Tall tales of Powertech and the agency that supports them

At the beginning of each session (or close to it, anyway), each state department presents about their year to their corresponding legislative committee. This morning, the House and Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources heard from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Many of our members were there to listen to the presentation, and it is a good thing they were. Because the spin on the proposed Dewey-Burdoch Project continues.

This past year, two weeks were spent in hearings regarding the water and mining permits requested by Powertech. All things considered, it was a monumental disaster. The state doesn’t know what it can and cannot regulate, thanks to Powertech’s own hand in suspending the administrative rules regarding in situ leach uranium mines. We and our allies have said all along it didn’t make sense to have the state permit hearings until a) the NRC and EPA went through their process, and b) the state figured out what, if anything, they are actually able to oversee regarding this project.

When both the Water Management Board and the Board of Minerals and Environment held meetings to schedule the dates for the permit hearings, many people wrote letters and spoke in favor of putting off the permit hearings. Powertech’s lawyer was on hand, arguing for the earliest hearings possible, urging each board to take quick action. Every time – every single time – the subject was brought up, Powertech fought tooth and nail to push the permitting process through as quickly as possible. They said time and again they expected to have their permits by the end of 2013.

When the Board of Minerals and Environment, after the first week of hearings, asked parties to submit briefs on whether the permit hearings should be continued, everyone except Powertech said they should be put off.

The Water Board, in light of the action taken by their partner board, asked the same question. Briefs were again submitted, and seeing the light on the wall, Powertech flip-flopped and agreed with what everyone else had been saying all along: these hearings should be put off.

But that’s not how the DENR sees it, apparently. Secretary Pirner, in his presentation, said, “Powertech petitioned the water management board to do the same thing,” meaning the same thing as the Minerals Board and put off the hearings. No mention of the on-going, extensive, reasoned requests from lawyers and citizens for almost six months requesting the hearings be put off. No, according to Pirner, the hearings were put off because “Powertech requested it.”

This says two things. First, the DENR will do everything in its power to make Powertech look good. And second, apparently what hundreds of citizens, two lawyers, and thousands around the country and world say, doesn’t matter. Only what Powertech says matters. That says a great deal about the DENR’s priorities.

And it doesn’t say anything good.

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Comments

  1. Very insightful post – thank you.

  2. Donald Pay says:

    Or, Pirner was just bs-ing the legislators, so as not to lose even more power to regulate Powertech. If Pirner acts like a Powertech toady, he has more credibility with the legislative Neanderthals. Hard to say what game is being played. My guess is if the delay wasn’t granted, there was going to a problem getting the permits through the Boards or the DENR attorneys thought they couldn’t win a court fight. I’m sure they conveyed this to Powertech attorneys who finally realized a delay is better than a denial or a losing court fight.

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