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Environment Colorado

Bennet, Markey commended for asking EPA to involve public on in-situ uranium oversight

Denver – Citizens and advocates cheered U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey for supporting public involvement on any new federal regulation of Powertech’s proposed uranium mining operations in Northern Colorado.

In a letter released today, the legislators asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to “safeguard the quality of our water and to involve the public in any rulemaking.”

“Thank goodness Bennet and Markey are standing-up for our water and our communities,” said Dr. Cory Carroll. “The EPA has a duty to include the public on important public health decisions.” Dr. Carroll is past president of the Larimer County Medical Society and a practicing family physician in Fort Collins.

In Region 8, which includes Colorado, the EPA has direct oversight over the injection of chemicals used to leach out minerals such as uranium. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, an operator is required to seek an “aquifer exemption” for the deliberate contamination of groundwater.

To date, the EPA has failed to consult with the public and communities and to engage in a public rulemaking on its regulatory program.

“The risks of the Powertech uranium mine are too great to leave citizens, physicians, and public health experts out of the decision-making process,” said Dr. Carroll. “This is a complicated process that needs transparency and must be conducted openly with the community.”

The Larimer County Medical Society passed a resolution opposing mining operations close to major population centers. The Powertech in-situ uranium mine proposal, just 15 miles northeast of Fort Collins, would be the first such project in the nation and is opposed by several towns and cities including Greeley, Nunn, Wellington, Ault, Timnath, and Fort Collins.

The EPA may only issue a permit if the proposed mining area does not affect drinking water, though groundwater used for domestic and agricultural uses may be temporarily contaminated under Colorado and federal law.

Jay Davis of Mustang Hollow Ranch, just outside the proposed mine site, worries that the Powertech proposal could harm his holistic horsekeeping facility and the community. “People come to our ranch to get an appreciation for the nature in the short grass prairie,” said Davis. “What will happen when word gets around that our water is polluted with uranium?The EPA needs to ask the community what it thinks before giving Powertech a green light to pollute our water.”

Davis is also a member of Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction, one of several citizen and advocacy groups that praised the Bennet-Markey letter. Western Mining Action Project, Environment Colorado, and Clean Water Action also praised the letter. All four groups are calling on the EPA to immediately begin a public rulemaking regarding regulation of in-situ uranium mining under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“We commend the leadership of Sen. Bennet and Rep. Markey and their work to protect our communities,” said Matt Garrington, advocate of Environment Colorado and spokesman for the groups. “The EPA should respond respectfully by ensuring the public have a voice over the future of our water.”