Moab groups take on uranium mill

The fight against a second uranium boom is continuing to pick up speed. Last week, two Utah-based conservation groups filed a challenge against the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill, which has been proposed in the nearby Paradox Valley. The groups allege that Energy Fuels Inc, the proponent of the mill, is attempting to acquire water rights on a speculative basis.

Energy Fuels Inc., a Toronto-based uranium and vanadium mining company, is currently planning the construction of the nation’s first uranium mill in 25 years. The mill would be sited on 1,000 acres of privately owned land in the Paradox Valley, halfway between the Dolores and San Miguel rivers. The facility would also be relatively close to the only other operating uranium mill in the U.S. – the White Mesa Mill in Blanding. Energy Fuels hopes to begin construction in 2012 and approval from the State of Colorado is the only major obstacle to meeting that deadline.

However, the mill will also need water to operate, and Energy Fuels has applied for more than 500 acre feet of ground water to process ore as well as nearly 500 acre feet in captured rain water to prevent water discharges from the site.

Last week, the conservation groups, Red Rock Forests and Living Rivers, filed a “Statement of Opposition” to the application, charging that the water rights could be speculative and would put more stress on an arid area.

“We are concerned about the speculative nature of uranium mining and milling in the Southeastern Utah and Western Colorado,” said Harold Shepherd, acting director for Red Rock Forests “Also, as future years in the area become drier, should we be adding new stresses to the river system that will compound the impacts of climate change on instream flows and existing water rights?”

Building the mill could also imperil the Dolores River’s possible designation as a Wild and Scenic River, according to John Weisheit, the Conservation Director for Living Rivers. “Because the Dolores is in one of the most scenic and popular places for whitewater rafting and hiking in the Western United States, it is currently being considered for designation as a federally protected Wild and Scenic River,” he said. “We believe that diverting water from the river for use in the mill will threaten that status.”

Meanwhile, Colorado officials are also taking a stab at the uranium renaissance and have released draft regulations aimed at tightening oversight of uranium mining operations. The proposed rules are currently open to public comment and a public hearing has been scheduled for April. The new rules would require: a baseline study on existing groundwater quality; proof a company is using the best available technology; notification to all landowners within 3 miles of the mine; and reclamation to baseline standards after the mining has concluded.

A draft of the proposed rules may be found at


Hate group targets Gay Ski Week

A hate group has announced its intentions to descend on Telluride’s upcoming Gay Ski Week, which is set for Feb. 20-27. The Westborn Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church known for hatred of bisexuals and homosexuals, has planned a protest at the event, according to the Telluride Watch.

Judy Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, the openly gay 21-year-old who was murdered in 1998 outside of Laramie, Wyo. She now heads the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which supports diversity and tolerance in youth organizations and will speak at an event during Telluride Gay Ski Week. Last week, the church, which is based in Topeka, Kans., notified The Telluride Watch of plans to “picket Judy Shepard during the fag ski trip crap.”

The announcement continues, “Just so you do not lose track, we will trek up the mountain, and grab a gondola to the middle of this swanky place to picket this old witch.”

Church members picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard and also the trial of his murderers.

John McGill of Straight Out Media and Marketing, the producers of Telluride Gay Ski Week, told the paper he is upset by the announcement but not overly concerned. “Our ticket sales are trending higher than ever,” he said. “We will certainly take the high road. It’s going to be a great week.”


ConocoPhillips settles air violations

A major natural gas producer is coughing up big money for local air quality. The ConocoPhillips Co. has agreed to pay a $175,000 penalty and reduce their emissions on the nearby Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

ConocoPhillips and the Environmental Protection Agency reached the agreement with respect to violations at the Argenta and Sunnyside Compressor Stations located near Ignacio. The settlement requires the company to pay $175,000 in civil penalties. It also mandates air pollution reduction and conservation practices at the two natural gas compressor stations and associated wellheads leading to the facilities.

“The settlement will formalize ConocoPhillips Co.’s commitment to reduce emissions of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, air toxics and greenhouse gases, while conservation measures help return valuable natural gas to the marketplace,” said Carol Rushin, EPA’s acting regional administrator.

The restrictions are expected to reduce local air pollution by more than 500 tons annually; reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking more than 1,100 cars off the road; and conserve enough natural gas to heat approximately 220 homes annually.


Durango makes Ride the Rockies route

More than 2,000 cyclists will be pedaling back through Durango early this summer. Ride the Rockies returns to the local burg for its 25th annual ride, a 532-mile journey that begins in Grand Junction and concludes in Salida.

The 2010 route will climb four passes, cross one divide and pass through the Colorado National Monument and over the Grand Mesa before finishing. During one of the hardest legs of the tour, riders will tackle the 70 miles between Ouray and Durango on June 16, crossing Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank passes. The following day, they will take off for Pagosa Springs.

Cyclists may only register for the event online at, and applications will be accepted through Feb. 25.

– Will Sands




In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale