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JACKSON -- Wyoming lawmakers will consider draft legislation to ensure timely permitting for the mining industry, but the draft has been changed dramatically from the original proposed by industry.

"This really isn't the bill we had proposed. [Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality administrator John Corra] rewrote the proposal quite significantly. ... I really don't see any need for this legislation or for you to take the time to work on it," said Wyoming Mining Association Executive Director Marion Loomis.

Loomis testified before the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee on Tuesday.

Fed up with years-long delays in the in-situ uranium mining industry, the Wyoming Mining Association drafted a bill that would have forced DEQ to hire a contractor to work through a backlog of permitting work.

Corra said he objected to the original draft. As DEQ administrator, Corra already has authority to hire contractors for special projects. But industry's bill would have shifted that discretion from the DEQ adminstrator to the permit applicant.

However, the uranium industry's detailed account of a frustrating three-year permitting process that still has yet to yield a permit is entirely accurate, said Corra.

"We did miss those statutory timelines. I'm not happy about that, and the Land Quality Division is on notice that they are not to do that again," said Corra.

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In DEQ's defense, Corra said the regulatory guidelines for in-situ uranium mining permitting underwent significant updates, initiated in part by federal agencies such as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. When several permit applications for in-situ uranium mining were submitted to DEQ in 2007 they were the first in about 10 years or more.

Corra said the information originally provided by the applicants didn't take many of those new regulatory requirements into account.

"I'm hopeful we've all been on a learning curve. I'm confident the next five permits will go a lot better than the first three or four," said Corra.

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In 2009, Gov. Dave Freudenthal asked state agencies to trim budgets by 5 percent to 10 percent, including DEQ. Although DEQ has added a significant number of staff positions to keep up with burgeoning energy development in the state over the past 10 years, Corra said the workload has simply outpaced the agency's resources.

An internal review suggested the agency needs about eight more full-time staff positions. Freudenthal has agreed to ask for four more positions in the next budget, said Corra. However, a consultant will conduct its own analysis to determine whether more staff is needed and where the agency might find efficiencies.

Committee members said they want to continue the draft legislation until it receives results from the third-party analysis, which may be available sometime in December.

Contact energy reporter Dustin Bleizeffer at (307) 577-6069 or dustin.bleizeffer@trib.com

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