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Stanley ‘misspoke’ in call

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

State Sen. Bill Stanley on Tuesday admitted that Gov. Bob McDonnell was not behind a phone call he recently made to a member of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors to try and stop consideration of a proposed resolution regarding uranium mining.

Callands-Gretna District Supervisor Jerry Hagerman said he got a call on Aug. 31 from Stanley, who told him “the governor wanted him (Stanley) to reach out to members of the board of supervisors” to get the resolution tabled.

During the conversation, Hagerman said, Stanley mentioned McDonnell’s name “three different times.”

Stanley, R-Glade Hill, said he “misspoke ... in my exuberance to try and get him (Hagerman) to see the forest for the trees” because he thought the supervisor was not listening attentively to his concerns.

“I never had any phone conversation” with either McDonnell or anyone in his administration, Stanley said.

Jeff Caldwell, the governor’s press secretary, confirmed that Tuesday.

Stanley said he did not recall how many times he mentioned McDonnell in his call to Hagerman. He said he “was not intentionally trying to mislead” anyone.

Stanley added that he also made calls which he considered to be private to several other Pittsylvania supervisors, and Hagerman apparently was the only one who decided to share comments made in the calls publicly.

In 1983, the General Assembly banned uranium mining statewide. Scientists have voiced concerns that uranium mining could hurt the environment as well as public health, such as through radiological contamination.

Virginia Uranium Inc. wants the ban repealed so it can mine and mill uranium at the Coles Hill site near Chatham, thought to be one of the world’s largest deposits of the metal. The company maintains it would create hundreds of jobs and its operations would be safe.

McDonnell has asked lawmakers to delay consideration of lifting the ban until more study can be done and possible regulations and safety measures can be put forth.

The resolution, which is on Pittsylvania County’s website, does not take a position on uranium mining. Rather, it asks the state to protect the health of county residents from possible air, water and radon pollution and diminished property values as well as disruption of well or surface water flows due to any uranium mining that eventually might be allowed.

It also asks that a fund be set up to compensate county residents within five miles of the Coles Hill site who are harmed by any mining.

The supervisors removed the resolution from the agenda for their Sept. 4 meeting not because of Stanley’s phone call, but because some Pittsylvania County residents told some of the supervisors that they thought its wording was not strong enough, Hagerman said.

According to published reports, uranium mining opponents considered the resolution to be weak and they thought it would give the state and federal governments too much control.

Hagerman emphasized that the board so far has not taken a position on uranium mining at Coles Hill.

Stanley said he is opposed to uranium mining in Pittsylvania County because “safety is an enormous issue” and “the potential for harm is too enormous.”

“Uranium is not the magic bullet” to revive Southside’s economy, he said.

He acknowledged telling Hagerman that if the resolution was adopted, it could hurt economic development efforts in which the state is involved.

The way in which the resolution was worded, it could have alienated both opponents and supporters of uranium mining, Stanley said.

Hagerman said Stanley’s call, which he received around 10:30 p.m., “made me feel quite uncomfortable” and he told the senator he would have to talk with other supervisors and residents in his district to learn their opinions on the resolution.

Despite his discomfort, Hagerman said it would not stop him from working with Stanley in the future on efforts that would benefit his county.


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