Appeals Court Upholds Uranium Mill Special Use Permit
by Gus Jarvis
Dec 15, 2011 | 4790 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTROSE COUNTY – In a ruling announced on Dec. 8, the Colorado Court of Appeals denied a legal challenge by Sheep Mountain Alliance and upheld the Montrose County Special Use Permit for the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill planned for the Paradox Valley.

The ruling affirms a March 3 Colorado District Court decision to deny Sheep Mountain’s legal challenge, which sought to overturn the Montrose Board of County Commissioners’ decision to issue the Special Use Permit.

“Energy Fuels is extremely pleased with today’s decision,” Energy Fuels President and CEO Stephen Antony said in a statement issued to The Watch. “This is another major step forward for the Piñon Ridge Mill and Energy Fuels. The Appellate Court’s well-reasoned decision verifies the quality of our project and the thoroughness of the regulatory review process.”

Sheep Mountain Alliance now has 45 days to request a rehearing on the case, or it can choose to petition the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case. Sheep Mountain’s Project Coordinator Jennifer Thurston said the organization hasn’t made any decisions on whether or not it will request a rehearing, and that while the decision was disappointing, some good came out of the legal challenge.

“When [Montrose] county issued that permit, it specifies 18 different conditions and some of those were advocated by us,” Thurston said. “The one bright spot in this ruling is that it reaffirms all of those conditions that were issued on the permit.”

For example, one of the conditions puts a 500-ton per day production limit on the mill. Another condition restricts the mill from accepting an alternate waste feed that could turn the mill into a nuclear waste dump. Thurston cited a third “hugely important” restriction, which requires Energy Fuels to construct the mill in seven years from the time the Special Use Permit was issued.

“If the mill isn’t built in seven years, the permit gets pulled,” she said. “Even though we lost this case, the decision reaffirms the conditions of the permit and it makes them stronger for the future. It makes it harder for them to come back and change any of them.”

Sheep Mountain has also challenged the Radioactive Materials License for the mill issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That challenge is being heard by the Colorado District Court in Denver.

“This piece of litigation is much more significant,” Thurston said. “Our campaign against the mill goes on in other ways.”

Energy Fuels’ Antony remains optimistic the other legal challenges will end in favor of the mill.

“Two State Courts have now upheld the Piñon Ridge Mill decision,” he said. “We remain optimistic that the Colorado District Court in Denver will also uphold the Radioactive Materials License for the Piñon Ridge Mill, which will allow Energy Fuels to move forward toward construction of this important project.”

If built, the mill will be the first uranium mill constructed in the U.S. in over 30 years.
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