Plans to lift Va. uranium ban stalled

RICHMOND — A pair of proposals that would lift the moratorium on uranium mining permits have stalled in the General Assembly, jeopardizing the prospect for a vote on the matter this session.

The House measure, which was assigned to the Commerce and Labor Committee on Jan. 18, has not yet been placed on the agenda. Del. Jackson H. Miller (R-Manassas) said Monday there is still time, but acknowledged lawmakers are focused on other priorities this year, including transportation, education and, unexpectedly, redistricting.

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“This may be one of those things that may take many years to get passed,” Miller said. “We’ll see what happens in the Senate.”

In the Senate, the bill was assigned to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. Sen John C. Watkins (R-Powhatan), the bill’s sponsor, said he was “confused” by the assignment.

When asked about the legislation’s chances for survival in the remainder of the 45-day session, Watkins responded, “I’m not sure.” The bill could be on the agenda Thursday — giving lawmakers less than a week to take a vote in their respective chambers.

Meanwhile, dozens of people opposed to lifting the ban came to the Capitol on Monday to lobby legislators.

The proposed legislation would lift the moratorium for permitting only for the site at Coles Hill in south central Virginia that is owned by Virginia Uranium. Sitting on the site is a 119-million pound uranium ore deposit valued at about $7 billion.

Supporters say the mineral can be mined safely and would bring jobs and economic development to a depressed region of the state. Critics are worried that uranium mining poses significant environmental and health risks to the surrounding community and could stigmatize the area against residential and commercial development.

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