Energy policy — nuclear: Denver District Judge Brian Whitney rejects motions to dismiss the Sheep Mountain Alliance’s lawsuit over the proposed Piñon Ridge mill

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Denver District Judge Brian Whitney sided with the Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, which contends the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) may have violated various state and federal laws in issuing a permit for the mill. The lawsuit can now move forward. The state and the project developer, Toronto-based Energy Fuels, had argued that the court had no role in reviewing the radioactive materials license for the proposed mill or jurisdiction in the case.

“For too long, state radiation regulators and the uranium industry has had a cozy relationship that has caused long-term contamination to continue unabated here on the Western Slope and on the Front Range,” said Hilary White, executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance.

“That questionable relationship continues today as both Energy Fuels and the state try to argue Colorado residents have no seat at the table in trying to protect our clean air and water from uranium mining and milling. Thankfully, the court has rejected those arguments.”[…]

In his ruling on Wednesday, Whitney wrote that Sheep Mountain Alliance “members’ property interests, monetary interests, recreational interests, agricultural interests, and ecological interests are adversely affected by the issuance of the license” and that their “interests are those of an organization whose members are or will be injured, not an organization with mere interest in a problem.”

More coverage from Katie Klinsporn writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

In early February, SMA filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in the wake of the agency’s decision to grant a radioactive materials permit to Canadian company Energy Fuels. The suit argued that Colorado regulators violated state and federal laws when they issued the license, which allows Energy Fuels to move forward on plans to build and operate a uranium mill in the remote and beautiful Paradox Valley near the Utah border. The CDPHE and Energy Fuels both shot back, filing motions urging the court to dismiss SMA’s suit, alleging that the environmental organization lacks standing in the case…

The judge determined that Sheep Mountain Alliance has legal standing in the matter and has properly established that the property, monetary, recreational, agricultural, and ecological interests of its members are affected by the issuance of the license. “To dismiss at this juncture would deny [SMA] the opportunity to present the Court with their evidence concerning improper procedure for review and would prevent the Court the opportunity to fashion appropriate relief if [SMA’s] claims have merit,” the filing reads…

“It’s good that we’re going to get a review of the decision and the decision-making process by someone other than the folks who wrote the permit,” said Travis Stills, the Durango attorney representing SMA. “This [judicial review] will be the first outside look into whether or not they actually did what they said, which is to protect health, protect the water and protect the air.” Stills said one of the biggest takeaways from the ruling is that “there’s a lot of time and effort wasted by the state trying to tell its citizens that they have no business in reviewing its actions.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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