Great enviro-news for people who like to drink water and not glow in the Black Hills! The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment has indefinitely delayed further hearings on Powertech's in-situ uranium mining application!
The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment has issued an order continuing (putting off, tabling, however you like to say it in non-lawerspeak) until after all other permits have been granted. In effect, this means there will be no large scale mining permit issued this year to Powertech! [emphasis in original; Sabrina King, "Mining permit hearings continued – NO MINING PERMIT THIS YEAR," Dakota Rural Action, 2013.11.06].
Oops: looks like Powertech once again exaggerated its prospects to investors.
Organizing by Dakota Rural Action, the Clean Water Alliance, and other South Dakota groups has paid off: they now have at least a couple more months to gather more evidence, win legislative support, and make their case that letting Powertech pollute Black Hills water to mine uranium for China is bad for South Dakota. And given Powertech's shaky financial situation, a couple months may be all they need to see Powertech's capital dry up and investors disappear.
In 2011, Powertech lobbyists Larry Mann and Mark Hollenbeck (the local manager for the Dewey-Burdock project) succeeded in getting the Legislature’s approval of a new state law. The law gave primary enforcement authority over Class III underground injection wells — a key component of Powertech’s plan — to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The law gave primary authority to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for in situ leach mining rules for uranium.... Powertech wanted the law so as to avoid double lawsuits — at the state and federal levels — by opponents. Now the law has become the foundation for the ruling by hearing officer Hagg to postpone the next round of the Board of Minerals hearing on the mining permit. Hagg noted in his ruling that the Board of Minerals must determine that a project seeking a mining permit is in compliance with all federal, state and local laws. Further, there isn’t a provision in state law for the Board of Minerals to issue a permit conditioned upon a project meeting state and federal laws.... Essentially, Powertech trapped itself with the 2011 law [Bob Mercer, "Powertech Put on Hold by Its Own Hand?" Pure Pierre Politics, 2013.11.07].
And you Powertech opponents—you silly gooses!—Bob Mercer says all your squawking could have helped Powertech get its permit:
The 2011 law sought by Powertech now provides the platform for suspending the Board of Minerals and Environment hearing. This is doubly ironic because many of the project’s opponents have been complaining about the law, claiming that it was a way for Powertech to more easily obtain state approval of its permits. As they say, be careful what you ask for — and be careful about what you oppose [Mercer, 2013.11.07].
The 2011 law taking away South Dakota's oversight of uranium mining epitomizes the crony politics that rules in Pierre at the expense of all South Dakotans' best interest. Powertech's opponents are right to call for the restoration of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources' power to regulate uranium mining.
But if we can use those bad laws against the capitalist predators who think they hold our state in thrall, then so be it. Don't let Bob Mercer fool you, friends of the Black Hills: you are winning!
Update 12:17 MDT: Read the full order from BME chairman Rex Hagg here. Not a word about the environmental concerns raised, just a procedural dodge.