Absence of leadership spells doom for uranium mining in Virginia

All throughout the 2009 gubernatorial campaign we heard nothing but “all of the above” regarding energy creation and “Virginia must become the East Coast energy leader” from then Republican candidates Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling.

Well, what fools we were.

The McDonnell administration has now spoken on the subject of uranium mining – or, at least, I think it has.

This past weekend Chief Jobs Creation Officer and Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling opined in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that uranium ought not to be mined in Virginia. Governor McDonnell has yet to make his opinion known.

It’s ironic that the lieutenant governor should have such a position, considering his past statements.

As recently as October the lieutenant governor called the Obama administration “the biggest obstacle to Virginia shedding dependence on imported electricity and becoming the ‘East Coast energy leader.’”

He once told the Augusta Free Press,

“Gov. McDonnell and I understand that doing more to develop domestic sources of energy will help our nation achieve a greater degree of energy security. We also understand that expanding energy production can help Virginia achieve a greater degree of economic security. As we have said many times, more energy = more jobs for Virginia! Our statewide energy policy is based on an “all of the above” approach. We want to do more to develop traditional sources of energy in Virginia. That means more nuclear, more coal and more natural gas production. It also means developing our offshore energy resources at the earliest possible opportunity.” (Emphasis added)

And, of course, his website says:

Governor McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bolling are working to make Virginia the Energy Capital of the East Coast. By growing our energy economy we can create high paying jobs in Virginia, while helping our nation achieve a greater degree of energy independence.

Governor McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bolling believe in an “all of the above“ approach to energy policy. They strongly support the expansion of traditional forms of energy, such as coal, natural gas and nuclear power (emphasis added); but they also support expanding renewable forms of energy in Virginia, such as wind, solar and biofuels.”

These were Bolling’s words – speaking then on behalf of Governor McDonnell and the administration. Who’s to say he’s not doing that now? Given the absence now of public statements on this issue from Governor McDonnell, is one to presume that he is soldiering Bolling out to provide the administration’s position?

It would not be a leap to make that judgment, especially since Bolling is the lieutenant governor, a cabinet representative, and the tie-breaking vote in the senate.

The irony is that while the McDonnell administration has been critical of the Obama administration from furthering Virginia’s development of energy (such as in coal, natural gas, and oil), in the one source of energy they do have a say it would appear that Bolling has chosen to turn his back.

And, as Norm Leahy related back here in January, the arguments our so-called Republicans are using here in Virginia against lifting the uranium ban are exactly the same as the Obama administration’s argument elsewhere.

This is disappointing news because allowing mining to go forward faced a tough enough obstacle as it is.

Should all twenty Democrats in the State Senate oppose lifting the moratorium and all twenty Republicans support it (and there was no guarantee of this given opposition southside and in Hampton Roads) then with Bolling’s announcement as the 21st vote, this issue seems now decided.

So, when it comes to lifting the ban on uranium mining, unless some Democrats begin to show support for it, then the issue is over.

The most disappointing aspect of this entire episode is the betrayal of conservatism by so-called conservatives, whether it is at the state or local level. Basing their opposition on very little fact or science.

They may talk a good game about making Virginia an energy leader, but when it comes time to act, all they are is full of hot air.

Addendum: We truly need to develop “all of the above”. If we don’t act soon, we will soon find ourselves in an energy deficit. And, the nuclear industry recognizes that working with partners in the renewable energy sector is an important – if not fundamental component of our future energy needs. Uranium mining was an opportunity for Virginia to lead on a vital issue of national, if not global importance. Instead, we seem to have chosen the NIMBY approach.

Update: Be sure to read Kat Wilton’s excellent review of the uranium mining issue.

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