Q: What is the purpose of the Uranium Working Group?
A: The Governor directed creation of the working group to allow state agency subject matter experts to work collaboratively to examine the variety of environmental, human health and worker safety issues raised by the possibility of uranium mining and milling in Virginia, including any risks identified by previous studies. The Group is charged with analyzing whether and how those issues might be addressed by regulation, should the General Assembly decide to lift the moratorium. The work is intended to permit the General Assembly to make a fully informed decision with regard to uranium mining in Virginia. It is not developing regulations that would be adopted if the General Assembly decides to lift the moratorium. If the General Assembly directs the agencies to promulgate appropriate regulations to govern uranium mining, that would be done with a separate process and would follow the Administrative Process Act and its public review and comment requirements.
The working group is not charged with developing a recommendation on whether or not to move forward with uranium mining in Virginia. It is an informational body that will look at issues raised by previous studies, as well as other issues that are relevant to the public health, environmental and worker safety, and any impact mining or milling may have on the regional economy. Their work will be provided to the General Assembly and the Governor to inform any future decision about the uranium moratorium.
Q: Who is serving on the Uranium Working Group and what are their qualifications?
A: The working group is composed of staff from the Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Health (VDH), and Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME). Participants will vary depending on the regulatory area implicated by a particular issue (e.g. water quality concerns would be examined by the staff of the agencies responsible for water quality regulation). The working group will be supported by consultants, engaged through a formal procurement process, who have expertise in the regulation and monitoring of uranium mining and milling specifically. One person at each of the three agencies will coordinate the work of their colleagues in completing the mission of the UWG: Rick Weeks (DEQ), Maureen Dempsey, and Cathie France (DMME).
Q: Who is funding the Uranium Working Group?
A: Most of the costs will be absorbed within the state agencies involved in the working group. To the extent that additional resources are needed, those funds will come from the Commonwealth. No private funds are supporting this work.
Q: Will the research conducted be made available on the Uranium Working Group web site?
A: The working group will make regular reports of its progress at meetings of the Uranium Subcommittee of the Coal and Energy Commission scheduled for that purpose. Those meetings will be open and provide opportunities for public comment. The work plan calls for 4 such meetings, in June, August, October and November 2012. Draft work product will be provided at those meetings, together with a summary of comments and concerns received from the public, and information about how the matters raised are or will be addressed by the Group’s work. The topics expected to be covered at each meeting are as follows:
Q: Will the public have the opportunity to provide comments and suggestions as the Uranium Working Group conducts the study?
A: Yes. In addition to inviting public comment at each of the four meetings described above, the Group has its own web portal where comments, concerns and questions can be posted 24/7. Letters are also welcome at the address provided below. The Working Group will post all of the input received for the public to review, and will determine how best to address the matters raised in their work. All of that information will be shared at its public meetings.
Q: How will comments, questions and information submitted be included in the UWG’s consideration?
A: The UWG will consider each comment and question submitted, and incorporate those suggestions into their work plan. The comments will be posted on the UWG website and a summary will be presented at each public meeting as part of its presentation of the work accomplished.
Q: Will this study include a site-specific assessment of Coles Hill?
A: A site-specific analysis of Coles Hill will be completed to ensure that the possible regulatory framework that will be developed would address all conditions that may be unique to this site.
Q: Will the study evaluate the possible impacts of uranium mining and milling on Virginia’s agricultural industry?
A: The working group will carefully consider whether there are risks to agriculture and whether such risks can be addressed by appropriate regulation.
Q: Why is the Working Group developing a conceptual statutory and regulatory framework and will that framework be put in place if the General Assembly lifts the moratorium?
A: It will not. If the General Assembly lifts the moratorium, it is expected they would direct a process for the adoption of regulations to govern the permitting of uranium mining activity. At the very least development and consideration of regulations pursuant to the Administrative Process Act process, which would require significant public input, would have to occur. The Working Group is simply using a regulatory construct as the most direct and useful way to analyze whether there are regulatory standards, practices and requirements to address the risks and concerns raised by uranium mining in Virginia.