Markey, Bennet call on EPA to give public a say in proposed uranium mine

U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey and Sen. Michael Bennet Monday released a letter they sent to the Environmental Protection Agency calling for more public involvement in any federal regulation of a proposed uranium mine 15 miles northeast of Fort Collins in Weld County.

The EPA is reportedly giving the public until Dec. 24 to comment on Powertech’s proposed Centennial Project, which has been formally opposed by the nearby cities and towns of Fort Collins, Greeley, Nunn, Wellington, Ault and Timnath.

U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey
U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey

“There is fear that this process can jeopardize water quality and may well be inappropriate for use in an area so close to a population center of 300,000,” Markey and Bennet wrote in their letter to a regional EPA administrator. Markey and Bennet would like to see the surrounding populace involved in a possible rule making by the EPA that would provide federal oversight under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Notable in his silence on the project was Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat like Markey and Bennet, but one who has raised eyebrows of late for his outspoken support for reviving the nation’s nuclear power industry as a nearly carbon-neutral source of electricity, albeit one that produces highly toxic waste and includes upfront mining with a very checkered environmental past in the state.

Udall in the past has told the Colorado Independent that nuclear power must be part of the nation’s energy mix, and that the uranium mining that comes with it – including a proposed mill in western Montrose County — must be done using best environmental practices to avoid the pollution problems of the past. Still, there are some serious skeptics out there warning against fully embracing one of the most expensive forms of electrical generation.

Denver-based Environment Colorado Monday issued a release claiming that the EPA “has failed to consult with the public and communities and to engage in a public rulemaking on its regulatory program.” The group praised the letter from Markey and Bennet.

“The risks of the Powertech uranium mine are too great to leave citizens, physicians, and public health experts out of the decision-making process,” Dr. Cory Carroll, a past president of the Larimer County Medical Society and a practicing family physician in Fort Collins, said in the release. “This is a complicated process that needs transparency and must be conducted openly with the community.”

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend called nuclear too costly and too time-consuming to be a reasonable solution to global climate change:

“Nuclear energy is not a reasonable solution because plants take too long to build and cost far too much … The last time there was a wave of nuclear construction in the United States, it took an average of nine years to build a plant, meaning we wouldn’t see the first one until at least 2018 — too late to play any significant role in meeting the Senate climate bill’s goal of cutting emissions 20 percent by 2020.

“Renewable power sources such as solar, wind and geothermal are getting cheaper over time, even as nuclear gets more expensive. And renewable-power plants can be built almost immediately, without the long permitting delays faced by nuclear reactors.”

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