Jeff E. Schapiro: McAuliffe looks to bury uranium issue

Richmond Times-Dispatch | November 13, 2013

[Full Article]

Terry McAuliffe is issuing his first veto — and he hasn’t been sworn in as governor yet.

In Norfolk on Monday, the Democrat declared he would reject legislation lifting Virginia’s three-decade ban on uranium mining. McAuliffe said he wouldn’t even allow the state to write safety regulations; specifically, for a proposed mine in Pittsylvania County, hundreds of miles upstream from Hampton Roads, which draws its water, via pipeline, from a lake near the mine site.

Given that McAuliffe has always been a skeptic on uranium mining, it should not come as a surprise that he is willing to use the full weight of the governorship to block it. What may come as a surprise is that, after running from his dealmaking past, he now seems willing to be seen as a dealmaker.

The environmental interests that supplied McAuliffe, directly and indirectly, with at least $10 million in cash and services expect something for their money and trouble. So do Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms and other anti-uranium Republicans in Hampton Roads who broke with their party to support McAuliffe over GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli, a mining proponent.

And then there are the voters: The cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Suffolk — all on record demanding the legislature preserve the prohibition on uranium mining — fell to McAuliffe in the election last week. He barely lost Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city and the loudest voice in the anti-uranium choir.

“I don’t support uranium mining,” McAuliffe told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk after a Veterans Day ceremony. “First and foremost as governor, my job is to make sure that our communities and our citizenry are safe. I’m not comfortable with the science to the point that I can say that with uranium mining, we would be safe. I’m afraid it would get into the drinking water.”

And so, the latest phase in the contentious, continuing debate over uranium mining may end before it begins, perhaps snuffing out the issue for the next four years — possibly longer, depending on the arc of the economy. Even if the industry cobbles the votes to get a bill to McAuliffe, it is unlikely it could summon the required two-thirds of the House and Senate to override a veto.

It’s no accident McAuliffe said what he said when he said it and where he said it.

McAuliffe’s victory is still fresh in people’s minds. It would not have been possible without a near-sweep of Hampton Roads cities. That relied, in part, on the backing of elective officials. Among them: Sessoms and another mining opponent, Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim.

As a candidate, McAuliffe had to hedge on uranium, if only a bit. Perceived flexibility on a sensitive issue can provide entree to a broad array of voters.

As McAuliffe told in October, “I believe that right now the environmental risks of uranium mining are much too high. … Generally I know that, when properly crafted, we can advance policies that protect our environment, grow our economy and keep electric rates low for Virginia.”

As a governor-elect, McAuliffe doesn’t have to equivocate. A firm stance on a sensitive issue is a way of reassuring his voter base.

That’s why McAuliffe told The Pilot that he would not allow the state to even develop regulations: “Why would we be wasting our time and resources drafting regulations if we’re not going to lift the moratorium?”

McAuliffe’s pronouncement could discourage the industry from renewing in January its push for the General Assembly to authorize regulations or lift the 1982 moratorium. But if the industry, fortified with $25 million from Canadian mining interests, isn’t pushing, does it run the risk of discouraging its investors? Like McAuliffe’s deep-pocketed backers, they expect something for their money and trouble.

McAuliffe’s hardened stance may have a more immediate effect.

This afternoon in Norfolk, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to hear presentations on uranium mining, pro and con. The business organization may finally take a position on a matter on which it has preferred studied silence. The chamber’s non-position, its unstated neutrality, had been a boon for pro-uranium forces. It meant they had one less battle to fight — and in a region with many people and even more economic power.

That economic clout is largely dependent on tourism and the military, both of which would be imperiled, uranium foes contend, if the Hampton Roads water supply were tainted by radioactive runoff, à la Fukushima. The industry says technological advances greatly minimize risks to the public. It’s a point made in writing: A billboard erected last month by Virginia Uranium Inc. on U.S. 29 welcomes visitors to Pittsylvania County — “future home of the safest uranium mine in the world.”

At the height of the gubernatorial campaign, another quieter campaign was unfolding. Lobbyists and experts for both sides in the uranium fight fanned across rural Southside and urban Hampton Roads, making their case — largely in anticipation of a potentially decisive vote by the Hampton Roads chamber.

But the group has been upstaged by McAuliffe and his veto threat. The guy who ran from his showman past suddenly — and on cue — reverted to form.

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McAuliffe says he’d veto bill to allow uranium mining

NORFOLK | Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe said Monday he would veto any legislation to facilitate uranium mining in Virginia.

The issue has resonance in Hampton Roads, which draws drinking water from Lake Gaston, downstream from a rich uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County. Mining interests have been trying for years to get a 31-year-old moratorium lifted so the ore can be mined.

Speaking with reporters after a Veterans Day event at Nauticus, McAuliffe said he would veto any bill to lift the moratorium or to establish a regulatory framework for mining.

“I don’t support uranium mining,” he said. “First and foremost as governor, my job is to make sure that our communities and our citizenry are safe. I’m not
comfortable with the science to the point that I can say that with uranium mining, we would be safe. I’m afraid it would get into the drinking water.”

Moreover, McAuliffe said, he sees no point in developing regulations for mining: “Why would we be wasting our time and resources drafting regulations if we’re not going to lift the moratorium?”

McAuliffe, a Democrat, takes office in January.

On another issue of local interest, the governor-elect said a top priority will be to negotiate lower tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.

The tolls, which were set in motion by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration, are set to take effect Feb. 1.

As the rates stand, they would cost a daily commuter about $1,000 a year.

“I have said consistently I do think the tolls are too high,” McAuliffe said. “We’re beginning to look at this through the transition. I want to get all the stakeholders around the table and figure out a win-win situation.”

He declined to specify a toll rate he would consider reasonable.

Revenue from the new tolls, imposed by a public-private partnership, will be used principally to expand the Midtown Tunnel from two to four lanes.

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Rift Widens Over Mining of Uranium in Virginia

New York Times | January 19, 2013

[Full Article]

CHATHAM, Va. — In a landscape of rolling pastures and grazing cattle, Stewart East stepped from his pickup truck with a Geiger counter. He pointed it at a puddle filled by recent rains, and the instrument erupted in scratchy feedback.

“This is the top of the deposit,” said Mr. East, an employee of a company that wants to mine one of the largest lodes of uranium in the United States, which happens to be found here in southern Virginia.

A fight over whether to drill beneath the oak hedgerows, an undertaking that would yield 1,000 jobs and a bounty of tax revenue in addition to nuclear fuel, has divided the region. The bitterness is reflected in competing lawn signs that read “No Uranium Mining” and, on the other side of the road, “Stop whining. Start mining.”

Now, after years of government reports and hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations that included a trip to France for state lawmakers, the issue has reached the crucible of Virginia’s General Assembly.

Bills introduced last week would lift a moratorium on uranium mining at the site here, known as Coles Hill. Political supporters say that the mining would bring economic benefits and that risks from radioactive wastes, or tailings, can be safely managed. Opponents fear the contamination of drinking water in case of an accident, and a stigma from uranium that would deter people and businesses from moving to the area.

The politics of the issue do not divide neatly along party lines. Opponents include most state lawmakers from the region, all of whom are Republicans. A prominent supporter is the minority leader of the State Senate, Richard L. Saslaw, a Democrat, who lives in the northern suburbs. Asked about buried uranium tailings that remain a risk for hundreds of years, Mr. Saslaw, who is known for unguarded statements, said in a radio interview, “I’m not going to be here.”

Many lawmakers in the Republican-controlled General Assembly seem to be looking to Gov. Bob McDonnell for guidance.

But Mr. McDonnell, also a Republican, pointedly indicated on Tuesday, when the last research report he requested arrived, that he might not take a position at all. The governor will review the findings “before deciding whether or not to take any recommendation on uranium mining,” said Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for Mr. McDonnell, who is thought to be considering a run for the presidency in 2016.

Proponents of extracting Virginia’s uranium, worth an estimated $7 billion, argue that national security demands more domestic mining, because 92 percent is imported. Mr. McDonnell used that same argument to push drilling for oil and gas off Virginia’s coast (now blocked by the Obama administration).

Supporters are disappointed and perplexed by Mr. McDonnell’s cautious stance so far, given that he once vowed to make Virginia “the energy capital of the East Coast.”

A spokesman denied that the governor was motivated by a political calculus over his national reputation. “He’s focused on public health and safety and smart public policy. That’s it,” said J. Tucker Martin, Mr. McDonnell’s communications director.

A National Academy of Sciences report in 2011 stopped the momentum in last year’s General Assembly for lifting the ban, imposed three decades earlier in the wake of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident. The report warned of “steep hurdles” to safe mining and “significant human health” dangers if a capped tailings pile leaks because of the state’s “frequent storms.”

After a follow-up report ordered by the governor, the Virginia Commission on Coal and Energy, a group of 13 legislators, voted to clear the way last month for lifting the ban in the legislature.

Patrick Wales, the project manager for Virginia Uranium, the mine developer, said he shared in the concerns for safety. “My son plays in these creeks,” Mr. Wales said. He said improvements in tailings storage have “largely eliminated” the environmental hazards associated with reckless uranium mining in the West through the 1970s.

To influence lawmakers, Virginia Uranium has poured more than $600,000 into campaign contributions and lobbying since 2008, according to public records. For the current 45-day legislative session in Richmond, it has retained 20 lobbyists.

The opposition, made up of a coalition of environmental groups, the Virginia Farm Bureau and cities downstream from the mine site, has also spent generously on lobbyists.

“By now, members are running and hiding” in the Capitol when they spot a lobbyist, a legislative aide said.

In 2010 and 2011, Virginia Uranium paid $122,000 total to fly about two dozen members of the General Assembly to France to visit a tailings storage site, which critics quickly labeled a junket. The sponsor of the Senate bill that would lift the uranium ban, John C. Watkins, was among those traveling.

“There is nothing in life that is 100 percent guaranteed,” Mr. Watkins said of the safety concerns of opponents, adding that he respected those concerns. His bill would direct the state to write regulations for mining, including protecting groundwater, a process that could take several years. “We are going to employ the best engineering, the best technology, the best science” to prevent contamination, he said.

In south-central Virginia, many officials have come out in opposition, most recently the Chamber of Commerce of Danville and Pittsylvania County, where Chatham is.

Delegate James E. Edmunds II, a Republican, said that in the event that radiation leaked into the groundwater, his district would be one of the first affected. “There’s no waiting for a big rain to clean it up,” he said. “I’m not going to have that as my legacy.”

The issue has turned many of the region’s elected Republicans, the party of “drill, baby, drill” and property rights, into mining opponents.

Officials described wrestling with their desire to bring jobs to an area facing high unemployment and whose tobacco and textile industries have collapsed. “It’s been very divisive, very difficult,” said Delegate Donald W. Merricks, who represents Chatham and opposes the mine.

In Chatham, a quaint town anchored by an 1853 courthouse with fat white columns, the nerves of many residents are so frayed that they would not say which side they were on for fear of angering neighbors.

But at Pat’s Place, a lunch counter on South Main Street, Jason Hicks, the 38-year-old owner, was not so shy. “I think it would be a good thing,” said Mr. Hicks, whose business has not fully recovered from the recession. “The county is starving for jobs. With that coming in, it would pick up the town a whole lot.”

Wanda Doss, 56, a clerical worker leaving Pat’s, said: “I’m afraid of cancer down the road and polluted water. You have a flood, and it’s going to get in the water system.”

Informal vote counters in the General Assembly said the House, where Republicans hold a supermajority, is inclined to say yes to mining. The State Senate, with Democrats and Republicans each holding 20 seats, is considered too close to call.

Even if Mr. McDonnell does not weigh in, his lieutenant governor, William T. Bolling, a Republican, may exert an influence; he casts the deciding vote in the event of a tie in the Senate. Thwarted by his party in his quest to become its nominee to replace Mr. McDonnell this year, Mr. Bolling has hinted that he might run as an independent.

He recently said he opposes uranium mining.

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Virginia Uranium suspends mining efforts in Pittsylvania County

RICHMOND – A company is suspending its campaign to mine one of the world’s largest known deposits of uranium ore in Virginia, concluding that Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s opposition presents a significant challenge over the next four years.

Virginia Uranium Inc. said it will not back the introduction of uranium mining legislation in the 2014 session of the General Assembly, which would be a first step to tap a 119-million-pound deposit of uranium in Pittsylvania County known as Coles Hill.

“The company is currently evaluating all its options going forward, including a substantial reduction of expenses on the Coles Hill project for the interim period,” VUI’s parent company Virginia Energy Resources Inc. wrote in financial statement and filed in late November, several weeks after McAuliffe’s election on Nov. 5.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, had said before his election he would not support lifting the state’s decades-long ban on uranium mining and affirmed that position after his election.

Patrick Wales, project manager for Virginia Uranium, issued a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday: “We are in this for the long haul and are committed to developing the Coles Hill project. We will continue evaluating all options to move the project forward.”

The company’s low-key announcement to temporarily abandon its bid to end the moratorium comes after it invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past several years in political contributions, lobbying and to fly delegations of Virginia lawmakers to France and Canada to tour uranium mining and processing facilities.

But the effort fell woefully short, and legislation in the 2013 session never got out of committee.

The company said Sen. John Watkins, a suburban Richmond Republican who had been its primary advocate in the Capitol, had planned to introduce legislation again in 2014.

“However, Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe’s public announcement that he intends to veto any pro-uranium legislation means that any such bill would fail to become law,” Virginia Energy wrote in its financial filing.

Full-scale uranium mining has never been conducted on the East Coast and opponents said Virginia would be a poor place to start, citing its wet climate and the fierce weather that often rakes the state. Most uranium mining is done in arid parts of the globe.

The Coles Hill project, they said, would be a threat to public drinking supplies and farmland that encircles the uranium deposit less than 10 miles from Chatham. The mining would also include a milling operation to separate the radioactive ore from the rock.

Critics said that posed one of the biggest threats to the environment because of radioactive waste that would have to be stored for generations. Communities as far away as Virginia Beach, which draws public drinking supplies from the region, had taken a stand against the mine. Virginia Beach is about 200 miles away.

Virginia Uranium said the waste would have been stored in underground containment units that would keep it sealed and secure, even during floods or powerful storms.

In its financial statement, the company acknowledged among the “primary risks” to ending the moratorium is “gaining the confidence of the local community that the mining and milling can be safely conducted to protect human health and the environment.”

The proposed mining had been the focus of a half dozen studies, none of which moved either side. A study by the National Academy of Sciences, completed in late 2011, was the most widely accepted.

While it did not make a recommendation on the ban, the authors said Virginia would have to overcome steep hurdles before allowing mining and milling of the ore to ensure the safety of workers, the public and the environment.

Mining supporters cited a section of the report that states “internationally accepted best practices” governing mining could be a starting point for Virginia.

When legislation to end the prohibition failed in 2013, legislative advocates encouraged Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell to use his powers to put regulations in place to help guide future debate on mining. With his four-year term coming to a close, McDonnell hasn’t acted on the suggestion.

In an interview with the AP in November, McDonnell indicated he was not willing to push the ball forward as he was leaving state government. He cited a state study that was presented to the General Assembly.

“We did a detailed study at the legislators’ request last year and engaged a lot of people and a lot of resources and presented that report to the General Assembly,” he said. “And they chose, even though I thought we gave them all the answers that they would have needed, they chose not to move forward on that.”

McDonnell had made energy development a cornerstone of his administration, including nuclear power.

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Proposed East Coast uranium mine dividing Va.

USA Today – January 26, 2013

[Full Article]

CHATHAM, Va. (AP) — The rolling fields of Coles Hill were once full of tobacco. Along with furniture and textiles, the leaf sustained farmers, blue collar workers and families in this area of Virginia known as Southside.

All three industries are in decline now, and the region typically leads the state in unemployment. But something beneath the fields — something you can’t see — could be Southside’s salvation.

Uranium — enough to power every nuclear power plant in the U.S. for 2 1/2 years — lies under these fields where dozens of black-and-white Angus-Hereford beef cattle were grazing on a gray, drizzly winter day.

Geologist Patrick M. Wales walked the field’s fence line with a Geiger counter to illustrate what hundreds of jobs sound like. He stooped to clear layers of wet leaves from a culvert, then cradled the detector in the middle of the trough he made. The instrument that had rhythmically clicked like a cicada seconds before now emitted a steady, piercing shriek.

The deposit runs deep, about 1,500 feet. “This is really one of the areas where it just happens to pop up to the surface,” Wales said.

The ore detected by the Geiger counter is the tip of an iceberg that is the largest known uranium deposit in the United States and among the largest in the world.

Now a company’s bid to mine the 119 million pounds of the radioactive ore has churned up the political landscape in Virginia. Virginia’s General Assembly is taking up the fiercely debated issue this session and it’s a coin flip whether it will clear the way for the state to become the first on the East Coast to mine uranium.

Most uranium mining in the U.S. has occurred in the arid West. Virginia is prone to tropical tempests — some of historic proportions — and opponents fear a catastrophic storm could create an environmental nightmare if the mining and processing of the ore was allowed. Drenching rains and winds could carry radioactive waste to local waters that are used for drinking supplies in the state’s largest city, Virginia Beach, and others in southeastern Virginia, they argue.

“We’re looking at an extraordinary high-stakes gamble and it’s not a gamble the state of Virginia should take,” said Cale Jaffe, a leading voice against mining and director of the Charlottesville office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

It’s not the mining that stirs the most concern, but the so-called milling — the separation of the ore from hard rock.

As rock and uranium are mined, they are crushed and then leached through a chemical process to extract the ore. Besides yellowcake, the fuel for nuclear power plants, the process creates huge amounts of waste called tailings. The tailings must be stored for up to 1,000 years. Virginia Uranium, the company seeking the right to mine, has committed to storing the waste in below-ground containment cells that it says would minimize the risk of the radioactive waste being released to local wells or public drinking sources.

Opponents have not been appeased.

They include the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest farm lobby and traditionally pro-business; the NAACP; church groups; municipal organizations; water-protection groups; and every environmental organization of note in the state.

Delegate Donald Merricks, a Republican whose district includes Pittsylvania County, says the creation of mining jobs got his interest but not his support.

It’s the milling that worries Merricks, and it’s a tough call as he ticks off the jobs and industries that have withered through the years. He’s quick to add, however, that he’s heard from people who have decided against locating in his district because of the fear of uranium mining.

For him, it comes down to this: “How do you define safe?”

“I know you cannot 100 percent guarantee anything to be safe, but I think you need to have some reasonable assurances that the process is not going to contaminate the environment,” he said. “Personally, I made the decision that I don’t think it’s worth the risk for the milling.”


The story of uranium in Virginia parallels the nation’s uneasy history with nuclear power.

The uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County was first detected in the 1950s but interest in mining it didn’t develop until nuclear power emerged as a source of clean energy in the 1970s. The accident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island, then the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, changed that. As uranium prices plummeted, interest in tapping the Southside Virginia deposit waned and the Legislature enacted a moratorium on mining the ore in the 1980s. It remains in place to this day.

The uranium is located in two locations on Coles Hill, a 3,500-acre property in Pittsylvania County, about 20 miles from the North Carolina border. Coles Hill derives its name from the family whose ties to this land dates back more than two centuries and six generations. Its members are now famously known for the company they captain, Virginia Uranium.

The company was created a half-dozen years ago when the nation appeared poised for a nuclear power renaissance. That hasn’t happened and an application to build a nuclear power plant hadn’t been submitted for 30 years until February 2012. The company notes that more than 90 percent of the nation’s 65 nuclear power plants get their fuel from foreign sources — Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan — and mining the Virginia deposit would strengthen the nation’s energy independence.

Virginia Uranium, which has ties to Canadian mining interests, has pushed hard to have the decades-old moratorium end so it can begin the long process of securing environmental reviews and getting permits in place. It estimates mining wouldn’t occur for another five to eight years.

The payoff is big: The company puts the value of the uranium at $7 billion. It would create about 300-350 high-paying jobs through the 35-year life of the mine and, according to some studies, pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy and add hundreds of other jobs related to the activity created by the mining.

But environmental issues are the sticking point.

The prospect of uranium mining in Virginia has spawned an avalanche of studies, none of which are definitive. A yearlong analysis by a National Academy of Sciences panel is considered the gold standard among all the others, and supporters and critics of mining draw generously from its final report to argue their competing points.

Yes, it concludes, mining and milling in the West in the past has resulted in arsenic and uranium in local water supplies, but modern mining practices have the potential to reduce those risks.

Modern containment cells are designed to keep the waste out of water, but monitoring of existing waste sites to assess long-term impacts has not been done over the generations that would be required in Virginia, the authors state.

Supporters of mining say popular images of nuclear power and the crises at Chernobyl and most recently Fukushima in Japan have created a climate of fear involving anything radioactive, including uranium.

“It’s that enduring image of the mushroom cloud,” said Andrea Jennetta, who publishes Fuel Cycle Weekly, which is aimed at uranium producers, buyers and government agencies. “People seem to be unable to separate that from any sort of peaceful or positive use.”

Still others say to reject mining is contrary to the American can-do spirit. Lillian Gillespie, the former mayor of Pittsylvania County’s largest town, Hurt, is of that school. She left her native state of West Virginia to pursue a higher paying job with a furniture manufacturer.

“We’ve sent men to the moon and brought them back,” she said. “I just believe we as a nation, as a state and a county can do something like this.”

Wales, the public face of Virginia Uranium and project manager for the company, is a native of nearby Danville and describes the issue as “personal and moral.” The Coles family, he notes, would continue to live on the property if mining was allowed.

“We drink the water. Our children play in these fields,” Wales said. “We have the highest stake as well in ensuring that this is done in an environmentally friendly way.”


Legislation has been submitted in the House of Delegates and the Senate to establish regulations for uranium mining, which would in effect end the 1982 moratorium and allow Virginia Uranium to move forward to tap the deposit.

While many expect a close vote, few are willingly to publicly venture a guess on the outcome. That’s because the issue defies party politics, geography and traditional alliances. Public sentiment provides little guidance to lawmakers; statewide polling shows residents divided down the middle.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016 and has made energy development a cornerstone of his administration, has yet to take a position or say whether he will. But his lieutenant governor, fellow Republican Bruce Bolling, has stated he’s opposed to mining. His position could be critical because he casts the deciding vote in the Senate when a tie vote occurs, and the Senate appears to be closely divided on uranium.

Ultimately, the decision could rest with the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, which would have to change Cole Hill’s agricultural zoning. Last Wednesday, the board voted 5-1 for a nonbinding resolution supporting the moratorium on uranium mining.

Virginia Uranium has made it clear it will be back in 2014 if its heavily financed lobbying effort this session falls short. “We’ve got a $7 billion project,” Wales said at a recent forum on uranium mining. “Do you really think we’re going to give up and walk away?”

The same holds true for the opponents, who have hinted at litigation if mining is approved. Opposition is also stirring in North Carolina, which has an interest in mutually shared water resources across the state lines.

“We do share the waterway and we live downstream from this issue,” said Mike Pucci, a former pharmaceutical executive who has a home on the shore of Lake Gaston. He said Virginia Uranium should be mindful of a future class action if mining moves ahead.

“This is not a threat. This is just reality,” he said.

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Thanks to the fracking boom, we’re wasting more money than ever on fossil fuel subsidies

Grist – July 14, 2014
[Full Article]

You probably know that the U.S. government subsidizes fossil fuel production. But here’s something you probably don’t know: Those subsidies have recently increased dramatically. According to a report released last week by Oil Change International, “Federal fossil fuel production and exploration subsidies in the United States have risen by 45 percent since President Obama took office in 2009, from $12.7 billion to a current total of $18.5 billion.” We are, as the report observes, “essentially rewarding companies for accelerating climate change.”

At first glance, this seems strange. Why would there be such a big increase under a Democratic president who has committed his administration to combatting climate change, and who has even repeatedly called for eliminating exactly these kinds of dirty energy subsidies?

The short answer: fracking. The fracking boom has led to a surge in oil and natural gas production in recent years: Oil production is up by 35 percent since 2009, and natural gas production is up by 18 percent. With more revenues, expenditures, and profits in the oil and gas industries, the value of the various tax deductions for the oil industry has soared. So, for example, the deduction for “intangible drilling costs” cost taxpayers $1.6 billion in 2009, and $3.5 billion in 2013.




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McAuliffe reconvenes climate panel, which includes Michael Mann

Richmond Times Dispatch – July 1, 2014

Gov. Terry McAuliffe created a state climate commission Tuesday, directing it to find ways to address global warming and effects such as rising seas and flooding streets.

The 35-member panel is made up of General Assembly members, scientists, environmentalists and industry representatives.

[Full Article]

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Landowners voicing concerns on proposed natural gas drilling

Bristol Herald Courier – May 9, 2014
[Full Article]

BRISTOL, Va. — Some landowners whose properties lie in the proposed natural gas drilling overlay zone in Washington County have banded together to voice their concerns over the practice and ask the county to slow down and look at potential effects.

“A lot of people don’t even realize this drilling is going to take place,” said Jimmy Hobbs, who lives in the zone, which is north of Bristol in an area designated for agriculture south of the North Fork of the Holston River, and includes much of Rich Valley Road. “Our concern is not about the money so much; it’s about saving our way of life.”

Hobbs and several others spoke to the Bristol Herald Courier’s editorial board Friday about their concerns. Some are members of the Washington County chapter of Virginia Organizing.

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Uranium mining is just too dangerous

Richmond Times Dispatch – March 29, 2014

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Virginia Uranium’s Walter Coles’ recent attack on the supporters of the ban on uranium mining and milling in Virginia is downright deceptive (Commentary column, “Uranium offers clean path to economic revival”).
He says “overwhelming scientific evidence” has proven its safety. The National Academy of Sciences’ study he cites actually concluded that there are serious obstacles to uranium extraction and processing in Virginia because of the state’s unique topography and climate and its dense population.

Coles says environmental groups are thwarting economic prosperity and entrepreneurialism. But towns, cities, chambers of commerce and economic development entities are among the strong opponents of lifting the ban. They are joined by small businesses, farmers, religious organizations, chapters of the NAACP and the Medical Society of Virginia.

To understand why, look no further than Southside, where Duke Energy’s coal ash spilled into the Dan River. And coal ash is nothing compared with uranium’s radioactive and toxic tailings and waste. Millions of Virginians depend on drinking water from the Kerr Reservoir and Lake Gaston downstream from Virginia Uranium Inc.’s dream mine. An accident or a spill would be a nightmare we cannot risk.

Blair Curcie. Montpelier.


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RTD Guest-columnist Walter Coles claims “Uranium offers clean path to economic revival.”

Richmond Times Dispatch – March 24, 2014
[Full Article]

Virginia Uranium Inc. has made encouraging progress in advancing the Coles Hill project in Pittsylvania County over the past seven years. Unfortunately, recent veto threats by Gov. Terry McAuliffe caused us to take a step back and not pursue legislation in 2014 as we had hoped.

While we are disappointed, we are not deterred. We will move forward, committed to finding common-ground solutions that focus on safety, environmental stewardship, private property rights and private-sector job creation.    [Full Article]

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