There are now three bills in the South Dakota Legislature to make it harder for uranium mines like Powertech to pollute our precious water!
The first bill, Senate Bill 148, would restore state regulatory authority over in situ leach (ISL) uranium mining. Powertech managed to get this authority taken away with SB 158 from 2011. It’s important that state officials, who are on the ground and can regularly monitor construction, operation, and water quality, have this oversight power. Otherwise, that regular monitoring is NOT going to get done by a handful of distant federal EPA officials who are already spread too thin. Therefore, SDPJC stands with the Clean Water Alliance (CWA) and Dakota Rural Action (DRA) IN FAVOR OF SB 148.
The second bill, Senate Bill 149, would require uranium companies to report environmental violations within 24 hours. The current law gives uranium companies 30 days to report environmental violations without any penalty. We want companies who do this dangerous type of mining to be responsible for their spills and leaks. We want problems to be reported quickly, so that corrective measures can be applied quickly. Therefore, SDPJC stands with CWA and DRA IN FAVOR OF SB 149.
The third bill, Senate Bill 150:
- requires uranium companies to return water to baseline conditions after they mine;
- gives the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the feasibility of mining in a particular location;
- allows a mining permit to be denied if the company cannot demonstrate that they can effectively restore water quality; and
- requires full restoration of water quality after mining.
As Lilias Jarding at the Clean Water Alliance writes, “The mining companies say they can mine safely and without contaminating groundwater. This bill simply holds them to their word.” Therefore, SDPJC stands with the CWA and DRA IN FAVOR OF SB 150.
Right now, the most important immediate action you can take is to contact your local legislators and let them know that you support these bills, and that you want them to support the bills as well. (If you don’t know who your legislators are, you can find out here.)
It will be a though fight to protect our water from exploitation by foreign companies. But we here at SDPJC are confident that, with your help, we can do it.