MONTROSE COUNTY – Denver District Court Judge John McMullen has ruled on that another public hearing is necessary for Energy Fuels, Inc. to acquire the radioactive materials license it needs to build the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in the Paradox Valley.
In his order issued Wednesday, McMullen stated the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s issuance of the radioactive license permit was unlawful because a formal, adjudicatory hearing was not properly provided. McMullen ordered the CDPHE to initiate a new public hearing process that provides an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. Until that process is concluded, Energy Fuels is prohibited from conducting any activities at the proposed mill location.
The new process must begin within 75 days of July 5, 2012.
“There is no longer a license to operate a uranium mill in the state of Colorado,” said Hilary White, executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance, which filed the lawsuit against CDPHE. “Throughout this lengthy review process, we have insisted that the state process should be conducted fairly and that we were denied our rights to a formal public hearing. The court has agreed with us that the review was deficient and unlawful. We look forward to a new review and to exercising our rights to challenge the deeply flawed environmental studies that supported the original license.”
The Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance filed the lawsuit against CDPHE in February 2011 after the license was issued to Energy Fuels. The towns of Telluride and Ophir joined the lawsuit as co-plaintiffs in October 2011.
“The CDPHE appeared to ignore its responsibilities under the law, denied the public its right to meaningfully participate in the public process, and the court’s decision makes this clear,” said Telluride Town Attorney Kevin Geiger. “We look forward now to fully participating in the public process.”
While McMullen ordered that another public hearing must take place, Energy Fuels representatives are still confident they will acquire the license from the CDPHE. Energy Fuels spokesperson Curtis Moore said there are 11 claims in the original complaint filed by Sheep Mountain Alliance and 10 of those claims were related to substantive environmental, health and safety arguments. Moore said McMullen rejected all of those claims but made a ruling on the one claim concerning the CDPHE’s approval process.
“He opened up a new public hearing process to try to fix the license,” Moore said. “We don’t have to start all over again. This is really to correct a minor procedural deficiency. Ultimately, we are really confident we will prevail. It will be a hearing on those substantive issues of the license which the judge already ruled in our favor.”
Energy Fuels President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Antony agreed.
“While the state is required to conduct a hearing which will further delay the project, we are generally pleased with the outcome of [Wednesday’s] decision,” Antony said in a statement released to The Watch.
“The decision by Judge McMullen rejected every one of plaintiff's claims suggesting that our license somehow failed to fully protect public health and the environment on the West Slope. Based on the court's decision, we are confident that after this procedural issue is resolved, the license will be reissued.”
A copy of the court ruling can be downloaded here: http://scr.bi/LmSk2R