December 11, 2012
To: The News Media of North Carolina and Virginia
For several years the people of Chatham, Virginia have been mounting an opposition to a plan to mine uranium in their county if a thirty-year ban on uranium mining is lifted by the Virginia Legislature next month, and now more than ever they need the help of North Carolinians. After a year-long assessment of the pros and cons of lifting the ban on mining, the Virginia Uranium Mining Working Group, appointed by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and comprised of government and uranium industry-connected members, has submitted its findings and draft regulations to the Governor who will soon make his recommendation to the Legislature about whether or not members should pass legislation to lift the ban on uranium mining.
The people of Chatham, Virginia, are not alone. A coalition of local governments and civic and environmental organizations such as Virginia Against Uranium Mining, the Roanoke River Basin Association’s North Carolina Coalition, and the Sierra Club has joined the Chatham uranium mining opposition and been working hard to educate the public on the issues, but the coalition needs the focus of the North Carolina and Virginia news media and the active support of the broader public.
Because democracy functions through the will of the people, and the will of the people is determined by an informed and free press, it is paramount for the news media to do its part in promoting the general welfare of both states by utilizing in-depth, unfettered investigative journalism in the uranium mining issue and by spotlighting the contentious environmental, scientific, health, ethical, and economic issues, while giving equal coverage to mining opponents and proponents.
Keep the Ban proponents also need the active help of citizens and local governments in North Carolina who are passionate about healthy air and water and about property that they can deed to their children or sell with a clean title, one without a 100,000-year radioactive lien. They need the help of communities whose economies are and will be dependent on agriculture and tourism and a reputation for a safe and clean environment.
What can and must the growing opposition do? Through a concerted education campaign conducted in churches, county courthouses, and in civil halls, the opposition must explode several myths promoted by mining proponents.
1. First, it must explode the myth that uranium mining “best practices” (plastic and clay liners, leachate collection systems, and monitoring wells) could ever contain the radioactive waste and guarantee environmental protection and public safety.
2. Next, the opposition must explode the myth that “robust” regulations (a euphemistic term used by the government and industry officials) are nothing more than inflated words on paper written by biased, conflicted, highly educated, and highly paid government officials to legalize a commercialized radioactive regime that would rule Virginians, North Carolinians, and others with impunity and in perpetuity.
3. In addition, the opposition must explode the myth that public hearings actually facilitate meaningful public participation. Public hearings are tightly-controlled, cosmetic in nature, and are intended as mechanisms for gradually cowing mining opponents through intimidation into a state of subservience to the rules.
4. Mining opponents must explode the myth that “good” citizens abide by the rules, no matter how ill-conceived and ill-intentioned the rules are.
5. Finally, the mining opposition must explode the myth that demonstrations, protests, and civil disobedience are extreme measures which belong to left-wing extremists, Blacks, women, paranoid liberals, tree-huggers, and eco-terrorists. Instead, they are measures of resistance to tyranny that are Constitutionally-guaranteed to ordinary, law-abiding citizens who find due process failing them.
Over the past three decades, numerous North Carolina Piedmont and other communities, including Warren County where the Environmental Justice Movement was conceived and born, have exploded these myths and successfully stopped toxic, hazardous, nuclear, and deadly disease facilities that threatened the state. So, it’s not surprising that the Uranium Working Group did not schedule any public hearings on the issue in North Carolina. Clearly, the collective experience of North Carolina citizens can help to make a difference as citizens speak out and stand together with Virginians in their opposition to uranium mining.
Public sentiment matters, so before officials take holiday leave, citizens can contact NC Governor-Elect Pat McCrory and tell him that radioactive contamination in North Carolina air and waterways will not help the state “come back”, and they unequivocally oppose uranium mining. They can also warn VA Governor Bob McDonnell and their respective legislators that they will be joining the political battle if the ban is lifted. Contact:
* NC Governor-Elect McCrory at email@example.com or 919-855-4400
* Virginia Governor McDonnell at Virginia.gov (click on governor) or (804) 786-2211.
* North Carolina and Virginia State and US Congressional Representatives