Supreme Court Upholds Virginia’s Ban on Uranium Mining
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The Trump administration had backed a lawsuit brought by Virginia Uranium Inc. and other companies who own the nation's largest-known uranium deposit, valued at $6 billion. But that deposit is on private land in Virginia, and the state has banned all mining of the radioactive metal since 1982.
"This is a big win for the health and safety of Virginians and our environment," Virginia state Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement reported by Reuters. "We are well within our rights as a state to decide that a risky, potentially dangerous activity like uranium mining is not for us."
*BREAKING* Virginia's ban on uranium mining has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and in a HUGE win for voting righ… https://t.co/XuxxemDWd2— Mark Herring (@Mark Herring)1560781205.0
The cause revolved around a 1954 law, as The New York Times explained:
The question for the justices was whether a federal law, the Atomic Energy Act, barred the state moratorium. That law regulates what can be done with uranium and the radioactive waste it generates after it is extracted from the earth. If the federal law applied, it would have displaced the moratorium and allowed mining to proceed.
But the federal law regulates only the second and third steps in uranium mining. The first step is extracting the raw ore from the ground. The second is separating the ore from waste rock, or tailings, and concentrating it into so-called yellowcake, which is sold. The third step is storing the tailings, which are radioactive.
The Justices ruled six to three in favor of Virginia, with Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch writing the ruling.
"Every indication in the law before us suggests that Congress elected to leave mining regulation on private land to the states and grant the (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) regulatory authority only after uranium is removed from the earth," Gorsuch wrote, as USA Today reported.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett M. Kavanaugh joined in Gorsuch's decision, while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan also agreed with Virginia but backed a second opinion written by Ginsburg. The New York Times reported.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote the dissent, arguing that the mining ban violated federal law because it was directed against the environmental impacts of the later steps in the uranium mining process, which federal law does cover. Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito Jr. agreed with Roberts.
Virginia is concerned about mining because the deposit is located in a scenic, agricultural county with 1,300 working farms, USA Today reported. Sixty-thousand of its residents depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and on wells for their water. The state is also concerned mining would disrupt tourism.
"We have long supported Virginia's decision to protect its communities from the environmental and economic risks of uranium mining," Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) Senior Attorney Mark Sabath said in a statement. "We are pleased that the Court respected that decision and recognized that it was one for Virginia to make."
Dangerous uranium #mining is wrong for Virginia. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision today that upholds the st… https://t.co/KnE8EkVauS— SELC (Environmental Law) (@SELC (Environmental Law))1560799819.0
The ruling could encourage other states to enact similar bans, Reuters reported, possibly leading to a decline in uranium production.
Virginia Uranium said it would investigate other means of challenging the state's moratorium.
"We continue to think that Virginia's uranium mining ban is both unlawful and unwise," the company said in a statement reported by Reuters.
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- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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