Thursday, December 8, 2011

Surprise: Study from Energy Industry-Packed Commission Presented as Pro-Uranium Mining

As the Virginia General Assembly considers a mining company's request to lift the state's longtime moratorium on digging up radioactive uranium, a new study is making some big claims about economic impacts. But considering the commission that requested the study, should we be surprised the study puts questionable jobs claims first and buries ominous warnings further down?

The report was produced by Chmura Economics & Analytics for the Virginia Coal & Energy Commission. As Bacon's Rebellion blogger Peter Galuszka first pointed out, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is so terrified of the possibility of any dissent on the Coal & Energy Commission, he didn't appoint a single representative from conservation groups or from activist groups in Virginia's Southside, where the proposed uranium mining would take place.

Stacking the deck doesn't even begin to describe McDonnell's appointees:
  • Barbara Altizer, president & executive director of the Eastern Coal Council
  • Jodi Gidley, president of Virginia Natural Gas
  • Ken Hutcheson, former GOP strategist and president of Virginia Alternative and Renewable Energy Association, whose main mission seems to be to help Gov. McDonnell and the Virginia Petroleum Council greenwash
  • James K. Martin, senior vice president for Dominion Power
  • John Matney, president of the Harbor Company & president of the coal mining Stearns Company
  • Donald L. Ratliff, vice president for coal mining Alpha Natural Resources, LLC
  • Rhonnie Smith, retired from nuclear reactor maker B&W
When reporting to a commission like that, it's no wonder Chmura made sure to highlight the positives and downplay the potentially disastrous negatives:
  • “[T]he risks and rewards are not balanced, and the adverse economic impact under the worst-case scenario is nearly twice as great as the corresponding positive impact in our best-case scenario.” (page 7)
  • "[T]he historic track record of the uranium industry—largely forged in the unregulated period of the 1950s and 1960s—is poor with an established legacy of water, soil, and air contamination, which has elevated the health risks for the surrounding communities.” (p. 17)
  • "Even under the best of circumstances, Chmura judges some adverse health effects and environmental contamination is likely.” (p. 83)
Up next is a National Academy of Sciences recap of existing science surrounding uranium mining. Among the questions still unanswered: What do we know about the risk to drinking water in case of a natural disaster? Would already-underfunded Virginia agencies be able to sufficiently protect the public? What do we know about the quality of the uranium and how that could affect demand for it in an uncertain market?

Learn more about why eliminating the uranium mining moratorium would be such a bad deal for Virginia at KeepTheBan.org
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