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Critics Say Uranium Cleanup Bill Looks 'Dirty'

February 13, 2008

Santa Fe - Kind of like trying to clean with a filthy rag - that's how critics characterize a uranium mining clean-up bill being heard today in the state capitol in Santa Fe. They say it could actually let companies off the hook for clean-up of old mines, while promoting new mining operations.

Chris Shuey at the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque says part of the problem is that the bill links clean-up of old mining sites to fees collected from new uranium mines.

"To us this is pretty clear, the intent is really to provide a justification for new mining."

Bill sponsor David Ulibarri says, like it or not, uranium mining is coming back to New Mexico, and his bill will give the state another tool for cleaning up mine sites.

But Shuey says the bill also eliminates responsibility for companies that created and abandoned uranium mines which are still financially viable. He says the state needs to make sure that it takes responsibility for the past.

"We want to make sure that it does not forgive corporate responsibility for leaving these wastes in places where they have polluted, certainly, the air, the land and the water and caused illness in these communities."

Shuey says a joint memorial being offered up by Rep. John Pena takes a better approach by calling for the creation of a superfund for uranium mine clean-up.

Eric Mack/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NM