Representative Patricia Stricherz (R-8/Madison) broke with the Chamber of Commerce leadership of her party and voted against SB 158 yesterday. This bill is a favor for Powertech, a company that wants to mine uranium in the southern Black Hills. SB 158 is an ironic embrace of the federal EPA by our Republican legislators: they strip the state DENR of its authority to regulate in situ uranium mining, claiming that it's better to let Washington set the rules and not create extra protections at the state level. But the Republicans and Powertech know full well the EPA is stretched far too thin in this region and will be unable to exercise the oversight that our own DENR could. In other words, getting rid of state regulation in this case is a license to pollute.

Stricherz and her Democratic District 8 counterpart, Rep. Mitch Fargen, were two of just eleven legislators who saw through that charade were willing to say that some jobs and economic development aren't worth the proven risk to our drinking water and health.

Below is the commentary Rep. Stricherz provided on her Facebook page as she drafted her floor speech to defend her vote against SB 158:

What Does this Mean for South Dakota?

Powertech USA Inc. is a Canadaian based company that is embarking on a path of destruction from which there is no return. The company plans to start in situ leach mining in South Dakota's Custer and Fall River counties that will puncture through four aquifers on the Great Plains and endanger a fragile geologic system. With a history of earthquakes in the Black Hills this makes ISL uranium mining even more dangerous.

Uranium mining is dangerous and poses serious risks to public health and to the economy.

  • Spills, leaks, mechanical failures, and transportation accidents are common with ISL mining.
  • Open pit uranium mining creates radioactive tailings and dust.
  • One of the biggest health and environmental risks is to groundwater. The groundwater aquifer that Powertech will inject chemicals into feeds a huge network of drinking-water wells in South Dakota, and also provides water for livestock and crop irrigation.
  • Scientific studies show that people living near uranium mines are at a substantially higher risk of developing serious health problems, including liver failure and cancer.
  • Uranium mining in northern South Dakota poses additional risks including decreased tourism and sales tax revenues, increased dust emissions and air pollution, and a host of other legal, technical and political problems.
  • Cross contamination of aquifers & contamination through improperly plugged test holes are possible results of drilling
  • Because of the number of wells, aquifer pressure can be decreased, causing artesian wells to go dry. Operations are in close proximity to homes and stock watering facilities.

Uranium Mining Can't Wait - So Neither Should You!

In the last three years, thousands of uranium mining claims have been filed in the United States, including claims just a few miles from the heavily populated areas of Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and on the Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota. Companies are aggressively exploring for uranium and drilling test holes in many areas of the United States.

These uranium mines will be either in-situ leach or open pit mines - both are very dangerous. In-situ leach uranium mines pump dangerous chemicals into the aquifer and groundwater to leach out the uranium, and then pump the groundwater to the surface to chemically extract the uranium from the water. Open pit mines involve digging massive open pits that extract uranium by mechanical means.

We need to enact stringent regulations to protect citizens and property owners from the dangers of uranium mining.The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board will be changing the rules on uranium mining to make them comply with laws passed by the legislature, South Dakota must do the same.

"Although these In-Situ leach mining techniques are considered more environmentally benign than traditional mining and milling practices they still tend to contaminate the groundwater." —U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 2007

"The Caller-Times examined 32 permits from closed South Texas mines that had used a water-pumping method to mine. In each case, companies were permitted to leave behind minerals such as uranium, molybdenum and selenium at higher levels than were listed in the original permit." —Corpus Christi Caller-Times

The evidence is clear, In-Situ leach mining is dangerous! The cost to human life and the enviroment is too great to allow this to continue. I will vote NO on SB 158 and encourage all of our Legislators to do the same.

Rep. Stricherz, if your Republican colleagues just don't get what it means to be good stewards of the land, talk with your colleague Rep. Fargen about a party that does.

Bonus Facebook Snark: Meanwhile, Senator Russell Olson was also using Facebook to serve his constituents... by posting 46 pictures of the Senate vs. House basketball game. I'd leave a comment, but I refuse, on principle, to click the "Like" button on Senator Olson's page.