Sierra Club SD political chair Mark Winegar has been paying close attention to the EPA’s Black Hills hearings on the Azarga/Powertech uranium mining plan. Winegar forwards his thoughts, including testimony he submitted on Monday to the EPA:
I testified on May 8 at the EPA’s hearing in opposition to a proposal to allow a Chinese company to drill 8 bore holes in the Black Hills on behalf of the Sierra Club. The drilling would occur in Custer and Fall River Counties. I want to share my testimony with you along with some extra thoughts that have occurred to me since then.
“EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. We are here today to discuss allowing a foreign-owned corporation to mine for uranium and to drill eight bore holes.
“There are already over 15,000 abandoned uranium mines in 15 Western states. 75% of these are on federal and tribal lands. 10 million people live within 50 miles of an abandoned uranium mine. No existing federal law requires the cleanup of these hazardous waste sites. Most of these abandoned uranium mines where established under the general mining law of 1872 and remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
“The public health threat they pose grows greater the longer they are left abandoned. This threat to our health is invisible. It seeps into our water. It contaminates our livestock. It is carried in the wind for hundreds of miles and there is no dose of radiation that is harmless.
“Listen to these good people here today and work to clean up every abandoned uranium mine in the nation before considering a new one.”
I believe Judge Sutton and the EPA staff are sincerely concerned about sound environmental practices but they are part of a larger system controlled by corporations and billionaires and the politicians they support with large campaign donations. The appointment of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator makes the situation more problematic.
Let us hope for common sense in this decision but that seems to be a very rare commodity these days [Mark Winegar, e-mail to Dakota Free Press, 2017.05.10].
My casual Googling produces no clear signals on where Trump’s EPA chief Pruitt stands on uranium mining or nuclear power. In 2014, Pruitt co-authored an editorial griping about federal mandates to use more nuclear power. But we should expect an Administration obsessed with mining jobs to leap at the chance to authorize Azarga to put people to work mining uranium in the Black Hills.
Related: Azarga/Powertech consultant Mark Hollenbeck has said the Dewey-Burdock mining project would create 100 jobs. Azarga estimates those jobs at the Dewey-Burdock site would last for sixteen years. Azarga’s 2015 preliminary economic assessment says uranium production would take place for only twelve years (see p. 120).