Piñon Ridge License Back in the Hands of CDPHE
by Gus Jarvis
Jan 17, 2013 | 1248 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

MONTROSE COUNTY – Both proponents and opponents of the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill are lauding Judge Richard Dana’s ruling on Monday to send Energy Fuels, Inc.’s application for a radioactive materials license to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for a final decision.

Dana, the appointed hearing officer who presided over the administrative hearing last November in Nucla, made no recommendation on whether the state should grant the license or not. He concluded that the new hearing satisfied the requirements of Colorado law and that officials at the CDPHE must consider any new evidence that was presented at the hearing when they make their final license decision by April 27.

The ruling, or lack thereof, sends the licensing decision back to the CDPHE, which initially granted the Canadian mining company a radioactive materials license for the mill in 2011, before a Denver judge ruled that the first hearing process had been inadequate.

From Energy Fuels’ point of vieiw, Dana’s ruling on Monday was a step in the right direction.

“We think the judge did what he was supposed to do,” Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore told The Watch. “He presided over an intermediate step in the licensing process and at that hearing there was additional testimony taken. We got another 50-plus hours of testimony taken and from our perspective, nothing new came out of that that wasn’t already on the record.”

Because Dana did not recommend approval of the uranium mill in his ruling, the environmental organization opposing the mill, Sheep Mountain Alliance, believe his ruling came out in their favor.

“We are still reviewing the decision, but Judge Dana's order today is clear: There was no recommendation for its approval,” said Hilary White, executive director of the Sheep Mountain Alliance. “Instead, regulators must now consider expert evidence we gave them two years ago but which they failed to analyze or even consider. Once state regulators consider the evidence – which clearly demonstrates the mill’s negative impacts to the area’s air, water and sustainable economies – we believe there will be no decision for them other than to deny the license for the mill.”

According to Sheep Mountain Alliance, expert evidence presented at the hearings revealed significant omissions and deficiencies in plans submitted by Energy Fuels. The expert testimony also criticized Colorado radiation regulators’ analyses of the Canadian company’s plans to protect water in the Paradox Valley. In addition, according to Sheep Mountain Alliance, Colorado’s chief radiation regulator also admitted during the hearings that he “would like to be able to send” toxic wastes to the Piñon Ridge Mill, and that Colorado doesn't have the resources to supervise uranium mills or to thoroughly consider the application for the mill.

Energy Fuels Moore remains confident that much of what was presented at the hearing in Nucla was nothing new.

“From our perspective, Sheep Mountain Alliance didn’t turn over anything new. They offered up the same experts and the same reports that were already on the record,” Moore said. “Right now we are going to wait on the CDPHE. They have until April to make a decision.”

At the hearing, and during cross examination of witnesses employed by CDPHE, Dana said it became apparent that each employee of CDPHE who was a part of the initial license review may have “retained” individual files to that review process and that those files may not have been initially placed in the public record.

Dana said discovery of those files was conducted in a post-hearing procedure in the office of CDPHE on Nov. 27, 2012. Sheep Mountain Alliance complains that those five documents were not earlier produced in response to the general and broad requests for production of documents earlier addressed to CDPHE.

In that complaint, Dana ruled that there was no effort before the initial hearing to conduct depositions of those CDPHE employees and no reason to conclude that the existence of those individual files would not have been disclosed in any formal or informal discovery process. The documents are now a part of the record.

“The record does not support a conclusion that CDPHE failed to respond to reasonable discovery requests, and sanctions for discovery violations or reopening the hearing are not appropriate,” Dana stated in his ruling.

According to Sheep Mountain Alliance, Dana’s decision may be appealed to CDPHE Executive Director Chris Urbina, with the results presented to CDPHE staffer Jennifer Opila for a final agency licensing decision due by late April.


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