Houston attorney files petition for appeal against EPA decision
by Coy Slavik
Jan 25, 2013 | 1333 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Houston attorney Jim Blackburn has filed a petition for appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on behalf of Goliad County residents who want to protest the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's grant of an aquifer exemption to Uranium Energy Corp.

Last month, the EPA granted UEC the exemption to allow the uranium-mining company to begin mining operations in Goliad County.

Petitioners in the appeal, which was filed Jan. 18, are Raymond Arnold, Aldon Bade, Brenda Bade, Reta and Gene Brown, John and Pearl Caldwell, Gentry T. Calhoun, P. T. Calhoun, Shannon Calhoun, Ellie Carter, Lynn and Ginger Cook, Werger Dohmann, Craig and Luann Duderstadt, Goliad County Farm Bureau, Jessica Hammons, Raulie and Georgia Irwin, Ashley Jackson, Megan Long, Pam Long, Ted Long, Linda L. Nelson, Wexford Ranch, Calhoun Ranches, Barbara Smith, Jared Smith, Robert Smith, and Don Sugarek.

The petition reads, "Groundwater is the sole source of domestic water supply for Goliad County, and, therefore, the backbone of the citizens' livelihood. Petitioners do not believe the groundwater quality ofthe Goliad Aquifer will be restored by UEC, because no mining operator in Texas has ever restored water quality to its original state."

Blackburn has also filed an appeal in the Travis County against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's granting of a similar aquifer exemption to UEC.

According to the petition, "EPA's approval of the aquifer exemption is arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with the law for several reasons, including, but not limited to the following: 1. The grant of the aquifer exemption contravenes the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, including regulations promulgated pursuant to the Act; and 2. Respondent EPA approved the request by TCEQ without either party making certain changes to the exemption area available to the public; and 3. Respondent EPA denied Petitioners the opportunity for a hearing in violation of 40 C.F.R. § 145.32(b).

"Petitioners respectfully request that the Court: 1) determine that the EPA's Final Action to approve the Texas aquifer exemption is not in accordance with the law, is arbitrary and capricious, and thus be vacated and set aside; 2) in the alternative, remand the action to EPA to conduct a hearing and allow public participation in accordance with 40 C.F.R. § 145.32(b); and 3) grant such additional relief as may be just and appropriate.

UEC Chief Operating Officer Harry Anthony issued a statement to the Advance-Guard concerning the appeal.

“The latest legal effort by a handful of our opponents doesn’t change the fact that UEC's operations are moving forward," Anthony said. "The Goliad County project is fully licensed and permitted for production and has been technically and exhaustively reviewed and approved by state and federal authorities.

"There has never been a documented case of groundwater contamination cause by in-situ uranium mining in Texas. For over five years, landowners in Goliad have been denied their private property rights and the ability to use their land as they see fit. We are encouraged by the fact that the Goliad County Commissioner’s Court and the Goliad County Groundwater Conservation District are not participating in the most recent legal effort because the taxpayers in Goliad County have spent over $700,000 in this effort. We look forward to creating jobs in the region, paying local taxes and becoming an integral part of the Goliad business community.”

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