MONTROSE COUNTY – The Telluride-based environmental group Sheep Mountain Alliance is continuing its fight against the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in the West End of Montrose County with yet another legal challenge to the mill’s recently reissued radioactive materials license.
Last week, Sheep Mountain Alliance filed the complaint against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, arguing that the neither the agency nor the hearing officer Judge Richard Dana addressed “substantial concerns” raised in last year’s public hearing in Nucla.
According to Sheep Mountain Alliance, extensive expert and public testimony was presented at the six-day public hearing held in November 2012, identifying problems with water, shallow hydrogeology, air pollution, tailings design, economic impacts, safety and environmental protections. These concerns, Sheep Mountain Alliance alleges, were not addressed by Dana or the state in their decision to reissue the license.
“The State of Colorado has once again blatantly ignored scientific and technical evidence that the Piñon Ridge Mill as proposed would endanger Colorado's clean air, clean water, public health and economy,” said Hilary Cooper, executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance. “Meanwhile Energy Fuels continues to pursue a license for a facility it has publicly stated that it does not have the funding or intent to develop.”
According to Cooper, an administrative hearing resulting in a definitive ruling by an independent law judge is a key component of modern nuclear fuel licensing. Sheep Mountain Alliance’s complaint asks the court to invalidate the license and require that modern licensing requirements are met before allowing the mill to be built. During the November 2012 hearing, according to SMA, Colorado’s chief regulator of radioactive materials said that the agency lacks the resources to carry out its regulatory functions over uranium milling tailings disposal.
“Currently, there are no Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations that require licensees to promptly remediate radiological cleanup,” said Travis Stills, an attorney with Energy & Conservation Law representing Sheep Mountain Alliance in the complaint.
“With its continued pursuit of the license for a facility it does not intend to build, Energy Fuels is deceiving the communities surrounding the Piñon Ridge Mill,” Cooper said. “We will continue to fight this application to ensure that the highest standards are met and that the clean air and water of the Dolores River Basin are protected from an industry with a legacy of contamination and expensive taxpayer cleanup liabilities.”
In response to the latest legal challenge, Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore said on Tuesday that the complaint is repetitive.
“We think Sheep Mountain Alliance is trying to re-litigate issues that have already been decided,” Moore said.
As for when Energy Fuels plants to begin construction on the uranium mill, Moore said in a previous interview that the company is waiting for uranium prices to strengthen before it does so.