By Peter Galuszka
State Sen. Bill Stanley has told a Southside newspaper that he “misspoke” when he brought up the name of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell during his Aug. 31 telephone call that was taped recorded by Pittsylvania County Supervisor Jerry A. Hagerman.
Stanley admitted that he “misspoke” when he told Hagerman that McDonnell had called Stanley and had asked him to “reach out” to supervisors to convince them to shelve a proposed resolution that would ask for regulation of proposed uranium mining in their area and that a fund be established to reimburse resident harmed by a mining accident.
Bacons Rebellion broke the story about the taped telephone call on Sept. 14 that although both Stanley and the McDonnell Administration had earlier denied emphatically that McDonnell had called Stanley to urge him to lobby the board on the resolution, Hagerman’s tape of the call clearly has him stating that McDonnell did call.
On Sunday, Sept. 16, Stanley changed his story and told a reporter from the South Boston News, “Look, I overpushed there. I got very frustrated with (Hagerman) for not seeing the forest for the trees… It didn’t come from the governor, it came from me.” McDonnell’s office insists that the governor did not call Stanley about the uranium resolution.
The telephone-call issue will further incite mistrust over the uranium issue. Virginia Uranium, a firm made up of local and Canadian investors, wants to develop a 119 million pound deposit of the element near Chatham. To do so, it must help overturn a 30-year-old moratorium on mining in the state, which has no regulations for mining or refining uranium. The company has pushed aggressively to remove the ban by bankrolling a state-wide advertising campaign and by funding state legislators to “study” trips to places such as Paris.
Last year, McDonnell turned away efforts to have the General Assembly vote on ending the ban, saying more study was needed. He has created the Uranium Working Group to study mining and come to him with a recommendation by yearend.
The National Academy of Science concluded that mining uranium in the area carriers significant health and environmental risks.
Marshall Ecker, a Pittsylvania supervisor who opposes uranium mining like Hagerman, said he got a call from McDonnell staffer Martin Kent after I had asked McDonnell press secretary Jeff Cardwell whether McDonnell or his staff had asked Stanley to lobby the board against the resolution. Ecker told me that while he never got a call from Stanley, he did get a call from Kent, who started his conversation by stating that Kent had family members who lived in Ecker’s district. “Why didn’t the press secretary call me,” asks Ecker.