craig Little, a health physicist and radio ecologist who did the air dispersion modeling for Energy Fuels took the stand. It was a rather technical discussion and seemed to leave more questions than answers. Main questions surrounded the type of modeling used and if it could adequately address long distance impact determinations.

Next, Nancy Chick who works for the State in the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) was called. As an aside, the APCD has been processing Energy Fuels air quality permit, a necessary part of the license for several years. The department has sent data and modeling back to Energy Fuels several times and analysis is ongoing but somewhat on hold according to the department. Ms. Chick testified to the data she has considered to date…

During the first 2 days there have been many strong comments helping SMA establish that record. We know the residents of the West End deserve good jobs and a healthy economy, but if they want a uranium mill to provide that for them we much know the cost of that mill not only to their communities but to the surrounding ones as well. Without the real costs and analysis of real impacts no one can make an informed decision.

More coverage from Gus Jarvis writing for The Telluride Watch. From the article:

Two days before the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment began a new public hearing process over Energy Fuels, Inc.’s application for a radioactive materials license to build the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill, a group of residents who live near the Cotter Uranium Mill/superfund site in Cañon City sent a letter to Judge Richard Dana over concerns about the state’s ability to provide adequate over a new uranium mill.

The letter from the Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste group, a nonprofit organization, was sent to Dana on Monday. Dana is presiding over the hearing, which began in Nucla Wednesday evening.

The members of the group, who live near the Superfund site in Cañon City, stated in their letter that their concerns about the new Piñon Ridge mill stem from years of experience in dealing with CDPHE regulators on the Cotter Mill cleanup, which has been managed by the state since the late 1980s.

“Our biggest concern is that our state does not have the staff or the resources devoted to regulating a site like this, and that is where a lot of problems will come from,” the group’s co-chair Sharyn Cunningham said in a telephone interview Monday. “If the mill is built, and once they find contamination – and they will – our concern is whether or not the people living nearby will be protected by the state agencies.

“I do not believe they will be protected.”

More coverage from Heather Sackett writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

About 25 audience members filtered into the wood-paneled room for the last hour of the hearing, which had been set aside for public comment. Placerville resident Dan Chancellor said his father’s home near Grand Junction had been built on a pile of mine tailings. At age 58, his father died of a type of lung cancer associated with radioactive materials, he said.

“Will you fail again to protect me and my family?” Chancellor asked. “There is no guarantee about jobs.”

But Ayngel Overson, a lifelong resident of Nucla, echoed a point of view held by many in the economically depressed West End. She said her grandfather was a uranium miner, and that the mill opening represents jobs in the rural area. She choked up as she described a community in decline and how graduating classes at Nucla High School have dwindled to around a dozen. She addressed her comments to those opposing the mill.

“For five years we have been waiting for jobs,” Overson told the crowd. “We can’t make it anymore … Right now, this is all they’ve got. Uranium doesn’t scare us. It’s something we’ve learned to live with. You are stopping people from surviving.”

But the aim of the four-day hearing, which continues through Monday, is not to argue the merits or dangers of the proposed mill. The purpose of the long-anticipated hearing, held at the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge in Nucla, is for Toronto-based Energy Fuels, Inc. to supplement its application for a radioactive materials license and to give those with party status the opportunity to cross-examine the company’s representatives.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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