During the last legislative session of the General Assembly we heard a lot about Uranium mining. One side was talking about jobs in southside Virginia, the other talking about how mining could be dangerous, and most of here in Northern Virginia were mostly wondering why we were getting calls and mail pieces about the issue. We’re about 200 miles away from Pittsylvania County. Why would anyone be talking to us about this? Why would someone in Manassas even care about what’s happening in a place like Chatham?
Last weekend I took a trip down there so I could find out. Like many of my neighbors, I’m one of those transplants from somewhere else, another person who wasn’t blessed to live in Virginia by the default of being born here, but someone who made a conscious decision to move here because I figured out that Virginia was better than anyplace else on this side of the country. That means I’m still happily discovering parts of the Commonwealth I haven’t encountered before. It’s a huge state, very little of it is like Northern Virginia, and joyfully there’s always more to learn.
While a weekend saunter isn’t at all enough time to soak in everything worth learning, if you try a bit it’s not all that hard to find out why people from southside are reaching out to folks in other parts of the state for help. The story made it worth pulling out a camera so I could share a bit of it with others.
The actual unemployment rate in Pittsylvania county is over four times higher than it is here. The average household income is about half as much as the average individual income in Northern Virginia. While we moan about a few businesses closing here, in southside industrial ruins such as you can see in the video are all over the place that not only stand as a painful reminder to lost jobs, but haunt the landscape making whole towns look like they’re dying. These are huge problems we don’t pay much attention to up here and they affect lives in ways we can hardly imagine.
Even up here we feel an impact, though. We talk about how the transportation dollars we should be seeing invested here are getting spent elsewhere, but that’s largely a function of there just being hardly any tax dollars to be had in places like southside. Our Northern Virginia tax dollars support public benefits that keep these communities alive, and state support of education, public works and other local government operations are about all that’s keeping these folks afloat. Economic issues down there hit our pocketbooks too, and the huge pain they feel there gets translated into some degree of pain we have to feel up here. If southside was economically healthy, not only would the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Virginians be dramatically better, but our tax bills up here would be lower and we’d be able to spend more of those tax dollars right here, instead of diverting them southward.
Uranium mining could significantly help the economy in a place like Pittsylvania County. There’s about ten billion dollars worth of energy in the ground in just one single plot of land. Governor McDonnell could deliver on his promise to support energy development across Virginia and establish the regulations needed to make those mining operations safe, and these folks could get to work. To the extent that there are safety concerns, and I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all to have some concerns, regulations could be established that would address them. It’s not as if no one has ever before done this safely.
These good people could have a future, and we could help make that happen for them. It’s our state government that’s standing in the way between them and economic prosperity, the same state government that keeps promising us they’d stop being a roadblock to job creation and economic development in the Commonwealth.
That’s why someone like me, way up here 200 miles away from southside, should care about this.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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