Bolling speaks out against uranium mining
Friday, December 14, 2012
Danville Register & Bee
Uranium mining opponents gained a useful ally Friday.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling visited Danville and publicly declared his opposition to lifting Virginia's uranium mining moratorium.
"After considering all the information that has come before me, I have decided and today I am announcing my opposition to any legislative proposals to lift the current ban on uranium mining in Virginia," said Bolling to a room of applause at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.
Bolling's opinion is significant as the state's Chief Jobs Creation Officer and as lieutenant governor he casts a tie-breaking vote in the Virginia Senate.
Behind Bolling stood several local elected officials and community leaders, including Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville, and Delegate Don Merricks, R-Pittsyvlania County.
Bolling called uranium mining a "tough issue" with compelling arguments from both sides, which he said he listened to extensively. He said he came to this decision because of three primary concerns - the effects a mine would have on economic development, the unanswered environmental impact on the region, and the negative response he received about mining from people he talked to in Southside.
He said he was concerned the uranium mine, which could provide hundreds of new jobs to the region, could actually be a hindrance to economic development in the region. Many business leaders he spoke with believe lifting the ban would make it harder for their business to grow and bringing more business to the area.
"You can't just consider the potential short-term benefits of a uranium mining operation," said Bolling. "We also have to consider the potential long-term ramifications of business climate and economic development efforts."
He also was concerned with the questionable environmental impact a mine could have on the region if something were to go wrong. After reading the reports, especially from the National Academy of Sciences, he said it was still hard to quantify the risks of something going wrong - and even if the chance of a mishap is small, it could be "catastrophic, not just for this region, but for many other regions throughout our state."
Bolling referred to himself as a "pro-business guy" and he did not take the decision lightly, especially after his many visits to Southside - where he has often been the face for the McDonnell administration - to bring more jobs to an area in desperate need of them.
However, he said he was persuaded by many of the people he talked to when he would visit the area. None of the local legislators were supportive of lifting the ban. And Bolling cited the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce's decision Tuesday to oppose lifting the ban - which he called an "unusual" stance for an organization like the chamber - as an example of business leaders not wanting uranium mining in the region.
"At the end of the day, if the business leaders and the community leaders of Southern Virginia don't support lifting the ban then I don't think a bunch of politicians in Richmond should vote to remove the ban against the wishes of the people from the region impacted most positively or negatively by the proposal," Bolling said.
Bolling wanted to stress that his position is not the position of Gov. Bob McDonnell or his administration. He said the governor is still reviewing the information and may or may not choose to take a side.
Merricks said Bolling's decision was "refreshing" to hear since it was a "balanced, rational and reasonable" approach to the controversial and complicated issue.
However, Patrick Wales, a geologist and spokesman for Virginia Uranium Inc., said in an email for the past five years Bolling has "repeatedly refused" invitations to tour Coles Hill, where the mining would take place and the company's attempts over the past year to brief him on the different aspects of the mining project.
"We took Lt. Gov. Bolling at his word, when he claimed to support the expansion of Virginia's nuclear power sector and an 'all of the above' approach to energy policy," said Wales. "Unfortunately, by dismissing the Coles Hill project, the single largest energy resource in Virginia, Lt. Gov. Bolling is clearly pursuing a 'some of the above' energy policy that is the antithesis of free-enterprise and free-markets."
Bolling was running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2013 until recently when suspended his campaign. While he may run as an independent, Bolling laughed off questions about his political future and said Friday was just about uranium.
For additional information contact Ibbie Hedrick at 804-225-2487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.