Wright crossways with GOP
DENVER — Rep. Jared Wright doesn’t care what the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce thinks about a bill he’s backing on uranium mining.
The Fruita Republican is co-sponsoring a bill with a Boulder Democrat, Rep. KC Becker, aimed at protecting the state’s groundwater supply from radioactive contamination.
“This bill is not about stonewalling the industry, this bill is not about putting unnecessary roadblocks in place, this bill is not about duplication,” Wright told the House Transportation & Energy Committee, which approved the bill on a 8-5 party-line vote Thursday with all the Republicans on the panel opposing it.
“This bill is about protecting regular, everyday people, our citizens in the state of Colorado, their future, the health of our environment, and the quality and health of our number-one resource and most important resource, our water,” Wright said.
While the bill primarily is aimed at helping residents around a Superfund site near Canon City, some Republicans fear it is overly broad.
That’s why it earned GOP support in the Colorado Senate when it was narrowed to ensure that it wouldn’t impose burdensome regulations on other uranium mill sites, including the planned Pinon Ridge Mill in western Montrose County.
As a result, it earned support from four Western Slope senators from both sides of the aisle, including Sens. Steve King, R-Grand Junction; Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs; Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village; and Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, whose district includes the Montrose mill.
But when Wright and Becker tried to put some wording back into the bill that the Senate removed, Rep. Don Coram objected, saying it would jeopardize hundreds of jobs in his district.
That created a bit of a heated exchange between Coram and Wright.
“Representative Coram, I respect your expertise, I just happen to disagree with you on this issue,” Wright said. “I represent an area that abuts a quarter of your district and I don’t see this resulting in job loss.”
“With all due respect, Representative Wright, your district came out in opposition,” Coram added. “The Grand Junction chamber of commerce came out in opposition. Club 20 is in opposition. I don’t know who you’re talking to in your district, but the people who have talked to me have certainly been in opposition.”
“I represent the people of my district, the people of the state of Colorado, Representative Coram. Not one group or organization,” Wright countered.
Supporters of the bill say the measure would only impact the Western Slope mill if it ends up contaminating nearby water supplies.
The bill, which cleared the Senate last month on a bipartisan 31-4 vote, heads to the House Appropriations Committee for more debate.