When I was growing up I had a neighbor who used to always say "don't count your chickens before they hatch." She'd tell me this because I was a cocky little kid who thought I'd get anything I wanted. Sometimes you run across people in politics that like to count their chickens before they've hatched.
One such example is the CEO of Virginia Uranium, Inc., Walter Coles. I do not know Mr. Coles personally so I'm not going to comment on whether or not he is cocky, but his recent comments before potential investors in VUI were certainly brash if nothing else. Here's what he had to say in response to a question about having a bill in the 2012 legislative session:
Coles: "In January of 2012, we will have a bill in the state legislature that directs the [Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy] to develop the regulations on uranium mining."
QUESTION: "Who is introducing that bill?"
Coles: "We have had a number of legislators who have offered to do such. I don't think we'll know who is going to introduce the bill until we get very close to the beginning of the legislative session. We have a team of lobbyists in the state capitol. We've got a public relations firm in the state capitol. We are taking legislators on trips to see reclaimed uranium mines in France and up in Canada. We have a grassroots educational effort underway in the local community. So we're not sitting still while the NAS study is going on. We are doing everything we can to make sure legislators thoroughly understand this issue and are able to be supportive of what we're trying to do in the next session."
Now, Coles and VUI are certainly within their rights under federal law to take legislators on trips to France, they did so to the tune of $27,000 for three people in 2010. They are also in their rights to have spent more than $200,000 on lobbying expenses since 2008.
But, I detect a since of entitlement over the process in Walter Coles' statements on Wall Street. He's basically saying that he has the votes to lift the existing ban on uranium mining in Virginia regardless of the results of the National Academies of Science study that is ongoing.
To be upfront, we believe there are serious shortcomings in that study. You can't determine the safety of uranium mining in Virginia without a hydrology study of Virginia, but to completely disregard the results of the study is completely out-of-line.
The questions that needs to be answered between now and election day is what legislators have committed to carrying this legislation? Why do they not care about the results of the NAS study, or any of the other three studies looking at downstream impacts and socio-economic impacts? Why do they not believe that the public should have an opportunity to review the studies and weigh in on whether or not we want uranium mining in Virginia.
The General Assembly may be the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, but it is not without faults. If VUI and their allies in the General Assembly think they have the right to ramrod through legislation for an industry that has significant dangers associated with it then they should be held accountable.
My urging is for anyone who reads this to pick up the phone and call your Senator and Delegate, and ask if Virginia Uranium already has their vote. If you find anyone who tells you the truth let us know.
The best part of an election year is the ability to campaign against and vote out people who don't believe in the Democratic process.
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