Telluride and San Miguel County settle lawsuit over the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill

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Update: From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The settlement includes provisions that town and county officials say address their utmost concerns about the mill’s potential impacts to air and water quality and the health of the region’s denizens. It sets out rules that Energy Fuels — the Canadian company proposing to build and operate the mill — would have to follow regarding trucking its ore, allows the town and county inspection rights of Energy Fuels’ facilities and will clear the way for a water monitoring system that gives the local governments the power to force Energy Fuels into corrective actions if findings dictate so.

“At least for the issues that were the most central to our concerns, which were water and air quality in eastern San Miguel County, we feel that we have addressed those concerns,” said Telluride Town Attorney Kevin Geiger. “We’re prepared to move out of the way and let the process proceed.”

The Telluride Town Council formally approved the signing of the agreement this week; the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners has authorized the signing, and plans to formally ratify it at its meeting on Wednesday.

Both the town and county are maintaining their party status in the upcoming court-ordered hearings over Piñon Ridge in Nucla, though officials say they don’t anticipate participating in a formal role.

Update: From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

a judge has given three conservation groups formal standing for the hearings, which means that environmental advocates will be able to introduce evidence, testify and cross-examine witnesses.
The Piñon Ridge mill is proposed for the Paradox Valley, in southwestern Colorado near the Dolores River. The three groups — Rocky Mountain Wild, Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity — will join the towns of Telluride, Ophir, and San Miguel County in voicing concerns about the proposed mill’s threats to air, water, wildlife and tourism…

The upcoming proceedings will give towns, counties, scientists, conservation groups and the public a chance to challenge the application and make sure that all public health, safety and environmental concerns are addressed.

Based on the promise of jobs, there is some support for the mill among residents of some of the hardscrabble towns in the region, but conservation groups and tourism-dependent communities are dead-set against the mill.

Along with health and environmental concerns, there are fundamental question about the economics of uranium mining, as the mill proposal is seen as a speculative play based on as-yet undeveloped uranium resources.
The battle over the mill is symbolic of the larger struggle in the region, as energy companies look to make every play they can, while conservation advocates strive to protect pristine lands.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The company planning to build a uranium mill near Naturita settled with Telluride and San Miguel County in a lawsuit aimed at halting construction of the mill.

“This gets us part of the way there,” Curtis Moore, spokesman for Energy Fuels, said of the agreement, which removes two of four plaintiffs in the case brought originally by the Sheep Mountain Alliance. The alliance is not involved in the settlement.

The agreement with Telluride and San Miguel County requires Energy Fuels to take several actions once the mill is built, ones that Moore said are intended to reassure residents of San Miguel County that they won’t be affected by the mill.

Among the issues included in the settlement:

■ Energy Fuels will participate in a monitoring program for the watershed above Telluride;

■ New standards and restrictions will be placed on trucks passing through San Miguel County, including requirements that trucks have the company name and are numbered so that authorities can be contacted if spills occur;

■ Town and county officials will be allowed to inspect the mill and mines that feed it so any spills can be traced;

■ Bonds will be increased from about $12 million to $15 million.

“This will give people the peace of mind that our studies and our plans will indeed not affect the watersheds,” Moore said.

The Telluride Town Council has approved the settlement and the San Miguel County Commission will vote on it next week…

The settlement doesn’t affect an administrative hearing set to begin next week in Nucla, in which an administrative-law judge will consider whether to reinstate the radioactive-materials-handling license issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. A Denver District judge revoked the license this summer and ordered the administrative hearing.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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