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Conservation Lobby Day aims to give VA’s future back to Virginians


With so much on the line for human and environmental health during this year's session of the VA General Assembly, Conservation Lobby Day comes as a much needed momentum booster to implement an agenda based upon reason and environmental health.

Conservation Lobby Day kicks off tomorrow at 9AM at Richmond Center Stage (600 E. Grace St.) and at 10AM at the Virginia General Assembly Building on 910 Capitol Square. The purpose of Conservation Lobby Day is to show your elected representatives as well as Virginia's lobbyists that you support environmental protection.

Even though Gov. McDonnell has signaled a call to continue the ban on uranium mining in Virginia in 2012, it seems clear that this is a political tactic drawn out by the McDonnell administration and Virginia Uranium Inc. to mollify the opposition and take away from the powerful arguments of those opposed to the unacceptably risky practice of uranium mining and milling.

The Chesapeake Bay requires appropriate funding to successfully complete Virginia's latest plans to clean the bay and its tributaries. One of the highest priorities will be sustaining the share of state surplus deposited into the Water Quality Improvement Fund.

Whatever issue you choose to come out and show your support for, make sure you come out! Our health and the future of our environment in VA depend on your active participation!  

Civility: A Tactic to Retain Political Dominance


When you're the king of the hill, it's easy to tell everyone else not to fight like Gov. Bob McDonnell has suggested to legislators of the General Assembly. The Republican Party's position of dominance in both the legislative and executive branches gives these individuals a much easier path to shove through their draconian policies. What can the Democratic Party of Virginia do to quell the Republican Party's medieval policy agenda? Fight like hell.

I won't get into a lengthy discussion of what McDonnell refers to as the "Virginia way." Instead, the American way is giving each individual under the stars and stripes an opportunity to live a comfortable life. Unfortunately, the companies and lobbyists who write the Republican Party of Virginia's legislation usually don't think about "the people" or their interests. If the interests of Virginians and big business overlap, so be it. If they don't, oh well.

Civility is a laudable virtue, especially in politics. But the Republican Party only preaches civility when it's the biggest gun in the room, not when it's scrapping for its political lifeline.

It's big business over small business and the individual. It's unchecked pollution over human and environmental health. It's the hand of God over federal health insurance. It's the Republican Party over the Democratic Party if the latter lies down and "plays nice."

President Obama Bans New Uranium Mining Claims Around Grand Canyon


President Obama took another step towards protecting Americans and their natural environment today, banning new uranium mining claims situated around one of America's most noteworthy physical attractions, the Grand Canyon. However, opponents of the new ban have assailed President Obama's decision with the usual counter-argument: banning uranium mining is a "job killer." Of course, when these claims are made, no effort is made to put forward data regarding how many jobs will actually be "killed." Thankfully, one arm of that terrible institution, the federal government, keeps data on uranium mining jobs in the U.S., the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In 2010 (the latest year for which data is available), there were 7,209 uranium drilling holes in the U.S., covering 4.9 million feet. In the same year there was a total of 1,073 uranium mining jobs (including exploration, mining, milling, processing, and reclamation). A quick calculation reveals that for every drilling hole in the U.S., less than 1 job is created (0.15). Not exactly an economic boom of extravagant proportions!

Furthermore, data for 2010 actually showed an increase in drilling holes with a decrease in uranium mining jobs.

Leading Democracy: Following the Wishes of Southside Virginians on Uranium Mining


In betwixt and between the discussions over whether or not to lift the uranium mining ban in Virginia, the opinion of Southside Virginians on the issue has rarely been sought, at least not often enough, in public and private spheres alike. However, the recent bipartisan letter by Southside political representatives Sen. Frank N. Ruff Jr. and Dels. James E. Edmunds, Danny W. Marshall, Donald W. Merricks, and Thomas C. Wright Jr. cast a long shadow of a doubt about the appropriateness of lifting a uranium mining ban that would primarily affect Southside Virginians.

"We are being asked to push through a proposal to lift a 30-year-old ban on an industry with an abysmal environmental record that, under the most optimistic assumptions, experts conclude the most that can be expected is to reduce some of the quite serious risks to the health and welfare of the surrounding community."

Would those of us in central and northern Virginia find it appropriate if Southside Virginians ultimately determined whether or not uranium mining would take place in our back yards, so to speak? I'm guessing not. So why should the inverse be true? Why should political representatives from central and northern Virginia vote directly against the wishes of Southside residents and their political representatives?

General Assembly preview shows tough fight ahead to protect human health


At the Virginia Conservation Network's General Assembly preview at the Capitol Building in Richmond on Saturday, the agenda for conservationists and lovers of human health was laid out for the upcoming General Assembly session beginning in January.

The 2012 General Assembly session stands to be another year of tough battles for the conservationist community as issues such as clean energy credits, uranium mining, the Chesapeake Bay restoration, and a number of other important environmental issues face tough and well-financed opposition groups.

The case of uranium mining in Southside Virginia will perhaps be the most hard-fought and consequential issue for the lives of thousands, if not millions, of Virginians. If the ban on uranium mining is lifted, opponents of uranium mining say that it is only a matter of time before the drinking water for over a million Virginians is contaminated with radioactive "waste."

Given the close proximity of the Coles Hill uranium mining site to communities and large living areas in every direction, not to mention a number of important bodies of water, it's difficult to imagine how such a novel form of uranium mining and milling would be undertaken without disastrous consequences.

Were uranium to be mined and milled in Virginia, it would be the first such case in a state with more rainfall than evaporation, creating a level of uncertainty about the safety of the entire process that simply cannot be ignored.

A point that should be stressed is that if the General Assembly decides to lift the ban for uranium mining only in Southside Virginia, it will only be a matter of time before the exception of Southside VA becomes the rule throughout the entire state. That is to say, uranium mining could spread throughout Virginia. Do you want that in your backyard?

What Are Your Target 2011 Races?

 Virginia state and local elections are less than one month away.  What are your top priority races, the ones that matter most to you?  

Here is a list of key races derived from a number of sources. I readily admit my NOVA-centricity here, while encouraging you to pipe up about which races you think merit the biggest investment of time and money.

VA Dems' overall top priority this election cycle has to be maintaining a Democratic VA Senate so we don't lose our last bulwark against Cuccinelli/Tea Party extremism in the Commonwealth. That said, my personal highest priority race this year is Dr. Babur Lateef's campaign to unseat one of Virginia's worst demagogues, PW County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart.   Stewart gained nationwide notoriety for his anti-immigrant campaign -- as very well chronicled in the 9500 Liberty videos.  Stewart made common cause with racist individuals and organizations to basically cleanse his county of Latinos and other immigrants -- with some success.

If he wins, Stewart clearly has his eyes set on higher office. This, in other words, is our best chance to halt his career before he reaches a point where he can inflict widespread damage on the state, even the country.

On to the VA Senate. With so many races going on, the challenge is in finding the right lens to focus on the ones that will make the difference between a Democratic Senate and Cuccinelli Unbound. A few of those lenses include:

- Races the Tea Party is targeting, including:

Pay Them More, Make It 100% Transparent


Let's face it, the entire system for compensating Virginia General Assembly members if FUBAR.  First of all, it's utterly absurd that House of Delegates members only receive $17,000 a year, and that Senators get only $18,000 a year, for their time and effort. Even if you throw in the $15,000 Ryan Nobles talks about in this story, it's still only $32,000 or $33,000 a year.  How about we increase General Assembly members salaries while making it all completely transparent?  And when I say "transparent," I also mean all the gifts and donations that come from special interests, corporations, lobbyists, etc.  As for this tiny $15,000, just tack it on to their salaries, make it 100% transparent (no more "wink wink", to quote Paul Goldman), and be done with it.

h/t: NLS