By Steve Porter
Northern Colorado Business Report
January 4, 2008
Feeling under attack for its plan to mine uranium in Northern Colorado, Powertech USA is fighting back with full-page advertisements in three of the region's newspapers to get its message out that it will be a responsible protector of the environment if mining operations are approved by the state.
But state legislators say they plan to craft legislation in the next session that would ensure that the Canadian company can demonstrate it will not harm the environment before a mining permit is issued.
In full-page reprints of a letter written to Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchison and members of the city council that appeared in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Greeley Tribune and the Northern Colorado Business Report, Powertech spokesman Richard Blubaugh expressed "profound disappointment" that the council voted 6-0 on Dec. 4 to oppose uranium mining in the region.
"It is our belief that the action taken by the city council was not only premature and unwarranted but that it was also predicated on several erroneous assumptions about uranium mining in general and about the federal, state and local government permitting processes in particular," Blubaugh's letter said.
The letter also criticized the resolution for misstating Powertech's road to obtaining a mining permit and the danger such an operation could pose to the region's groundwater.
Richard Clement, Powertech USA president, said the newspaper ads were meant to educate Northern Colorado residents about its true intentions.
"Really what we're trying to do is educate people on the processes we're utilizing and we feel it's been totally mischaracterized by the opposition," Clement said, noting that Powertech would inject $300 million or more into the local economy over the estimated 10-year life of the project.
"We're surprised that people are so up-in-arms against something like nuclear power that doesn't put out greenhouse gases," Clement said.
Councilwoman Lisa Poppaw, who introduced the resolution, said the measure was meant to send a clear message that Fort Collins is against uranium mining.
"The uranium mine (near Nunn) is going to be developed seven miles from Fort Collins and presents significant and unacceptable risks to the environment and the economy," she said.
Poppaw said she's heard Powertech's still-exploratory operations are already impacting nearby landowners who say they can't sell their property. But more than anything else, Poppaw said the resolution aims to state for the record that uranium mining is not welcome.
"In Fort Collins, we do high-tech and quality-of-life," she said. "We don't do uranium mining right next to our town."
While Weld County commissioners can't take a position on the mine because they will have a role in the permitting process, Larimer County commissioners are planning to take a look at Powertech's plans at a public hearing to be held in early February.
Weld County Commissioner Randy Eubanks said he'd like to see the county pass a similar resolution to that adopted by Fort Collins.
"Even if this was a 100-percent-safe type of mining, it flies in the face of the kind of alternative energy kind of environment we want to project up here," he said. "It's the wrong path and the wrong signal we want to send in Northern Colorado."
Local legislators are also lining up to make certain Powertech or any uranium mining company interested in the state's uranium deposits can first show that their activities will not harm people or the environment.
"I think the most important thing for us to do is to ensure Colorado's regulations are up-to-date and comprehensive enough to protect the public health and environment," said Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, who is joining with Reps. Randy Fischer and John Kefalas, both D-Fort Collins, to carry a uranium-mining bill in the next session of the Legislature.