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Colorado: Hearing on controversial uranium mill starts; conservation groups get formal party status

Many southwest Colorado residents are saying no thanks to uranium mining and milling in their region.

Hearing starts Oct. 15 for what would be the country’s first new uranium mill in 30 years

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After a start-stop permitting procedure for a proposed uranium mill in southwestern Colorado was marred by inadequate public hearings, state officials will once again take input in formal proceedings starting Oct. 15.

This time, a judge has given three conservation groups formal standing for the hearings, which means that environmental advocates will be able to introduce evidence, testify and cross-examine witnesses.

The Piñon Ridge mill is proposed for the Paradox Valley, in southwestern Colorado near the Dolores River. The three groups — Rocky Mountain Wild, Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity — will join the towns of Telluride, Ophir, and San Miguel County in voicing concerns about the proposed mill’s threats to air, water, wildlife and tourism. Continue reading

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Mountain news: Jackson Hole pilot sets paragliding record

Headlines and links from Telluride, Aspen and Jackson Hole

Summit County, Colorado.

Aspen: Mixed results on Pro Challenge bike race

The USA Pro Challenge has been touted as a big economic boost for Colorado, with communities vying to host stages for the perceived benefits. In Aspen, it looks like retail sales may have taken a little hit during the day of the race, while restaurants reported booming business, according to the Aspen Daily News.

Some service-oriented businesses were affected by a lack of access, while hotels reported 90 percent occupance and restaurants saw an early rush, with some establishments reported lines on the sidewalk. Read the full story in the Aspen Daily News.

Paper-bag fee challenged in court

A $0.20 fee charged for paper grocery bags in Aspen stores has raised almost $4,000 during its first two months, as the town tries to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags for their shopping needs — but the bag fee is facing a court challenge, according to the Aspen Daily News.

The plastic bag ban took effect May 1. Under the law, the grocery stores can keep 25 percent of the collected fees (up to $1,000 per month) during the first year to help with the transition, with the town using the rest for education and awareness efforts.

The lawsuit challenging the fee was filed by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers Foundation, which alleges that the fee is actually a tax that violates the Colorado Constitution. The Mountain States Legal Foundation, an ultra-conservative group that opposes environmental and public lands protection, is representing the taxpayer group. Read the full story in the Aspen Daily News. Continue reading

Environment: District court in Colorado nixes state license for proposed Pinon Ridge uranium mill

A district court in Colorado this week invalidated a state license for a controversial uranium mill in the southwestern corner of the state.

Communities, conservation groups prevail in lawsuit against Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Communities and conservation groups in southwestern Colorado won a huge court victory this week, as a Denver District Court judge invalidated a state license for the proposed  Piñon Ridge uranium mill.

Judge John N. McMullen ruled June 13 that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment erred by issuing the license to Energy Fuels without public hearings required under the regulatory process.

Pinon Ridge would be the first new rock-crushing uranium mill to be built in the U.S. in 25 years. Communities in the area said they were concerned that lapses in state’s approval process prevented a thorough evaluation of potential and water quality impacts. Continue reading

Summit Voice: Most-view & weekend headlines

Crime, wildfires and climate …

Week in review.

The roundup is sponsored Trippons. Click the logo to find E-coupons for your mountain town.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A short initial story about a rare local murder was the most-viewed story of the past week, followed by reports on regional wildfire and stories about last week’s solar eclipse. Google searches and Google News referrals were the big traffic drivers, along with a decent number of referrals from Facebook and Twitter.

Will Colorado block public from a meeting on nuclear plans?

State and federal agencies will discuss oversight of radiation control programs this week, but the public may not be able to attend.

A proposed uranium processing mill in southwest Colorado has triggered a showdown between state and federal regulators

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — State health officials and federal nuclear regulators will powwow this week over the stalled application for a permit for a planned uranium mill in southwest Colorado, but the public apparently will be shut out of the process — despite a formal request for access by local government officials from Telluride and San Miguel County.

“The state has completely failed to conduct its review of the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in a fair, open and transparent process,” said Hilary White, executive director of the Sheep Mountain Alliance, a Telluride-based conservation group that has challenged the Piñon Ridge license in a lawsuit.

The April 17 meeting has been set to discuss and review the state’s performance and implementation of the federal Atomic Energy Act. Community groups and environmental advocates challenging the permitting of the mill said the state failed its obligation to hold adequate formal public hearings during the permitting process and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February agreed in a finding that could force Energy Fuels to start the application process from scratch. Continue reading

Mountain news roundup

Pioneers in viticulture, déjà vu all over again in Aspen, a chicken coop raid in Steamboat, riding high in Silverton, and a PhD … in snowboarding?

Independence Pass - photo by Jenney Coberly.

By Summit Voice

Sustainability and the grape

In the wine world, being organic is more than just a marketing campaign. “I think, for the most part… wineries that are organic are doing it because they know you have to treat your crop right and, in turn, it will treat you right,” said David Courtney, a sommelier at Beaver Liquors in Avon. “On my many visits to Europe when talking with the winemakers, they all know that if you keep using harsh chemicals you will eventually change your terroir, which is what Euro wines are all about,” Courtney said. “Most don’t even have a word for organic farming because that is just how it’s done.”

Mickey Werner, manager of Alpine Wine & Sprits, said there is some evidence that wine produced from organic grapes has a different taste profile from that made with conventionally farmed grapes. In a recent article about an Oregon winery, he said “they farmed both sides of a shallow valley, half biodynamic, half conventional — same clones, root stock — the majority of the tasters said there was a taste-profile difference in every flight that went through. Better is subjective, but there is a more profound taste profile difference between the two.”

Read the full story in the Vail Daily.

Continue reading

Telluride: Battle over Bear Creek access heating up

360° panorama of the southwestern San Juans, p...

360 degree panorama from the Gold Hill ridge. Image via Wikipedia

Backcountry access from the Gold Hill area, on the left side of the trail map, to the Bear Creek drainage (not visible) is at issue in a high-stakes wrangle in Telluride.

Local, state and national groups rally members to preserve backcountry access

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A battle over the backcountry in Telluride is heating up, as state and national conservation and advocacy groups are urging their members to write letters to elected officials and Forest Service rangers to ensure access from the Telluride ski area to the popular Bear Creek drainage.

The Forest Service suddenly closed the backcountry access points on Gold Hill after private property owners in the area complained about the potential liability associated with what they claim is trespass. The Telluride Mountain Club, a local backcountry advocacy group, took up the fight, claiming that the Forest Service may have violated its own procedures by closing the route without any public involvement — especially since opening the access points involved a full scale environmental analysis. Continue reading

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