FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : Thursday, September 19, 2013
CONTACT: Sara Rabern (605)773-3215
State Permitting Process for Powertech Applications
PIERRE, S.D - In the next several weeks, hearings on Powertech’s applications for state permits will begin before the State Water Management Board and the Board of Minerals and Environment. Powertech has identified its purpose is to operate an in situ leach mine for uranium in Fall River and Custer Counties, and has applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a federal license. Powertech has applied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for an underground injection permit as well. All of these licenses and permits are required before Powertech can operate.
“There is a specific process that must be followed in the state permit applications,” said Attorney General Jackley. “State law requires a formal process called a contested case hearing that is similar to a civil court trial.” The cases were initiated months ago by petitions for hearing filed by hundreds of interested persons. There are approximately 30 formal parties to each case, and many more parties who have agreed to participate by making formal statements. In addition, discovery between the parties has been completed. The hearing before the Board of Minerals and Environment that concerns a large scale mine permit application will start on Monday, September 23rd in Rapid City. The hearing before the Water Management Board on the water appropriation applications and the groundwater discharge plan application will start on October 7th in Rapid City.
“At the hearings, the parties present evidence to the Boards similar to the manner in which cases are presented to a judge in court. Witnesses will be called to testify and documents will be offered into evidence during the hearings. Objections to evidence may be made, and all witnesses are subject to cross-examination,“ said Jackley. These evidentiary hearings will take at least two weeks in front of each Board, with testimony from numerous witnesses, including experts on technical issues arising from the permit application requirements.
The Attorney General’s Office has limited roles in these proceedings. “Our lawyers provide legal advice to three parties to the proceeding: DENR’s Water Rights Program, the Ground Water Quality Program, and the Mining Program. They present the DENR’s recommendations to the Board through DENR witnesses,” said Jackley. “Further state law requires the Attorney General’s Office to provide legal advice to the Water Management Board and the Board of Minerals and Environment.”
The Program’s recommendations appear on DENR’s website. The recommendation of the Water Rights Program is designated as: “Application 2685-2 Report and Recommendation (Madison Aquifer)” and “Application 2686-2 Report and Recommendation (Inyan Kara Aquifer)”. The recommendation and proposed conditions of the Ground Water Quality Program on Powertech’s groundwater discharge plan application is designated as “Recommended Conditions” and “Powertech Technical Comments”. The recommendation and proposed conditions of the Mining Program on Powertech’s application for a large-scale mining permit is designated as “DENR Recommendation and Permit Conditions”. These recommendations are just part of the evidence that is anticipated to be presented to the Boards during the hearings, with each of the parties to the proceedings having the right to call witnesses and submit evidence.
“Once all the evidence is heard, the Water Management Board and the Board of Minerals and Environment will make their independent decisions on whether or not to approve Powertech’s permit applications, and, if they are approved, what conditions should be placed on the permits,” Jackley said. “After the decisions are made, the Boards are required to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law. All parties will have an opportunity to submit proposed findings and conclusions, and to object to those proposed by other parties. Once the Boards’ decisions are final, state law provides that parties may appeal those decisions to circuit court and ultimately to the state Supreme Court.”