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Governor signs water-protection bill

by Rebecca Boyle This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Greeley Tribune
May 21, 2008

Robin Davis has a new favorite pen.

It won't be used to write checks or grocery lists, however. This one will get a special resting place.

Davis has one of the pens Gov. Bill Ritter used to sign a keystone piece of legislation for northern Colorado, one that will protect groundwater from uranium mining activities. It's a bill Davis has labored over and worried about for months, and the pen that was used to make it a law will have a place of honor in her Nunn home.

Ritter signed House Bill 1161 on Tuesday, which he said struck a good balance between water protection and mining rights.

"When it comes to natural resource issues, we're doing all we can to strike that balance across the board," he said in a statement. "Colorado is rich in minerals and energy resources such as oil, natural gas and coal. But we also are rich in environmental resources such as clean water, incredible wildlife and rugged mountains that must be protected."

Davis joked that she's "going to Disneyland" after Tuesday's event at the state Capitol.

"Or we should go to Elitch's now that we have a bill signed," she said. "No, we're pleased. They could still mine for uranium next door to us, that's still a possibility. It's just that now I feel like we have some hope for our water to be protected, whereas a year ago, when we had looked at the regulations and didn't find any that would protect our water, we felt hopeless."

The bill was sponsored by Fort Collins' legislative delegation: Reps. Randy Fischer and John Kefalas, both Democrats, and Sens. Bob Bacon, a Democrat, and Steve Johnson, a Republican. It was in response to Powertech Uranium Corp.'s proposed Centennial Project, about 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins at the project's southernmost boundary. Davis and many other northern Colorado landowners are fighting the mine, citing concerns about their health and the area's groundwater.

Powertech representatives worked with the sponsors to make the bill more palatable to the industry, but in the end, mining opponents said they believe the legislation will help protect their water.

Powertech officials were not available for comment Tuesday.

Powertech plans to use an in-situ extraction process to mine for about 9.7 million pounds of uranium that lies beneath a 15-mile chunk of northern Colorado. That process would use water from the aquifer underground to mobilize the uranium. But that process could also extract other heavy and potentially toxic metals, which is one reason residents are concerned about their water.

Kefalas said skeptics didn't think the lawmakers would be able to take on the powerful mining industry, but he felt vindicated by the bill's passage.

"Mining can be a great industry," he said. "We just needed to ensure mining companies are good stewards of our land and water, too."

Davis said mining opponents would shift their focus to the drafting of regulations enacted because of the bill. She said she felt empowered by the bill's evolution from an idea announced at the Capitol steps last October all the way to its signing on Tuesday.

"It certainly makes me feel empowered as a citizen and a voter. It makes me feel like my voice matters," she said. "I would just encourage everybody to remain vigilant and stay active."




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