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|DOE URANIUM LEASING PROGRAM|
MARCH 8, 2013 - DOE PROGRAM ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT DRAFT RELEASED - After a court overturned the original "Finding of No Significant Impact" decision by the DOE on their Uranium Leasing Program in 2011, the agency just released the new 1200 page PEIS recommending continued leasing of the 27,000 acres of uranium claims in SW Colorado along the Dolores River.
DOE Informational Meetings: (all 6:30-9pm)
April 24 - Telluride High School Gymnasium, Telluride
April 25 - Naturita High School, Naturita
May 31 - COMMENTS DUE
We continue to analyze the PEIS as we prepare our comments. For our preliminary concerns please click on Read More below.
CLICK HERE for the PEIS & Summary
BACKGROUND: In 1948 The BLM "withdrew" uranium mining claims within the Uravan Mineral Belt in SW Colorado to "reserve the uranium resources for the US Government." The leases were transferred to the control of the Uranium Leasing Program (ULP) of the Dpt of Energy and were developed for the use of nuclear bombs during World War 1 and the ensuing Cold War era. In 1962 the leases expired and the sites were officially closed. Reclamation was not done at the time. In 1994, the DOE initiated a reclamation projects on all the lease sites. At that time lease sites were prioritized by the DOE and the "Legacy" claims were reconsidered for future development. In 2007 the DOE issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) for the extension of 13 leases and the expansion of the ULP to include 25 additional lease tracts for the uranium industry. Exploration and other surface disturbance activities were conducted on the several of the lease sites between 2007 and 2011.
In July 2008 SMA and 2 other conservation partners challenged the FONSI. In Oct 2011 the court rules that the DOE had violated NEPA and invalidated the program, stopping the DOE for issuing any additional leases or approving additional activity on the lease tracts already leased. The court order forced the DOE to go back and conduct a thorough Program Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to determine all impacts from the lease program.
In March 2013 the DOE release the Draft Uranium Lease Program Environmental Impact Statement and allowed the public 60 days to comment.
After our initial review of the document we offer the following comments.
Clean, renewable energy, and prompt clean-up of this federal uranium legacy provides the realistic and sensible future for western Colorado.
The US reserve uranium should be managed for future use in the US, not short term exploitation by foreign interests
· The DOE must investigate, disclose, and evaluate actual conditions at each of uranium mines and lease tracts.
DOE did not analyze an alternative that would reduce the number of leases.
The PEIS fails to adequately address climate change impacts.
The ULP claims fall within the Dolores River Corridor, one of the iconic tributaries of the Colorado River. Impacts to this landscape and the habitat it provides for hundreds of species and recreation opportunities were not sufficiently considered.
Demand that DOE reissue the PEIS for comment based on real information on the problems and opportunities related to reclamation and to avoid the problems caused by assumptions.
The DOE will host a series of Open Houses on the PEIS, including Telluride on April 24th at 6:30pm in the High School Gymnasium.
Ray Plieness, PEIS Manager
MORE BACKGROUND ON THE LEGAL CHALLENGES.
The lawsuit was originally filed by SMA and our conservation partners to stop the DOE’s implementation of a 10-year leasing program that was authorized without conducting a full environmental analysis of the impacts to the environment, water and air quality, wildlife and Western Slope communities. The DOE refused to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement and instead issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in 2007. That decision was overturned by the court ruling.
In August, as the final court ruling was still pending, the DOE announced that it would conduct a Programmatic EIS and held a series of public meetings in the Uravan Mineral Belt. Sheep Mountain Alliance and our conservation partners along with many individuals submitted extensive comments during the scoping process in early September.
The new PEIS provides an important opportunity for the public to take a role in determining the future of the region. The renewal of uranium mining from Gateway to Dove Creek threatens to deplete the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers, spread toxic and radioactive contamination, and will have widespread impacts on our environment, air quality, wildlife, local communities and recreational opportunities. The PEIS process will last several years and will have a major impact on the Western Slope, the DOE lease tract areas, and adjacent public lands.
Read the earlier press release about the lawsuit filed by SMA and four other conservation groups.
The DOE 31 lease tracts in the Uravan Mineral Belt between Gateway and Dove Creek, and 29 are currently leased; the region still bears witness to the legacy of historic uranium mining and milling through the many sites contaminated by toxic and radioactive waste.