Virginia Ban on Uranium Mining Upheld
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld Virginia’s decades-old ban on mining radioactive uranium, holding “Congress conspicuously chose to leave untouched the States’ historic authority over the regulation of mining activities on private lands within their borders.”
The huge deposit of uranium ore at the center of the case was discovered on private land in Pittsylvania County, Virginia in the early 1980s. Further analysis of the site led to estimates of roughly 119 million pounds of uranium ore being underground at the site.
Court documents from the case place the value of the deposit at about $6 billion.
The owners of the land above the deposit, Coles Hill LLC and Bowen Minerals LLC, have been eager to see the potential mine developed and have been leasing the mineral estate to Virginia Uranium and its parent company, Virginia Energy Resources, to do just that.
In 1985, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission concluded the benefits of uranium mining greatly outweigh the costs associated with such activity, and that it could be carried out safely under strict guidelines imposed by the state.
Despite these assurances, the Virginia General Assembly kept the moratorium on mining in place.
Virginia Uranium sued in the Western District of Virginia on the grounds that Virginia’s moratorium is federally preempted. When the federal district court decided in favor of the state, the mining company appealed the case to the Fourth Circuit, where it also lost.
On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed with those decisions, ruling 6-3 that a federal law called the Atomic Energy Act does not keep the state from banning uranium mining.
“Virginia Uranium insists that the federal Atomic Energy Act preempts a state law banning uranium mining, but we do not see it,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority.
As explained in the ruling, the Act gives the federal government oversight over processing the radioactive uranium and storing the radioactive waste that results. However, it is silent on the subject of mining.
In a dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said this is exactly the point. In his view, the state cannot ban uranium mining based on concerns about hazards connected with later steps. He was joined in dissent by Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito.
The case is Virginia Uranium v. John Warren, 16-1275.
In The News
WASHINGTON - It’s hard to believe it’s almost that time of year again, but on Monday came word that the peak bloom for the cherry blossoms ringing the Tidal Basin in Washington is currently expected to occur April 2-5. That means the most vivid of blooms... Read More
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Josh Venable, a longtime Michigan GOP operative and chief of staff to former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, can trace the arc of the state's Republican Party clearly."This was the state where to be Republican was defined by Gerald Ford and George... Read More
NEW YORK (AP) — Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. fought for a year and a half to get access to former President Donald Trump's tax records.Now, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he will soon have them. But what will that mean for... Read More
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — For Native Americans, Deb Haaland is more than an elected official on track to become the first Indigenous secretary of the Interior Department. She is a sister, an auntie and a fierce pueblo woman whose political stances have been molded by her... Read More
RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia lawmakers gave final approval Monday to a bill that will end capital punishment in the Commonwealth. The legislation now heads to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who has said he will sign it into law, making Virginia the 23rd state to stop executions.... Read More
The decision by the online brokerage firm Robinhood to impose restrictions on customer trading at the high point of last month’s online trading frenzy was brought under scrutiny at Thursday’s hearing of the House Financial Services Committee. While Robinhood insists that its decision did not favor... Read More