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Fate Of Va. Uranium Mining Rests With McDonnell

By STEVE SZKOTAK

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) â¿¿ Gov. Bob McDonnell has become the sole focus of the tug-of-war over uranium mining in Virginia now that the sponsor of a House bill that would establish mining regulations agreed to drop his legislation.

Delegate Jackson Miller said he's asked the chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, Delegate Terry Kilgore, to not bring forward his legislation, meaning it will likely sit in committee past crossover day on Tuesday. Legislation that has a chance of passing must move from one chamber to the other by that day.

"He said if that's my wish, he's happy to do that," Miller, R-Manassas, said Friday.

Sen. John Watkins, a Powhatan Republican, is the leading advocate of uranium mining in the General Assembly. He withdrew his version of the legislation on Thursday with it facing almost certain defeat in committee and on the floor of the Senate. Watkins then asked McDonnell to direct state agencies to draw up regulations for the mining

The actions by Watkins and Miller shift what was expected to be a bruising battle in the General Assembly to squarely on McDonnell's shoulders. A spokesman said Friday the governor's position remained unchanged: he's still reviewing the issue.

Anti-mining activists who had been targeting key legislators with emails and telephone calls are now turning their lobbying effort to McDonnell. His office received dozens of calls by noon Friday, spokesman J. Tucker Martin said.

McDonnell's indecision has been curious for a Republican governor who has promoted U.S. energy independence and who has advocated an "all of the above" approach to achieve that â¿¿ from coal to offshore oil and winds.

Cale Jaffe, director of the Virginia office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, briefed McDonnell in December and was "impressed by his willingness to dig into the details of the issue" and his thoughtful questions.

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