Fort Collins Coloradoan
February 22, 2008
HB1161 addresses accountability, need for information
Legislation that could tighten state regulations for uranium mining operations - a hot topic in Northern Colorado - cleared an important hurdle Thursday.
House Bill 1161, carried by a bipartisan delegation from Fort Collins that includes Reps. Randy Fischer and John Kefalas, both Democrats, and Sen. Bob Bacon, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Steve Johnson, passed the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on an 11-2 vote. The next step is the House Appropriations Committee. If passed, the bill will go to the full House for a second vote.
Many residents in the region have been concerned about Powertech Mining Corp.'s plan to mine uranium in Weld County via an in-situ mining process, in which pressurized water is injected into an aquifer to remove uranium.
Current state law does little to compel public oversight or water quality protection.
The legislation does not prevent uranium mining, but it does add some sensible controls. For example, uranium mining companies would have to prove their methods would either return groundwater to pre-mining condition or to levels outlined by existing state regulations. A third-party contractor would be required to test the water to ensure adherence to the law. Powertech has previously indicated that its processes would return the affected water to its previous condition.
The bill also lifts an existing confidentiality clause to require companies to disclose mine projects that are in an exploratory phase. This is an important change to allow the public more information about mining activity before full operation is achieved.
HB 1161 balances the needs of the public by increasing information and requiring long-term accountability for water quality. It deserves to be passed.