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Conservation groups weigh in to preserve ban on uranium mining in Virginia

virginia-newThe Southern Environmental Law Center filed a brief yesterday on behalf of Roanoke River Basin Association and Dan River Basin Association that weighs in on an industry challenge to Virginia’s 33-year-old statutory ban on uranium mining.

Last August, Virginia Uranium, Inc. (VUI) sued the Commonwealth of Virginia with the unsubstantiated legal claim that a moratorium—on the books since1982—is all of a sudden unconstitutional.  The lawsuit represents a wholesale reversal of VUI’s earlier position, when the company’s CEO pledged that if the National Academy of Sciences “finds that uranium mining would entail unacceptable risks, we will not pursue lifting the moratorium…”

“VUI is misreading the Atomic Energy Act and trying to leverage it to commandeer states like Virginia and require them to authorize uranium mining,” said Will Cleveland, Staff Attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center. That is not the law.”

“We support the Commonwealth of Virginia and its lawful right to choose not to allow an activity, uranium mining, which extensive research has shown cannot be carried out safely in this watershed,” said Mike Pucci, President of the Roanoke River Basin Association.

“A vibrant Dan River is critical for promoting tourism, fishing, and recreation,” said Tiffany Haworth, Executive Director of Danville River Basin Association. “We are committed to working with the state to keep the uranium ban in place and protecting this local treasure for current and future generations.”

The conservation groups’ amicus brief supporting the state ban was filed in advance of this Friday’s hearing on the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and VUI’s cross motion for summary judgment.  On October 19, 2015, the Court issued an order denying the river groups’ motion to intervene, but granted them leave to file an amicus brief and leave to renew their motion to intervene should circumstances warrant it.