Judge says Piñon Ridge plan threatens environment; company not giving up
By: Jim Mimiaga, The Journal
April 27, 2018
Colorado has revoked a radioactive materials license for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill near the Dolores River after a court ruling recommended that it be denied.
But the company planning the project said it will continue to pursue the mill.
The decision to pull the license came after a five-year legal challenge from environmental groups including the Sheep Mountain Alliance, Rocky Mountain Wild, and Center for Biologic Diversity. The groups have long opposed a plan hatched in 2009 by Energy Fuels Inc., of Toronto, Canada, to build a uranium mill on 880 acres in Paradox Valley west of Nucla in Montrose County.
They filed a legal challenge against a key radioactive materials license for the project that was granted in 2013 by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
Energy Fuels has since sold the assets of the mill project, including the radioactive license, a company spokesman said Friday. Documents show the license was being held by Piñon Ridge Resources Corp.
On April 17, District Court Judge Richard W. Dana recommended that the proposed mill’s radioactive license be revoked after concluding that Energy Fuels failed to demonstrate adequate environmental protections, including prevention of wind-dispersed radioactive materials, contamination of groundwater and protection of plants and wildlife. The ruling also questioned whether there was adequate water to operate the mill and tailings ponds.
Two days later, in an April 26 letter, the Colorado Department of Health informed Piñon Ridge CEO George Glasier that its radioactive materials license has been revoked.
“Although the Department believes the original decision on the license application was appropriate, the department has elected not to challenge Judge Dana’s decision. As such, this decision provides the Department with the rationale to revoke the license,” wrote Jennifer Opila, radiation program manager for the health department’s hazardous materials division.
Environmental groups applauded the decision.
“We were extremely concerned with the impacts that a new uranium mill would have on the delicate sagebrush ecosystem of the Paradox Valley and the impacts downstream to endangered Colorado River fish,” said Matt Sandler, staff attorney with Rocky Mountain Wild. “Those impacts were simply unacceptable, and we’re happy to know that corporations who want to revive the uranium industry in Colorado will be required to fully comply with the laws aimed at protecting the environment.”
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