CDPHE to Make Formal Decision on Mill’s License by April 27
WESTERN SLOPE – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment denied an appeal by environmental groups charging that last November’s public hearing regarding Energy Fuels’ radioactive materials license did not meet state standards.
The denial paves the way for the state agency to make a formal decision on the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium Mill radioactive materials license in April.
CDPHE Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer Chris Urbina upheld Judge Richard Dana’s Jan. 14 decision that the public hearing held in Nucla late last year met the requirements of the Colorado Administrative Procedure Act. Dana was the court-appointed officer presiding over the public hearing, which was held in Nucla.
“These decisions clear the way for the department’s final decision regarding the pending radioactive materials license application to be issued in April, 2013,” Urbina wrote in a letter on Feb. 28 announcing his decision.
The appeal was filed on Jan. 25 by four environmental groups, including Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, asking Urbina to deny Energy Fuels’ application for a radioactive materials license. While Urbina denied that appeal, he said the CDPHE will give “serious consideration” to the testimony provided in this latest hearing.
“We have listened, and will continue to listen, to diverse and comprehensive testimony from all interested parties regarding this application, from community members impacted by the potential licensing of the mill; from people who want jobs that would be created by a new mill; from environmentalists who want to know that public health and the environment will be protected; and from industry that wants us to develop natural resources,” Urbina wrote. “While there is a disagreement on the nature of this hearing process, there is no disagreement that it helped the State acquire additional information and perspectives useful to the department’s decision.”
While Sheep Mountain Alliance Director Hilary Cooper said she does not expect Urbina to overturn Dana’s decision, she said she is pleased that the state agency acknowledged that it is required to consider all of the evidence presented at the hearing – evidence, Cooper is confident, that will keep the CDPHE from issuing the pending radioactive materials license.
“In light of this damning evidence on the potential impacts of the Piñon Ridge Mill, and the lack of a thorough and independent review process by the State, we believe they have no other option than to deny the license after second more professionally conducted review process,” Cooper said.
A radioactive materials license to build the first uranium processing mill in the United States since 1980 was initially issued to Energy Fuels in March 2011. Following a lawsuit led by Sheep Mountain Alliance against the CDPHE, a Denver district judge in June 2012 ruled that the license was unlawful because a formal, adjudicatory hearing was not properly provided. But last November’s hearing, Urbina has now confirmed, provided that hearing.
“This is just one more step forward in the process, and we hope the State decides to reissue the license in April,” Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore said on Friday.
The CDPHE has until April 27 to issue a formal decision.