Salazar: Don’t put mercury in my district

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The less-than-welcoming response of Grand Valley residents to the idea of storing mercury south of Grand Junction ought to be enough to send federal officials looking elsewhere, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., said.

Salazar, whose 3rd Congressional District includes most of the Western Slope, wrote to Energy Secretary Seven Chu urging him to take the search to locations “that have the interest, support, and capability” to receive and store mercury.

“I am a strong proponent of allowing the local community to guide a decision of this nature, and it is clear that they are not in favor of such a facility,” Salazar wrote to Chu.

The Energy Department is seeking a place to store as many as 17,000 tons of mercury over the next 40 years as the result of legislation sponsored by Barack Obama when he was an Illinois senator.

Salazar will accompany Obama to a town hall on health care at Central High School on Saturday, but Salazar’s office said it wasn’t known whether the mercury issue would come up.

The Grand Junction Disposal Site was established solely for the disposal of uranium mill tailings, and any change to that agreement with Mesa County would violate the intent and scope of this site beyond its original intended function, Salazar said in his letter.

The Mesa County Commission authorized officials to draft a response asking that the Energy Department drop Grand Junction from the list of seven sites it’s studying for storage.
In the event that the Grand Junction Disposal Site isn’t eliminated, the commission is asking to be treated as a cooperating agency, giving officials greater access to documents and analysis.

Gov. Bill Ritter also has written to the Energy Department opposing the storage proposal in Mesa County.


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