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Goliad commissioners court refuses to oppose uranium mining

By Sonny Long
July 9, 2012 at 2:09 a.m.
Updated July 10, 2012 at 2:10 a.m.


OTHER COURT ACTION

On Monday, the Goliad County Commissioners Court also:

• Designated Peggy Fonseca as Goliad County emergency management coordinator and flood plain manager

• Accepted the resignation of Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Sylvia Valdez, effective July 31, but took no action on a replacement

• Approved a 90-day burn ban effective immediately.

The Goliad County Commissioners Court will not formally oppose uranium mining in the southern portion of the county.

Commissioners voted 3-2 against a resolution proposed by Commissioner Jim Kreneck's to oppose uranium mining and new exploration and mining efforts of Uranium Energy Corporation.

"Personally, I feel like it's an individual property rights issue," said County Judge David Bowman, who voted against the resolution. "I'm a strong believer in individual property rights and state's rights."

UEC, which began the Goliad Project about five years ago in the northern portion of the county, is also leasing land for the more than 10,000-acre Channen Project in southern Goliad County.

"We're very pleased that the majority of the commissioners court stood in defense of private property rights," said Matt Welch, UEC spokesman.

In addition to the county judge, commissioners Julian Flores and Alonzo Morales voted against the resolution.

Commissioner Ted Long voted along with Kreneck in favor of the resolution.

"I wasn't surprised - angered - but not surprised," Kreneck said of the vote. "I am very disappointed."

Kreneck's and Long's precincts are in the northern part of the county, but they were the lone commissioners to attend a public meeting in Sarco in June concerning uranium mining.

"People were there from Goliad County, Bee County and Refugio County," Kreneck said. "The others on the court said they hadn't had any citizens express concerns about uranium mining in the southern part of the county. Well, they weren't there to hear their concerns.

"I will defend all citizens and precincts of this county. It doesn't have to be in my precinct."

The Channen Project is UEC's second in Goliad County.

Welch said the Channen Project has been granted a permit for exploration and will move forward.

The first Goliad project, in the northern portion the county, has received all of the required permits to begin construction.

"We're waiting for the EPA and the aquifer exemption," said Welch, who said he was confident the exemption was forthcoming.

In May, the federal regulatory agency issued a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and UEC, saying the aquifer exemption would not be certified until UEC has proven the water used to mine uranium would not become drinking water.

The EPA Region 6 office denied the exemption under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which protects all underground sources of drinking water from pollution.

The TCEQ had earlier granted the Goliad project aquifer exemption and has filed a request for EPA's concurrence.

With the regional EPA's concurrence, UEC can initiate uranium recovery operations at the site, according to a company news release.

In 2007, the commissioners court passed a resolution in opposition to and continues to fund a legal battle against the project in the northern part of the county.

"Things sure have changed in five years," Kreneck said.

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