Texas Hero Stan Dollar, 2007 Vee Sawyer Photography www.veesawyer.com Goliad County, citizens and officials there have expressed their collective opposition through press conferences, letters to public officials, and well-attended public meetings. Now they’re pursuing legal action. Goliad County has notified UEC that the county intends to sue the Austinbased company for violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The county plans to file a separate lawsuit in federal court to force UEC to halt uranium exploration in the county and repair any damage to the local aquifer created by exploratory drilling since it began in May 2006. UEC officials responded with a statement: “Any lawsuit filed regarding Uranium Energy Corp.’s exploration activities is completely without merit and will be vigorously defended by the company. The state agency with direct responsibility for the administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act has already thoroughly investigated the county’s complaint and continues to actively fulfill its charge of ensuring the protection of the environment.” In late March, the “state agency with direct responsibility,” the Texas Railroad Commission, investigated the company’s drilling and found it in violation of state regulations for not adequately plugging some 74 exploratory holes. The company responded by properly filling the holes. In recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings, it boasted that as late as November 2007, the Railroad Commission praised UEC for its “prompt attention” to restoring the drilling sites. But in its notice of intent to sue, Goliad County officials claim to have found additional unplugged exploratory holes as recently as early February. They allege that the improperly covered holes have already contaminated a portion of the Evangeline Aquifer, which runs beneath the county. Further, the lawsuit will allege that UEC either intentionally, or through gross negligence, polluted the aquifer to facilitate its application for a uranium-mining permit, which is still under review by the TCEQ. According to the notice, to obtain the type of permit UEC is seeking the company is required by the Safe Drinking Water Act to prove that the aquifer in the location of the proposed mine is unsuitable for drinking. The county claims that the company did not take initial samples of the aquifer until December 2006roughly seven months after the company says it began drilling, and some three months before the Railroad Commission cited the company for improperly plugging holes. The lag time between drilling and baseline water testing, the county alleges, was designed to allow the aquifer’s water to degrade so that it would be deemed undrinkable, and thus no hindrance to mining. MARCH 21, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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