With a flood of new federal regulations hitting everything from healthcare, energy, food safety, and bird protection, it is encouraging to know that some states can still think for themselves. In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell declared that he was going to make Virginia the Energy Capital of the East Coast—after all Virginia is blessed with abundant resources such as coal, offshore oil and one of the largest uranium deposits in the world. His plans have been thwarted by the federal government.
The EPA is regulating coal mining out of existence. Federal restrictions have prevented Virginia from being able to access its oil and gas resources—despite bipartisan support within for drilling. However, on Monday, January 7, Bob McDonnell was handed an opportunity to differentiate himself from President Obama—something all upwardly mobile Republicans are going to have to do following the disappointing fiscal cliff deal. With just one year left in his term, the rising star Republican governor can still make good on his campaign promise. Under his control is Uranium mining in Virginia. Virginia has maintained a moratorium on uranium mining for more than 30 years. It has never happened in the state—as a result, there are no guidelines or regulations for how to do it. Environmentalists, who oppose extraction of anything, have been able to use fear of the unknown to their advantage.
While McDonnell didn’t initially come out in favor of uranium mining—instead dodging a decision by having studies done and commissions appointed, he has come to realize that the environmentalists just don’t want any extraction. During at 2012 radio interview he sounded frustrated when he said: “These people don't want us to even study it. They've made their decision. They've made up their mind that they don't want us to look at it. They don't want us to study it. They don't want us to have any mining going on. That's just ridiculous. What I want to do is just get the facts. I don't have a decision made. They do. Our job—at the direction of the General Assembly—is to get the facts and to determine ‘can we mine it safely?’”
Well, the facts are in. The Coal and Energy Commission’s Uranium Study Subcommittee (made up of legislators and citizens) commissioned two studies—one “quantitative” that reviewed the technical issues which was conducted by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences; and the other “qualitative” that evaluated questions of probable social and economic consequences was conducted by a private firm: Chmura Associates of Richmond.