By Alix Hines
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – A radio advertisement sponsored by organizations opposed to uranium mining in Virginia cautions Gov. Bob McDonnell against using his power to put in place failed legislation by issuing regulations.
Nathan Lott, executive director of the Virginia Conservation Network, said in a press release that Sen. John Watkins, R-Midlothian, withdrew his proposed legislation to lift the ban on uranium mining because the bill faced widespread opposition.
The radio ad says that after the uranium mining legislation failed, Watkins then went to McDonnell and asked him to put regulations in place to allow uranium mining.
But supporters of uranium mining say that’s not true. The radio advertisement is riddled with false information, said Julie Rautio of Capital Results, a lobbying firm that represents Virginia Uranium Inc.
“What Sen. Watkins asked the governor to do was to get the answers to the questions that opponents keep demanding about the regulations and have the regulations developed so that we have all of the answers,” Rautio said.
Virginia Uranium says that if the moratorium on uranium were lifted, the company could create more than 500 jobs in Southside Virginia and an additional 500 statewide. The company projects a total economic impact of $4.8 billion.
But the radio advertisement says uranium mining would carry environmental risks, such as polluting drinking water.
The ad features the voices of three Southside citizens who oppose lifting the state’s 31-year ban on uranium mining.
“I’m just afraid of an unhealthy environment for my children,” Anita Dalton of Callands, a town in Pittsylvania County, says in the commercial. “And I’m afraid if it comes in, it’s just going to ruin our community, and we’ll be forced to leave.”
Andrew Lester, the executive director of the Roanoke River Basin Association, said the radio ad accurately depicts the opinions of people living in the area where Virginia Uranium wants to operate a mine.
Lester cited a poll commissioned by the Alliance for Progress in Southern Virginia, a group of businesses, farmers and community leaders who oppose uranium mining because they fear it would hurt economic development in the region.
The poll, conducted last summer by Virginia Commonwealth University, found that only “29 percent of the population thought that uranium mining would be a good idea,” Lester said.
The radio ad is sponsored primarily by Foundation Earth, a think tank and environmental advocacy group in Washington. Other sponsors include the Virginia Conservation Network, Roanoke River Basin Association and Virginia Interfaith Power & Light.
The press release from Foundation Earth said that since 2010, state and local government agencies have spent $3 million on studies regarding uranium mining.
“We had a couple of studies done for us, and we’ve looked at studies done by the National Academy of Sciences and others,” Lester said. His organization felt that uranium mining posed too much risk for the potential economic gain.
“We just said this is not a good idea,” Lester said.