Energy policy — nuclear: The Sheep Mountain Alliance files lawsuit over the licensing procedure for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium/vanadium mill

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The lawsuit argues that Colorado regulators violated federal and state laws and ignored dangers to western Colorado’s clean air and water when they issued the permit.

“Sheep Mountain Alliance exhausted all remedies before we decided to file this lawsuit,” said Linda Miller, a member of Sheep Mountain Alliance’s board of directors, in a release. “We participated in the approval process but our concerns were not addressed. We’re disappointed that the state did not issue a decision that would have protected the public interest and we must now rely on the district court to uphold the law.”

The license permits Energy Fuels to construct a uranium/vanadium mill roughly 12 miles west of Naturita in Paradox Valley — a lonely valley of redrock walls where the Dolores River flows. The mill, which would be situated on roughly 17 acres of land, could process up to 500 tons of material per day. As planned, the facility would run 24 hours a day, almost every day of the year, with up to 85 employees, Energy Fuels has said.

Gary Steele, senior vice president of corporate marketing at Energy Fuels, said the company has not had a chance to fully review the lawsuit. “We’re reviewing it, and we’re highly confident that the record we’ve built over the last many months will see us through any challenges that come at us,” he said on Tuesday…

The complaint against the CDPHE alleges a spate of violations in the state agency’s decision, and seeks revocation of the license. Among its allegations:

• That the CDPHE violated state statutes meant to protect Colorado residents from carrying the financial burdens of cleaning up uranium mills by only requiring Energy Fuels to provide $11 million to cover future cleanup and decommissioning costs.

• That state regulators didn’t follow the provisions of the Colorado Radiation Control Act when they issued the license.

• That in not allowing the public or members of SMA to ask the CDPHE or Energy Fuels technical questions about the project, regulators violated the federal Atomic Energy Act.

• That despite the recently passed Uranium Processing Accountability Act, which prohibits the licensing of a uranium mill where groundwater has been shown to exceed state standards, regulators ignored data that revealed groundwater samples taken at the Piñon Ridge mill site exceeded allowable standards for both radioactive materials and heavy metals.

“If state regulators ignore basic federal and state law to permit this mill, how can we ever trust them to monitor the mill once it’s in production?” Miller said in the release.

More coverage from the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

The Sheep Mountain Alliance is heading back to court for Round 2 in its fight to stop a uranium mill from being built in the West End of Montrose County. Claiming Colorado regulators violated state and federal laws, the grassroots environmental group’s Feb. 4 suit seeks the invalidation of the radioactive materials license for Energy Fuels Resources’ Piñon Ridge Mill. The alliance further wants a finding that the state must reconsider the license and deny it.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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