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  • Former Sen. George Allen regularly appears in the media to defend manufacturers on taxes and regulations without disclosure that he works for them

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) regularly appears in the media to push the interests of the manufacturing industry on issues ranging from the environment to taxes. What’s frequently left unsaid is that the Republican works for a leading manufacturing trade association.

    Allen is a former Republican Senator and governor who now heads George Allen Strategies LLC, which works for clients “on a range of issues including energy, technology, domestic, and international business development.”

    He most recently penned a December 12 Washington Times op-ed claiming that American manufacturers are facing “a formidable new threat: a cabal of activists, cunning lawyers, ambitious politicians and a network of well-heeled benefactors,” which includes philanthropist (and former Media Matters donor) George Soros and environmental activist and philanthropist Tom Steyer.

    Allen also wrote a May 24 Washington Times op-ed in which he encouraged lawmakers to reduce the corporate tax rate. In the piece, he cited a “recent National Association of Manufacturers study [which] indicated that smaller-sized manufacturers (under 50 employees) pay $34,671 per employee each year to comply with regulations. The regulatory burden, coupled with the high rates of our outdated tax code, are not the recipe for unlocking positive entrepreneurial growth in Virginia or anywhere in the United States.”

    Neither of those pieces disclosed that Allen works for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). NAM is a trade association that had revenues of roughly $60 million in 2015, according to its IRS 990 form. The group, which describes itself as “the largest manufacturing association in the United States,” frequently works to oppose regulations against the industry and is now working to pass the GOP’s wildly unpopular tax bill. It is headed by Jay Timmons, a veteran Republican operative who worked as Allen’s chief of staff when he was in office.

    In October 2013, the group appointed Allen as the co-chair of its “Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative.” He has done events this year in which business groups have identified him as working for NAM. His corporate biography states that he still works for NAM and he said in a June 2017 interview that he’s “working with the National Association of Manufacturers on their competitiveness initiative.”

    NAM’s Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, which is part of NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action, tweeted out Allen’s op-ed twice on December 13. Allen’s piece closely resembles the stated purpose of the NAM project, which claims to “set the record straight and highlight the concerted, coordinated campaign being waged by trial lawyers, public officials, deep-pocketed foundations and other activists who have sought to undermine and weaken manufacturers in the United States.”

    The Washington Times, George Allen Strategies, and NAM did not respond to requests for comment.

    Allen has written other op-eds about the government's involvement with the manufacturing industry in which his ties to NAM were not disclosed.

    • He wrote a September 2016 piece for The Hill headlined “Support US manufacturing jobs.” The piece urged Congress "to reform our business tax code to make U.S. manufacturers more competitive internationally."
    • He wrote a July 2017 Daily Caller piece headlined “For American Jobs And Competitiveness, We Need A Better QB At The Ex-Im Bank.” The Caller piece cited the National Association of Manufacturers but still did not disclose his ties. NAM tweeted out the piece from its account.
    • He wrote a July 2017 Richmond Times-Dispatch piece in which he pushed for corporate tax cuts and wrote: “According to analysis by the National Association of Manufacturers, a tax reform package that includes these important elements would create 6.5 million jobs in the USA over the next 10 years.”

    He has also appeared on television and mentioned the manufacturing industry without noting his ties. For instance, during the June 11 edition of CNN’s New Day Sunday, Allen claimed that President Donald Trump “has done a great job on a lot of regulatory reform issues” and “I think that you see a lot of optimism, for example, amongst manufacturers that this president is going to deliver. Now, the members of Congress need to act too.” He also appeared on Fox Business in March where he mentioned NAM when discussing taxes but didn’t say he worked for the organization; NAM subsequently promoted his appearance and posted video of it. 

    By contrast, a November 22 op-ed for the Washington Examiner disclosed that Allen works for NAM.

  • "Do Your Job": Editorials Implore Senate GOP To Rise Above "Obstruction" And Act On Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & TYLER CHERRY

    Newspaper editorials roundly urged Senate Republicans to stop obstructing the nomination process of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The editorials chastised "obstructionist" senators for their "stupendous show of political malfeasance" and warned that the obstruction is "out of sync with the nation's best interests," among other criticisms.

  • Richmond Times-Dispatch Ignores Facts To Dismiss Money's Impact On Elections

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    A Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial dismissed money's impact on U.S. elections by taking a campaign finance reform advocate out of context while ignoring the overwhelming instances where money has played a crucial role in the election process.

    The March 9 editorial claimed that the theory that "money buys elections ... has never been the case" and that "the facts continue to shatter the myth," citing the presidential campaigns of former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Scott Walker, well-funded candidates who dropped out of the race. The editorial continued:

    The hard reality has led even some of the nation's most persistent campaign-finance scolds, such as Rick Hasen -- author of "Plutocrats United" -- to concede that "In spite of the rhetoric of some campaign reformers, money doesn't buy elections." Others still insist that it does, or will, someday -- just you wait. Big-donor money hasn't bought the 2016 election, says The New York Times -- "yet."

    [...]

    But while unions, nonprofits, and businesses can talk themselves hoarse, they can't cast ballots. Only the voters can do that -- and they often vote in ways that resoundingly reject the efforts of so-called big money. Just ask Jeb Bush about that.

    First, the editorial selectively quotes UCLA professor Rick Hasen, whose piece in The Washington Post explains that while "money doesn't buy elections," it "increases the odds of electoral victory and of getting one's way on policies, tax breaks and government contracts." His article continued:

    And the presidential race is the place we are least likely to see money's effects. Looking to Congress and the states, though, we can see that the era of big money unleashed by the Supreme Court is hurtling us toward a plutocracy in which the people with the greatest economic power can wield great political power through campaign donations and lobbying.

    Hasen's argument was backed up by a recent release by U.S. PIRG, which found that "87.5% of higher fundraising candidates won their congressional [primary] race and now head to the general election."

    Even the New York Times piece the Times-Dispatch's editorial dismisses is grounded in reality. In the 2012 election, a majority of the money spent in the election by both parties and super PACs spiked in October, the month before the general election. The Times piece argues -- again in a section left out of the Dispatch's editorial -- that major donors "like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will come off the sidelines" in the general election.

    There are real impacts to more money in politics. When elected members of the judiciary know their rulings could be used against them during an election, they are less likely to rule in favor of defendants and more likely to hand down longer sentences. And as the Brennan Center for Justice explained in a blog post, even though there is a scientific consensus around man-made climate change, those who are less likely to believe the scientific consensus are more likely to receive money from "dirty energy sources."

  • Virginia State Delegate Debunks "Monday-Morning Quarterbacking" That Gun Issue Cost Democrats The State Senate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell (D) debunked claims following Virginia's November 3 statewide elections that some Democrats' advocacy for stronger gun laws cost the party a chance to control the state Senate.

    Prior to Election Day, Democrats needed to pick up one seat to effectively obtain control of the chamber (the Senate would have been split 20 - 20 with a Democratic lieutenant governor casting tie-breaking votes). Democrats did not gain the seat, retaining the 19 - 21 party split.

    Following the election, media pundits seized on the Senate race in District 10 to baselessly argue that the gun issue caused Democrat Dan Gecker to lose to Republican Glen Sturtevant. Gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety had spent $700,000 on advertising in support of Gecker.

    The Washington Post ran an article with the headline, "Did gun control cost McAuliffe and Democrats the Virginia election?" while the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board concluded Gecker accepting help from Everytown was "a massive mistake." None of these claims had any basis in fact: the evidence actually suggested that the ads helped Gecker close the gap, although he ultimately did not prevail.

    In an op-ed at the Post, Surovell explained that "the focus on gun safety actually made District 10 a tighter, tougher fight for the Republicans than it should have been," and also noted commentators on the election are ignoring that the Democratic candidate in Senate District 29 -- who was supported by gun safety ads -- prevailed in a high-profile race. From the op-ed:

    There's been a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking about how firearm violence prevention played in Virginia elections this year. Let's look at the two state Senate races where the issue played a central role: Senate District 10 in the Richmond area and Senate District 29 in Prince William County. In both races, gun safety was either the winning factor or helped tighten a race in a previously non-competitive GOP-held district.

    First, polling in and outside of Virginia shows more than 85 percent of Americans support common-sense firearms-violence prevention rules such as universal background checks or keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals. Notwithstanding that, the NRA and other groups continue to give "F" ratings to any elected official who dare to support reasonable safeguards on weapon acquisition.

    In Senate District 29, only a few miles from the NRA's Fairfax headquarters, gun safety was the issue that put the victor, Democratic candidate Jeremy McPike, over the top. Hal Parrish, the NRA "A"-rated, popular mayor with high name recognition, was handpicked by the GOP to win an open seat but was soundly defeated by McPike, an NRA "F"-rated candidate who had never held elected office.

    Parrish consistently led in pre-election polls until Parrish's unpopular gun positions and his inability to articulate what he would do to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals were exposed to voters. Phone calls, door knocks and television ads on firearm-violence prevention narrowed the gap, solidified undecided voters and moved a race that began within the margin of error to an 8 percent win in McPike's favor. That spread is the new price to be paid for sticking by the gun lobby and being out of step with Virginia voters.

    In Senate District 10, Republicans kept an open seat they held for 17 years. Glen Sturtevant, the NRA-backed candidate won -- but by a margin of less than 3 percent, fewer than 1,500 votes. Four years ago, John Watkins won by 12 percent, 4,300 votes.

    Even in Powhatan County -- the most conservative county in the district - Sturtevant underperformed his predecessor by 4 percent.

    While blaming one issue for winning or losing elections is an interesting political parlor game, it is a vast oversimplification for a process that divines the intentions of more than 30,000 people. The focus on gun safety actually made District 10 a tighter, tougher fight for the Republicans than it should have been, closing the gap to a spread much closer than the prognosticators were expecting.

  • The Koch Brothers' Campaign Against EPA Climate Safeguards Is In Your Newspaper

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    At least 16 U.S. newspapers have recently published op-eds by state officials of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers' political advocacy group, urging state legislatures to oppose the EPA's plan to address climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. These newspapers have consistently failed to disclose the authors' oil industry ties, and the op-eds themselves "misleadingly" cite statistics on electricity prices from an industry-funded study, as a media fact-checker has explained.

  • Richmond Times Dispatch Cites Misleading Poll On Medicaid Expansion

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    The Richmond Times Dispatch cited a misleading poll that showed waning support for Medicaid expansion in Virginia and failed to explain the questionable phrasing used by the pollster.

    The Times Dispatch editorial relied on an April 24 poll conducted by Christopher Newport University (CNU) that found that 53 percent of Virginians oppose the expansion of Medicaid currently being considered by the General Assembly. While the editorial board claimed to "share [the] concerns" of the poll's critics, they still used the poll's results to validate the Republican strategy of obstructing Medicaid expansion. The Times Dispatch continued:

    We suspect the poll reflects the GOP's success in tying Medicaid expansion to Obamacare. The consequences of the botched debut of the Affordable Care Act continue to resonate. Backers of the plan may complain about unfair reactions, but a political fact is a political fact. Obamacare put Medicaid on Virginia's agenda, yet Medicaid's predicaments would exist even if Obamacare had gone down in congressional defeat.

    The poll's results quickly came under scrutiny, mostly due to the way in which the polling questions on expansion differed markedly from the university's previous questions on the topic. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explained, previous polls about Medicaid expansion conducted by the university asked about expansion in a more neutral fashion, leading their February poll to find support for expansion. This time, the question highlighted each party's argument, reinforcing the Republican's "straw man argument that the federal government will renege on its commitment to fund nearly all the costs of the expansion":

    What the pollsters do not fully acknowledge, however, is that they asked the question in two markedly different ways, making this a highly misleading, apples-to-oranges finding that doesn't necessarily show a shift in public opinion:

    • § On February 3 the question was asked: Medicaid is a health care program for families and individuals with low income that is funded by both federal and state tax dollars. Currently, Virginia is faced with a decision about whether to expand the Medicaid program to cover an additional 400,000 mostly working poor Virginians who are uninsured. In general, do you support Medicaid expansion or oppose it?
    • § But on April 24 poll the question was asked: In [the Medicaid expansion] debate, the Democrats propose to subsidize private insurance for 400,000 uninsured and low income Virginians by using federal Medicaid money that would otherwise not come to Virginia. Republicans oppose this expansion because they fear the federal Medicaid money will not come as promised, and also say the current Medicaid program has too much waste and abuse and needs reformed before it is expanded.

    Thus, unlike in February, Virginians in the most recent poll were asked whether the state should expand Medicaid only after they were read the straw man argument that the federal government will renege on its commitment to fund nearly all the costs of the expansion. As we have explained, the history of Medicaid's financing shows that federal funding has remained remarkably steady for decades.

  • Richmond Times-Dispatch Frees GOP Of Blame In Obamacare Rollout

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch said Republican "political arguments" should not be blamed for the initial failures of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite the GOP's goal of obstructing of the law, hindering its rollout.

    In a November 25 editorial discussing the ACA's rollout, the editorial board claimed that "political arguments" and "Republican boilerplate against the ACA" did not contribute to the failures of the rollout. From the Times-Dispatch:

    Although President Barack Obama has accepted responsibility (sort of) for Obamacare's disastrous start, he continues to point fingers at others.

    The Washington Post's Dana Milbank notes that Obama has whined about Republicans and the press. He has implied that GOP demands to repeal the Affordable Care Act have undermined the program's efficiency. Oh? Political arguments have no bearing on the mechanics of running Obamacare. Republican boilerplate against the ACA did not contribute to the fiasco. Conservatives may be reveling in the aftermath, but they did not cause the systemic failures.

    The editorial fails to note the multiple instances of Republican obstructionism that have led to some of the problems with the law's implementation. As a November 1 Politico article noted, one of the causes of the flawed rollout was "calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step." The piece continued:

    From the moment the bill was introduced, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress announced their intention to kill it. Republican troops pressed this cause all the way to the Supreme Court -- which upheld the law, but weakened a key part of it by giving states the option to reject an expansion of Medicaid. The GOP faithful then kept up their crusade past the president's reelection, in a pattern of "massive resistance" not seen since the Southern states' defiance of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

    The opposition was strategic from the start: Derail President Barack Obama's biggest ambition, and derail Obama himself. Party leaders enforced discipline, withholding any support for the new law -- which passed with only Democratic votes, thus undermining its acceptance. Partisan divisions also meant that Democrats could not pass legislation smoothing out some rough language in the draft bill that passed the Senate. That left the administration forced to fill far more gaps through regulation than it otherwise would have had to do, because attempts -- usually routine -- to re-open the bill for small changes could have led to wholesale debate in the Senate all over again.

  • Richmond Times-Dispatch Fabricates Obamacare Changes To Frame Law As A Failure

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch penned a misleading editorial to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by incorrectly claiming income-based tax credits would not be verified, that caps on co-payments have been eliminated, and that the ACA will leave future Americans uninsured.

    The October 23 editorial used the slow start of the exchange websites as a launching point to discount the entire law and its provisions as a failure. The editorial pushed several claims about the law including that it drops proof-of-eligibility requirements and it will leave millions of people uninsured in the next decade (emphasis added):

    [The ACA] has failed so miserably that President Obama took to the airwaves to emphasize what a wonderful success it was, despite the website issues for which he offered "no excuses" -- and took no responsibility.

    Besides, he said, "the Affordable Care Act is not just a website. It's much more." Indeed it is -- and there have been many more problems than just online technical roadblocks. The administration has delayed the employer insurance mandate for a year. It has dropped proof-of-eligibility requirements for exchange subsidies. And it has jettisoned caps on out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments and deductibles. Democrats and Republicans agree that the tax on medical devices should be repealed.

    [...]

    The ACA is not just a website -- and the glitches are not just web-related. Even if the law works exactly according to plan, a decade from now 31 million Americans will remain uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If that is success, be afraid of what failure could look like.   

    The Times-Dispatch's claim that the administration had "dropped proof-of-eligibility requirements" for individuals applying for tax credits to use towards the price of health care coverage bought on the exchanges is patently untrue. In fact, a strengthened income verification measure was part of the minimal concessions given to the Republicans to reopen the government after they held the entire law hostage leading to the government shutdown.

    Furthermore, according to CNN Money the current verification methods will allow the IRS to recoup any over-payments from falsified information, meaning "anyone who might get a bigger subsidy than they are eligible for will have to pay back the difference to the IRS." According to CNN Money: 

    The final calculation of a subsidy's size will be done after the fact by the IRS.

    "Your actual tax credit will be calculated based on your actual income that next April [when you file your federal tax return]," [Kaiser Family Foundation Senior Vice President Larry] Levitt explained.

    Bottom line: Anyone who might get a bigger subsidy than they're eligible for will have to pay back the difference to the IRS.

    And they may owe a penalty, too, since they must attest when applying for subsidies that they are not filing false information.

    "If you report your income incorrectly, it will catch up with you because there's a reconciliation of these tax subsidies on your tax return. Come tax time you could see an enormous bill," said Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center.

    The Times-Dispatch editorial also claimed that the administration had "jettisoned" out-of-pocket caps or limits placed on deductibles and co-payments. The editorial frames this as a permanent provision to the ACA. However, in reality, there has been a one-year delay in the implementation of the caps to better allow insurance companies to coordinate and fine tune logistical details so that caps can be calculated accurately. According to The New York Times:

    The health law, signed more than three years ago by Mr. Obama, clearly established a single overall limit on out-of-pocket costs for each individual or family. But federal officials said that many insurers and employers needed more time to comply because they used separate companies to help administer major medical coverage and drug benefits, with separate limits on out-of-pocket costs.

    In many cases, the companies have separate computer systems that cannot communicate with one another.

    A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said: "We knew this was an important issue. We had to balance the interests of consumers with the concerns of health plan sponsors and carriers, which told us that their computer systems were not set up to aggregate all of a person's out-of-pocket costs. They asked for more time to comply."

    Caps on out-of-pocket spending remain an important part of the ACA and will save American families billions of dollars each year. In 2011 alone it was estimated that families spent $24.7 billion more than the ACA's cap threshold.

    Finally, the Times-Dispatch made the inaccurate claim that the ACA, by design, will leave 31 million Americans uninsured. The editorial states that these individuals would remain uninsured "even if the law works exactly according to plan," suggesting the health care reform measure never intended this group to gain coverage. This analysis is flawed for two reasons. First, the law assumed states would participate in the Medicaid program given the low cost and high benefit structure of expansion, which, due to Republican obstructionism has not happened, potentially leaving 6 to 7 million people uninsured. However, a second flaw in their argument is that many of the remaining uninsured people are undocumented immigrants who were barred from gaining coverage thanks to strong Republican opposition and the lack of Republican support on current immigration reform measures. 

    This editorial adds to the Richmond Times-Dispatch's history of pushing ACA misinformation

  • Richmond Times-Dispatch Likes Fracking -- But Not In Virginia

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    Source: Julia Schmalz via BloombergThe Richmond Times-Dispatch published an editorial dismissing the alleged "fear and disinformation" surrounding hydraulic fracturing to claim it is "not so toxic," but admitted the process is not safe enough for Virginia.

    The September 11 editorial attacked opponents of hydraulic fracturing -- also known as fracking - claiming that they "have waged a campaign of fear and disinformation" about the process, which is "not so toxic as its foes make it out to be."

    But the Times-Dispatch quickly pivoted to denounce fracking in Virginia's George Washington National Forest, which provides drinking water to millions of people. As the editorial explains, it's still a process "that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery," which is "a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape":

    The U.S. Forest Service is completing a 15-year management plan and soon will decide whether to permit fracking in George Washington. While fracking is not so toxic as its foes make it out to be, it remains an industrial process -- one that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery. That is a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape.

    Granted, the federal government owns far too much real estate -- particularly out west. Public lands should not be categorically sealed off from private use. The George Washington Natural Forest, however, is not just any old lump of real estate. It is a treasure that merits close guarding.

    The Times-Dispatch's NIMBYism is clearly concerning. It is understandable that the editorial board would not want to contaminate the drinking water and decimate the beauty of Virginia's natural landscape, but it is unclear why it is willing to tolerate such damage in another state. The Times-Dispatch's reasoning that public lands should be targeted because "the federal government owns too much real estate - particularly out west" is misleading, as approximately 3,400 wells, or about 90 percent of those drilled on Federal and Indian lands, are already "stimulated using hydraulic fracturing techniques."

  • Richmond Times-Dispatch Columnist Pens Falsehood Filled Column Bashing Obamacare

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    The Richmond Times Dispatch's A. Barton Hinkle attacked Obamacare with several falsehoods in his latest Sunday column by blaming the president for the delays in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and ignoring the role of an obstructive Republican majority in the House. Hinkle also overlooked Virginia's role in regulating health care navigators, those charged with guiding the uninsured to the best coverage, and instead suggested the federal government would be careless with private information.

  • Richmond Times Dispatch Unfairly Compares Birth Control Mandate And Virginia Sodomy Law

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    The Richmond Times Dispatch editorial board attacked progressive groups for appearing hypocritical in their defense of the Affordable Care Act birth control mandate while decrying Virginia's sodomy law. However, this represents a faulty comparison as birth control is legal and has definitive medical purposes while the state's sodomy law has been found unconstitutional and provides no medical benefit.

    In the August 15 editorial, the Times Dispatch discussed recent activities by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and ProgressVA criticizing comments made by Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that allies should be willing to "go to jail" to fight against the federal mandate for contraception. The Times also noted ProgressVA's criticism of Cuccinelli's continued defense of the state's anti-sodomy law. The editorial goes on to accuse the progressive groups of hypocrisy, saying they want to "keep government in the bedroom" by supporting a law subsidizing birth control but "out of the bedroom" by not supporting the sodomy law:

    So the AG is supposed to help keep government in the bedroom by supporting a law subsidizing birth control, but keep government out of the bedroom by not supporting the sodomy law. All clear?

    Cuccinelli's stance is just as muddled. He can't very well say he is simply fulfilling a duty by defending one law while he urges individuals to break another one.

    While the editorial correctly points out that Cuccinelli, who is running for Virginia governor, has a "muddled" stance on this issue, it is an unfair characterization for the editorial to claim the progressive groups are also being inconsistent.

    First, birth control has many purposes that have nothing to do with the "bedroom." A study by the Guttmacher Institute found in 2011 that 1.5 million women use oral contraceptives solely for noncontraceptive purposes. In fact, many of these women use oral contraceptives to treat issues such as migraines and acne or to reduce cramps and menstrual pain:

    The study--based on U.S government data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG)--revealed that after pregnancy prevention (86%), the most common reasons women use the pill include reducing cramps or menstrual pain (31%); menstrual regulation, which for some women may help prevent migraines and other painful "side effects" of menstruation (28%); treatment of acne (14%); and treatment of endometriosis (4%). Additionally, it found that some 762,000 women who have never had sex use the pill, and they do so almost exclusively (99%) for noncontraceptive reasons.

  • Virginia Media's Distorted Push For Dangerous Uranium Mining

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    Two Virginia media outlets are pushing gubernatorial candidates to lift a ban on uranium mining in Virginia while ignoring the state's particular vulnerability to environmental and health risks from mining.

    In a March 21 editorial, The Richmond Times-Dispatch advocated for uranium mining, highlighting a study by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission which found that a radium and uranium refinery had no health or environmental effects on people in the surrounding area.

    But the facility at the study's focus does not actually mine uranium at their site, it refines it. And in locations where they do mine, there are environmental differences between Canada and the United States. Cale Jaffe, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Canadian mines are located in areas with different climates and are more isolated from population centers. Indeed, a comprehensive report by the National Academy of Sciences found that storms and erosion from rainfall could pose a risk to uranium mines:

    Virginia is subject to relatively frequent storms that produce intense rainfall. It is questionable whether currently-engineered tailings repositories could be expected to prevent erosion and surface and groundwater contamination for as long as 1,000 years. Natural events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, intense rainfall, or drought could lead to the release of contaminants if facilities are not designed and constructed to withstand such events, or if they fail to perform as designed.

    A study by the city of Virginia Beach found that a "catastrophic failure" -- due to a natural event for example -- of a uranium containment structure could lead to radioactive substances contaminating drinking water for an extended period of time.

    Canadian mines have also faced significant environmental problems in the past, according to a Southern Environmental Law Center report.  On three occasions Canadian mines have flooded or contaminated waste water has leaked from these projects.

    Virginia Watchdog, the Virginia affiliate of the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity -- a right-wing group which provides free statehouse reporting to local newspapers but receives large amounts of money from anonymous conservative donors -- similarly ignored the risks posed by Virginia's climate, instead quoting a Washington Times editorial in favor of uranium mining and the company who wants to mine the area.