Founding coalition members include (front row from left) former Delegate Ted Bennett, Virginia Coalition spokesperson Andrew Lester, Halifax County Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Pool; (back row from left) Halifax Regional Health System CEO Chris Lumsden, Virginia House Delegate James Edmunds, Lisa Kipps-Brown, owner of Glerin Business Resources, retired NASCAR driver Ward Burton, and John Cannon, chairman of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority. (Tiffany Hudson/Gazette-Virginian)
A group of citizens from several different businesses and professions joined forces Tuesday to form The Virginia Coalition with the primary goal of keeping the uranium moratorium in Virginia from coming to a vote in the General Assembly.
Virginia Uranium Inc. has proposed a major mining operation at Coles Hill, near Chatham. In order to proceed, Virginia Uranium seeks to overturn a 30-year state moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.
The long awaited studies and reports on potential uranium mining in Virginia are complete, and they do not indicate that uranium mining can be done in Virginia without serious health risks.
According to Virginia Coalition spokesperson Andrew Lester “When our citizens and legislators read the reports, they will come away with the same conclusions as our coalition members. Uranium mining poses a dangerous threat to the health, safety and welfare of our people.”
Founding coalition members include Virginia House Delegate James Edmunds, former Delegate Ted Bennett, retired NASCAR driver Ward Burton, Chris Lumsden, CEO of Halifax Regional Health System, Nancy Pool, president of the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, John Cannon, chairman of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority and a member of the Virginia Tobacco Commission, local business owner Tom Raab of Electric Service Company, and Lisa Kipps-Brown, owner of Glerin Business Resources.
The coalition has formed an affiliation with the Roanoke River Basin Association, a Danville based 501(c) 3 non-profit.
For 66 years the RRBA has sought the wise use and protection of the water resources in this region and the coalition feels their mission and reputation makes them an ideal partner, according to Lester.
The coalition has an up and running website, www.readthereports.org featuring videos, maps and documents as well as downloadable versions of all the prominent reports on uranium mining including the National Academy of Sciences report.
The website also features the Roanoke River Basin Association sponsored assessment by Dr. Robert Moran, the only known site specific study performed on Coles Hill. The website will have easily accessible excerpts from the mining studies, particularly on health issues.
Lester, currently associated with the Roanoke River Basin Association, has agreed to be executive director of Virginia Coalition and will be coordinating the group’s efforts to educate the General Assembly and the citizens around the state.
“Our efforts will be to provide qualified information to the public and to our legislators. When they read the reports they will quickly realize that this is an unreasonable risk to our health, our lives and to our livelihood,” Lester said. “And not only is this area immediately threatened, but the entire eastern portion of Virginia, from North Carolina to the Washington suburbs has large deposits of uranium. And if the demand is there, it will be mined.”
“What we need now is support, both financial and citizen action,” Lester explained. “We are asking that citizens write or call their respective legislators and utilize social media to express their health concerns.”
Soon, tax deductible donations will be accepted through the website via PayPal. In the meantime, donations can be mailed to the Roanoke River Basin Association, Institute for Learning and Research, 150 Slayton Avenue, Danville, Virginia 24540.
Indicate on the check that the donation is for the Virginia Coalition Fund, Lester said.