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Appeals court denies tribal request to review Dewey Burdoch nuclear permits

Lee Strubinger

A Washington D.C. appeals court is denying an Oglala Sioux Tribe request to review nuclear permits issued to a proposed uranium extraction project.

The court made the determination last Tuesday.

The move clears one of several federal permits under appeal.

The tribe says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not follow the process of the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act to protect the tribe’s cultural and historic resources.

Travis Stills is an attorney with Energy and Conservation law out of Durango, Colo.

He said the ruling means the NRC’s permits will get issued, but without a full assessment of what negative affects to cultural, resource and groundwater will be.

“It ends up on turning on some fairly technical questions of law," Still said. "But the result is the court allowed the NRC to go ahead in licensing--without being informed on the serious impacts that it’s licensing would have on cultural resources of the Lakota, and especially the Oglala Sioux Tribe.”

The tribe has a 90-day period to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mark Hollenbeck is the project manager for the Dewey Burdoch site. He said the appeals court ruling is expected.

Uranium Mining nuisance.jpg
Lee Strubinger
A political sign on Minnekahta Ave. in Hot Springs asking voters to declare uranium mining a nuisance.

“We have won every one along the way and we expect it to continue that way,” Hollenbeck said. “It’ll just go through the process.”

Hollenbeck has sought permits for the project since 2012. Two EPA permits are also under review. State permits for the project are on hold until federal permit appeals conclude.

Recently, Fall River County voters designated uranium mining as a nuisance. Backers say it halts uranium production in the county. Project proponents call the measure illegal.

It’s unclear whether that designation will get challenged in court.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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