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Uranium bills make it to governor's desk Print

by Rebecca Boyle, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Greeley Tribune
May 6, 2008

Two bills aimed at strengthening state oversight of mining passed the Colorado General Assembly on Monday and are now headed for Gov. Bill Ritter's desk.

Northern Colorado lawmakers were key in getting the bills passed.

House Bill 1161, sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer and John Kefalas, both Fort Collins Democrats, and by Sens. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, and Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, would heighten state regulations over uranium mining.

It would require all uranium mining operations in Colorado to meet basic environmental and water quality standards, and it would require mining companies to prove they could return groundwater to pre-mining conditions or to pre-existing state water quality standards.

Industry representatives worked with the legislators to make the bill more palatable, but they still said the bill was too strict and would hurt the industry.

Mining opponents, who are trying to stop a proposed in-situ uranium mine in northwest Weld County, said they were grateful for the lawmakers' work.

Jackie Adolph, outreach chairman for Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction, said it was a fantastic day for the residents of Colorado.

"While this legislation by no means solves all of the problems with in-situ leach uranium mining, especially in populated areas, it does offer a great minimum level of groundwater protection," she said in a statement.

Ritter rarely says whether he will sign a bill, but he said in a previous interview with the Tribune that he supported the bill's concept.

Another measure, Senate Bill 228, also passed its final test Monday and would increase transparency in mineral exploration operations. Under the bill, mining companies would have to disclose some prospecting information to the public that had previously been kept secret. Fischer and Kefalas sponsored a bill that would have required more public disclosure, but that measure failed in a committee; SB228 was introduced late in the session to accomplish much of the same.

The measures are in response to Canada-based Powertech Uranium Corp's proposed Centennial Project, a plan to use groundwater to extract uranium embedded in an ancient sandstone formation beneath a chunk of northern Colorado.

Opponents say the proposed in-situ, or in-place, process would harm the area's groundwater, which is used for domestic and agricultural purposes. Mining officials said the process can be done safely.

Rebecca Boyle is a staff writer for Fort Collins Now.

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