The Virginia Coalition is a diverse group of current Southside Virginia job creators who are concerned about the health of our employees and workforce, as well as our future ability to recruit new companies and employees into the region given the health implications of uranium mining. We are CEO's, business owners, entrepreneurs, economic developers and current and former legislators who have a simple request: READ The Reports before voting on a matter with such far reaching ramifications.
Business and community leaders in Southside Virginia called Wednesday for a go-slow approach to uranium mining, even as key lawmakers suggested moving ahead by creating mining rules.
Raising concerns about a proposed Pittsylvania County mine's possible effects on health and economic development, two groups asked the General Assembly to retain the state's 30-year ban on uranium mining.
The groups also urged Gov. Bob McDonnell to appoint a commission to examine recent studies on uranium mining in Virginia and report back on mining's pros and cons.
The groups are the Virginia Coalition, representing the Halifax County-South Boston area, and the Alliance for Progress in Southern Virginia, representing the Pittsylvania County-Danville area.
Members of the groups spoke at a news conference in the General Assembly Building. Six Southside lawmakers participated in the presentation.
"Jumping too quickly toward uranium mining might lead to disastrous consequences for many Virginians," said Chris Lumsden, CEO of the Halifax Regional Health System.
Virginia Uranium Inc. wants to mine and mill the radioactive metal from what it believes is a 119 million-pound deposit, worth about $7 billion, about 145 miles southwest of Richmond.
Before that could happen, the legislature would have to lift the uranium-mining ban it created in 1982.
Meanwhile, six legislators who make up a uranium-study panel of the state's Coal and Energy Commission asked McDonnell on Wednesday to start creating regulations for mining uranium in Pittsylvania.
That process would develop details that would help lawmakers address the mining ban in the 2013 session, according to a letter the legislators sent McDonnell.
The message was sent on the letterhead of Del. R. Lee Ware Jr., R-Powhatan. He is chairman of the energy commission's uranium panel. Another member, Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, said in an interview that he will introduce legislation to start the regulatory process if McDonnell doesn't. Friday is the deadline for legislators to file bills.
Tucker Martin, a McDonnell spokesman, said the administration is continuing to review last month's National Academy of Sciences report on uranium mining in Virginia, "and we will have further comment at the appropriate time."
Cale Jaffe, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the prospect of putting off consideration of the mining ban to 2013 "raises questions about whether the votes are there" this year.
Virginia Uranium project manager Patrick Wales also called for the creation of regulations.
"No business of any sort can be expected to develop specific plans for a proposed operation — and no community can be expected to fully evaluate the potential risks of those plans — without knowing the laws and regulations" governing the project, Wales said in a statement.
Authors: Read the Reports