Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on Friday sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 administrator Jim Martin reminding him that the “EPA needs to be especially mindful of the adverse health effects that past uranium booms have had on workers.”
Bennet was referencing the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill in western Montrose County near the Utah state line, which opponents say the EPA is poised to approve despite outdated air quality regulations for radon emissions. Two Colorado environmental groups have asked the EPA to withhold approval until the federal agency updates its radon rules.
Bennet wrote that he’s heard from “Coloradans worried about the potential for toxic effects that uranium mining could have in this particular region. They have pointed to the nearby Uravan Mill as an example. As you know, the Uravan Mill is on your agency’s Superfund cleanup list because EPA worries hazardous releases from the site may endanger public health, welfare or the environment.”
The Democrat also noted that American taxpayers have already spent $120 million cleaning up Uravan and that he’s currently working to pass the Charlie Wolf Nuclear Workers Compensation Act and Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments to better compensate the families of workers sickened or killed mining or milling uranium or working in the nuclear industry.
Bennet urged Martin to seriously consider the concerns of local governments that have sent similar letters to the EPA regarding what would be the first new uranium mill in the United States in nearly three decades. The state and Montrose County have already approved the proposed mill, although the Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance has sued both governments to block the mill’s permit approvals.