(Casper Star Tribune, December 4) – We think $4 million is a small price to pay to simultaneously make government more efficient and give a big boost to a Wyoming industry and employer facing tough times.
We’re referring to the cost of shifting the permitting of uranium projects from the feds to the state government — a long-discussed and planned-for idea whose time has come. A legislative committee endorsed the idea on Nov. 24, and we heartily endorse it now for consideration by the full Legislature.
At the moment, both federal and state officials regulate the uranium production industry. But — and we know this will shock you — gaining federal approval for uranium projects is a lengthy and costly affair. For years, state and industry officials have been building the groundwork for the state to take over uranium permitting, with the feds’ OK.
Such a shift provides bountiful benefits, virtually assuring safe yet swifter permitting of projects, allowing uranium production companies to be more nimble about dealing with an uncertain market for their product.
And the market is uncertain. Despite eternal optimism from those in the industry, the spot price of uranium is on a roller coaster ride that won’t end. Dismal summer pricing forced some companies to cut employees, consolidate operations and postpone expansion plans. That’s the wrong direction for a Wyoming energy sector that employs our friends and neighbors and contributes to our local economy with its purchases, building and production. It’s particularly disheartening because several companies, anticipating a forecast rise in prices, opened or expanded Wyoming mines in recent years.
Clearly timing is everything in the uranium supply business right now. Taking over uranium regulations from the feds will give producers an edge on producers elsewhere in the U.S. and position them to adjust more quickly to market demands.
Wyoming regulators have gained federal approval to enforce federal regulations in a number of other areas, including workplace safety and many environmental concerns. It’s time to add uranium production to the list. And we reject the idea that we should make an industry pay for the state to make a regulatory process more efficient, as suggested by Jill Morrison of the landowners’ group Powder River Basin Resource Council. It should be the role of government at all levels to make itself more efficient whenever possible and reduce its burden on those it serves.
The relatively small cost of taking over permitting of uranium production is an excellent place to spend seed money to spur economic development. There’s a clear and direct benefit to our economy. Let’s get it done.