As Virginia’s state legislature considers whether to lift a decades-old ban on uranium mining in the Commonwealth, Senate Democratic Leader Richard “Dick” Saslaw has been among the most vocal proponents of such a move.
While a wide array of environmental groups, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, and local chambers of commerce have opposed lifting the ban — citing serious environmental risks — Saslaw dismissed any long-term threats because he’s “not going to be here” and they might not affect him personally.
State Sen. Dick Saslaw does not mince words about his support for uranium mining. A Northern Virginia Democrat who is also the Senate minority leader, Saslaw says burying the radioactive byproduct known as tailings underground should be a solution to environmental concerns. And he says he can’t be concerned about what might happen 100 [years] from now.
“What about 10,000 years from now? I’m not going to be here,” Saslaw says. “I can’t ban something because of something that might happen 500 or 1,000 years from now.“
The ban, of course, is already on the books. And while the state’s Coal and Energy Commission has recommended repealing the ban, a report by the Southern Environmental Law Center warns that lifting the ban could impact residents near the proposed mining site “both directly, by increased environmental and occupational exposure to uranium and other toxic substances through the air, soil, or groundwater, and accidents resulting from mining operations, and indirectly, through stress and other health effects related to community changes, including potential loss of recreation sites, declining property values, changes to the local economy, and the perceived stigma of uranium mining.”