Penry: Ritter using mercury politically

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Gov. Bill Ritter last week said he opposed a federal plan to “deposit” mercury in Mesa County. On Tuesday, he wrote to political supporters urging them to oppose plans to “dump an estimated 10,000 tons of mercury waste.”

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, suggested the governor was playing the issue for political benefit.

From his Web site, Ritter is asking supporters to forward an e-mail to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to tell him “Colorado’s Western Slope is no place for the federal government to dump 10,000 tons of mercury.”

The U.S. Department of Energy is looking at sites in seven states for the storage of as many as 17,000 tons of mercury over the next 40 years.

The effort is in response to the passage last year of legislation sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., prohibiting the export of mercury and ordering the Energy Department to designate and manage a long-term mercury disposal facility. Obama’s bill, S. 96, the Mercury Export Ban Act, was signed by President George W. Bush last October.

Why go to such lengths? Penry asked in an e-mail. Penry is seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Ritter in the 2010 election.

“Does anyone think it’s strange that the governor doesn’t just pick up the phone and call the Secretary of Energy and President Obama himself?”

Ritter plans to write to Chu late this week, his spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said in an e-mail Tuesday.

The Energy Department hopes to designate a facility by the end of the year and put it in operation by 2013.


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