Energy policy — nuclear: Powertech’s project vs. state water quality standards

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

…in a move uranium-mine opponents fear might prove Powertech is trying to skirt around clean-water standards, the company Wednesday asked state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, or DRMS, officials to allow it to change original water-quality information for the mine site while uranium is being mined…

Before mining begins, the law requires Powertech to collect “baseline” water quality data, or information on the state of the water before it is contaminated by mining, then restore the water to that same quality after mining ends. In comments sent to the state Aug. 12, Powertech officials wrote it should be able to revise its baseline water quality data during the mining process “if new water-quality information comes to light” as an effect of mining. Powertech President Richard Clement said Thursday geology varies in a mining area, and it might be necessary to present the state with new information about the original water quality at the mine that could change the company’s groundwater restoration plan.

“Powertech is still making arguments to undermine groundwater quality protections,” said Matt Garrington of Environment Colorado. “They asked the Mining Division yesterday to be able to move the standard for groundwater during the mining project. They’re still making that argument in this process, and it’s crazy.”

“I’m not sure of their intent in the long term,” said Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Office Director David Berry. “Our intent would be information can no longer be baseline if it’s disturbed by an operation. We’re pretty steadfast in that.”

A day after making its argument, Powertech reversed its opinion. “It was made very clear by the DRMS that they determined that the issue has been established, so we have no further objection,” Clement said Thursday.

Powertech also quibbled with the state’s definition of the surface and groundwater the company might affect with its uranium mining. The rule the state is writing says potentially affected surface and groundwater includes the water found on the land at the mining site and “in surrounding areas.” In its comments to the state, Powertech called that definition “amorphous.”

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