The Colorado Legislature faces no easy tasks in its 2010 session, and any measure with a fiscal note attached is not
likely to be well-received by members of either party. Indeed, lawmakers will be busily finding ways to cut spending
for the next fiscal year, and then spinning those cuts as the least-painful way toward a balanced budget.
It is safe to say that positioning will reflect party platforms, and we can expect the usual rhetoric from all state
lawmakers. But in the margins lies the opportunity to do a few good things for Colorado's environment, at no financial
cost to taxpayers or political cost to our state senators and representatives.
The Uranium Processing Accountability Act, sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las
Animas, and Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, is one such measure. Behind only Wyoming and New Mexico in uranium
reserves, Colorado is positioned to see significant mining and milling activity should renewed interest in the
substance be sustained. In anticipation of a resurgence of uranium mining and subsequent milling, the measure - soon to
be introduced by McFadyen in the House - would require operators of those mills to offer some fundamental safeguards to
the communities in which they operate.
McFadyen's measure would require operators of uranium mills to adequately bond for future cleanup and decommissioning
before a new mill is approved. It would also ensure that existing facilities not currently in operation be cleaned up
before reopening. The measure also contains good neighbor language, requiring mill operators to let residents know of
any potential threats to their registered wells in areas of known groundwater contamination. Finally, the act would
mandate that milling licenses show any alternate feed" such as toxic or radioactive waste from other operations to be
being processed at the facility.
The components of McFadyen's measure will help ensure that any future uranium milling in Colorado is done right - with
respect for humans and the environment alike. With a new mill proposed for the Paradox Valley, near the Dolores River
as it makes its northbound journey to confluence with the Colorado River, we are wise to pay attention to this
legislation, and the impetus behind it.
Another measure, House Bill 1001, would bump renewable-energy requirements for Colorado's investor-owned utilities from
the current 20 percent by 2020 to 30 percent by the same year. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood,focuses on small-scale renewable projects such as home solar panels. It is another step in the road toward renewables
and away from fossil fuels as our primary energy source, and is worth supporting for that reason. However, the measure
does not extend to cooperatively owned utilities, such as La Plata Electric Association, and therefore has little local
That is an unfortunate omission in the bill. Moving the state's rural electric co-ops away from coal and other
polluting energy sources should be as much a priority as pushing investor-owned utilities. Nevertheless, HB 1001 sets
an important tone for Colorado.
Megan Graham is director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.