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Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.

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Gov. McDonnell says keep uranium ban for now

Citing the need for more time and more study, Gov. Bob McDonnell says Virginia should do nothing this year to lift a ban on uranium mining.

In a news release, McDonnell said he wants  ”a comprehensive and on-site study of the issue to be completed by a newly-created multi-agency state workgroup.”

His announcement comes a day after a group of Southside lawmakers and business leaders — who live in the region where a uranium deposit is located — announced their concerns about moving forward with mining and their hope for more study and evaluation of the issue and the site in question.

McDonnell said he and staff have reviewed a National Academy of Sciences report on the issue that came out last month, and feel they need more detailed information on how uranium mining might impact Virginia.

“The NAS study was broadly helpful in providing a better understanding of the associated economic benefits, which are potentially significant, as well as the possible risks, which are potentially serious, associated with uranium mining in this geography and climate,” McDonnell said. “However, in order for an informed decision to be made by state lawmakers, we need more detailed information. Before we make any decisions about whether or not to proceed down the path to development, we must be certain that uranium mining can be conducted safely and responsibly. Public safety must be the primary factor in the ultimate determination as to whether to proceed with uranium mining.”

McDonnell said he has asked his secretaries of natural resources, commerce and trade, and health and human resources to put together a working group, with input from the health department, the environmental quality department, and the department of mines, minerals and energy.

That working group will be charged to “develop a draft regulatory framework for presentation to the Coal and Energy Commission next year.”

McDonnell also directed the working group to update the legislature’s uranium subcommittee at least three times over the next year, and allow public participation.

 

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