By Rebecca Boyle,
Fort Collins Now
April 2, 2008
Kefalas, Fischer effort to increase oversight fails by one vote
A second bill focused on Colorado standards for uranium mining failed in the House agriculture and natural resources committee Wednesday, after detractors said the bill was too focused on hard-rock mining.
House Bill 1165 would have increased transparency about mining operations and strengthened the state's watchdog status over mining operations and prospecting. But some committee members were concerned the measure was too broad because it covered all forms of mineral mining.
The bill's sponsors, state Reps. Randy Fischer and John Kefalas, both Fort Collins Democrats, said they would continue fighting for stricter oversight of mining operations.
"These mines, particularly those that use in-situ leach methods, can be extremely detrimental if they’re not vigorously watched,” Kefalas said in a statement. “The public has a right to know what is happening in their communities.”
The measure is in response to efforts by Powertech Uranium Corp. to use an in-situ extraction method to mine for uranium in northwest Weld County, about 13 miles northeast of Fort Collins. The uranium is found in a sandstone formation spreading under roughly 270 acres. Many Northern Colorado landowners are fighting the proposed in-situ mine, citing concerns about their health and the area’s groundwater.
The measure would have allowed more public disclosure about mining operations.
House Bill 1161, which passed the House earlier this week with a bipartisan vote of 49 to 16, is also a response to the effort, and would prevent irresponsible uranium mining practices. That bill is now awaiting Senate consideration.
Gov. Bill Ritter said in a recent interview that he supports the measure because it provides a regulatory framework that does not currently exist.
It would require mining companies to show that they can restore groundwater to pre-mining conditions, or to the statewide standard for radioactive materials in water. Companies could not get a state permit unless they meet that standard.