OPINION: It is time to move on | PostIndependent.com

OPINION: It is time to move on

Claudette Konola
Free Press Opinion Columnist

It has been years since a new uranium mill was first proposed for the Paradox Valley. Since 2007, people have been crossing their fingers that Energy Fuels will build a mill and jobs will be created. That isn’t going to happen.

CDPHE, the Colorado agency charged with protecting the health and environment, approved a license in 2011. The approval was challenged because it did not consider the environmental and financial impacts of the mill, including its proposed usage of precious water. Despite record rains that have caused horrible damage to Colorado families and environment, western Colorado is high desert, where water is still something that causes cities, counties, farmers and industry to fight. The water in Paradox Valley is no exception. Uranium mills need a lot of water.

June of 2012 found a judge ruling in favor of the challenge. CDPHE was ordered to take another look at the application, and to hold public hearings. Hearings were held. The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce sent people to testify in support of the mill, citing jobs, jobs, jobs. Environmentalists testified about the science of processing mill tailings.

An administrative judge ruled. That ruling was also challenged because of inadequate attention paid to the violation of conditions imposed in the original approval, a flawed environmental analysis, and federal laws concerning mill licensing. Last week a judge ruled again — back to the drawing board on licensing.

In the meanwhile, Energy Fuels publicly stated that at the current price of uranium, there is not enough financial reward for them to make the investment required to build the mill. Nobody seems to be mentioning that the uranium in the Uravan Belt is of lesser quality. Uranium is selling at an all-time low, with purchasers preferring high-quality product. With lots of other fields that are much more promising, the economic reason to build the Piñon Ridge Mill disappears.

Something else nobody seems to notice is that Energy Fuels recently acquired a mill in Utah, prompting them to state, “With the recent acquisition … of the White Mesa Mill, the company no longer needs to construct in order to meet its planned production for the foreseeable future.”

Hillary Cooper, executive director of the Sheep Mountain Alliance and the driving force behind the environmentalists, had this to say, “We are very pleased with this decision and are confident that we will prevail with our legal case. Even more crucial to many of us involved with this issue over the years is that the communities who find themselves dependent on false promises from the uranium industry and who are facing a legacy of immense economic and environmental destruction, find alternative economic opportunities to move on and create a less toxic more resilient future. We would much rather focus our energy on bringing funding into the region to clean up the toxic legacy of uranium than on challenging the permit for a mill that will never be built.”

Even the San Miguel County commissioners seem to be thinking that it is time to move on. This proposed mill is not going to be built. Jobs are not going to be created. It is time to stop believing the stories told by the company and start planning a different future. Let’s start looking for ways to develop a beautiful part of Colorado in ways that provide financial benefit to the people who have crossed their fingers for so many years.

While we are at it, let’s stop catering to another foreign company who has no vision for Colorado other than to rape, pillage and plunder. Most people probably don’t know that the single largest shareholder of Energy Fuels is Korea Electric Power Co. Isn’t Korea in a pretty unstable part of the world? That isn’t where I’d look for economic development.

When the hearings were held in Naturita, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce shilled for a company that has no plans to actually build a mill. Clearly, the chamber would throw citizens under the bus if it meant a few bucks for them and foreign companies like Energy Fuels or Fram. Shouldn’t they start supporting local companies who are busy moving on to a cleaner energy future?

Speaking of moving on, Claudette Konola is moving on. This is her last Free Press column, but you’ll be hearing from her. She can be reached at ckonola@optimum.net.

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