By Jason Kosena
Fort Collins Coloradoan
March 25, 2008
DENVER - A bill aimed at tightening uranium mining regulation in Colorado was delayed again Monday because of lengthy amendments proposed to the legislation on the House floor.
The second reading vote of the so-called uranium bill may be heard today.
HB 1161, sponsored by Fort Collins Democrat Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer, would require uranium companies to prove they could return groundwater to either pre-mining conditions or levels in line with existing state standards.
The bill also would lift the confidentiality clause of existing state law, which now doesn't require companies to disclose mine prospecting during exploratory phases.
Water testing under the new law would be completed by a third-party contractor approved by the state - a shift from current state law, which requires the mining company itself to complete the testing.
"The other members have had a copy of the amendments since Tuesday of last week, but I guess some of them needed more time to go through them all," Fischer said Monday. "We were hoping to get a vote on it today."
The legislation is important to property owners northeast of Fort Collins who worry that, if a proposed Powertech (USA) Mining Corp. uranium mine goes into operation, it will cause water quality issues and lower property values.
The proposed mine would employ in situ-leach mining, a process where water and chemicals are injected into the ground in order to bring uranium to the surface.
The problematic amendments were mostly “technical” in nature, Fischer said, changing minor aspects to the original language and shifting some financial responsibilities of a mine application away from the state.
The only substantive change proposed was a requirement that groundwater testing be completed before the application for a new uranium mine is proposed, a shift from the bill’s current language requiring it be done after.
The legislation, being dubbed “the uranium bill” was introduced in the House to encompass almost all mining operations in Colorado.
But, after hard rock mining advocates protested, the bill’s language was watered down to only include proposed uranium mines in Colorado — specifically the one northeast of Fort Collins.
“We’re expecting there to be some opposition to this bill when it is debated on the floor,” Fischer said, adding the bill’s rocky path through the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources committee and then through the House Finance committee, was due to the complexity of the bill’s technical language.
“These things aren’t especially easy for people to grasp right away,” Fischer said. “It can be complicated at times.