Powertech Uranium (a subsidiary of Azarga Uranium) has formally asked the South Dakota state Water Management Board to restart the hearing on the water permits for its proposed uranium mine in Custer and Fall River Counties. This hearing started and was suspended in 2013, when Powertech agreed to wait to restart the process until its federal permits were in place. Now Powertech’s plan is to restart the hearing in October 2021.
Two programs of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources – the Water Rights Program and the Surface Water Quality Program – have now had their say in the proceedings. And they said “Not So Fast.”
The two programs, speaking through the Office of the SD Attorney General, agreed with Black Hills Clean Water Alliance and many of the 300+ members of the public who are formal intervenors (participants) in the hearing process. The programs said that the hearing should not be restarted in October, because the company’s federal permits are still either suspended or under legal action. Plus October would be too soon to restart a complex process that has been on hold for 8 years. New people must be educated, and new experts need to be identified.
The State programs also noted that a full third of the addresses for the 300+ intervenors were outdated – and some intervenors were believed to have passed away. The Water Management Board needs to determine what will happen with the rights of the intervenors who are deceased or who have outdated addresses. Options we can think of include using other intervenors’ information to update addresses, allowing new people to become intervenors, and setting up a process to replace intervenors who have passed away.
We agree with these two SD programs that restarting the water permit hearings at this time is premature. We expect the court proceedings around the federal permits to be successful, as they raise important legal issues and document government failures. We ask the Water Management Board to deny Powertech’s request to restart the hearing at their July 6 meeting.
WHAT CAN I DO?
If you are NOT an intervenor – Send an email to the Water Management Board, State of South Dakota by writing to Ron Duvall (he helps the Board and is NOT a Board member – address your email to the Water Management Board) at Ron.Duvall@state.sd.us before July 1.
If you ARE an intervenor – Contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible for more information (if you haven’t already received an email about this). You will need to take action in the next week.