Bradenton Preparatory Academy’s Documentary Crew
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An agribusiness company that turned phosphate into fertilizer must pay $1.5 million in permit fees annually to eastern Idaho tribes to store millions of tons of toxic waste on tribal lands, a federal court has ruled.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill in a 33-page order on Thursday granted a request by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to enforce a tribal court decision imposing the permit fees on FMC Corp.
Winmill ruled that FMC previously consented to tribal jurisdiction and agreed to the $1.5 million in annual waste storage fees before challenging them in tribal court and declining to pay them starting in 2002 after closing the fertilizer plant.
“FMC’s arguments that its cadre of attorneys had no idea they were agreeing to a permit fee with no expiration date is ludicrous,” Winmill wrote.
The ruling awards the tribe $19.5 million for unpaid permit fees from 2002 to 2014, about $1 million in attorney fees and says FMC is obligated to pay $1.5 million annually in perpetuity to continue to store the waste.
The tribe said FMC hasn’t paid permit fees for 2015, 2016 and 2017, and that it will seek through the courts to get those payments as well as future payments.
“The tribes are committed to continuing their effort to protect and preserve the environment for the health and welfare of inhabitants,” Nathan Small, chairman of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, said in a statement. “The tribes believe in protecting Mother Earth for all future generations.”
FMC, which has offices around the world with its corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, said in a statement Friday to The Associated Press that it will appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“FMC is disappointed in the District Court’s decision, which failed to follow legal principle established by the United States Supreme Court,” the company said.
From 1949 to 2002, the company operated the fertilizer plant that is now part of a Superfund site. It produced 22 million tons of waste stored on Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Fort Hall Indian Reservation. That includes, the court said, burying about 21 tanker rail cars containing phosphorus sludge rather than cleaning up the toxic material.
Winmill wrote that FMC agreed to tribal jurisdiction and the $1.5 million annual permit fee to store the waste stemming from a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency rather than face fines and giant cleanup fees while the plant was still operating.
“That was a sweetheart deal and FMC was desperate to grab it,” Winmill wrote.
The company contends that it’s no longer obligated to pay the permit fees with the 2002 closing of the plant. But Winmill said the fees are for storing the waste and whether the plant is operating isn’t relevant.
The waste “will persist for decades, generations even, and is so toxic that there is no safe method to move it off-site,” Winmill wrote.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it’s not technologically feasible to remove the toxic material, and an attempt at such an undertaking would cost $4.7 billion. The EPA is spending $47 million over 30 years to manage the waste in an attempt to prevent it from contaminating air and water.
Phosphate mining continues to be a major business in southeastern Idaho where phosphate ore is turned into fertilizer needed by farmers to grow food. The area contains one the nation’s most abundant deposits of phosphate, and agribusinesses Simplot and Monsanto have mines in the area. But the area also contains 17 Superfund sites because of pollution from past phosphate mining.
Experts say the area is rich in phosphate because it was once a 116,000-square-mile (300,440-square-kilometer) inland sea where organic material from fish, plants and small animals was deposited over a 5-million-year span about 265 million years ago.
Full Article Here
The largest fertilizer manufacturing plant in the world sits about six miles southwest of the Polk County hamlet of Mulberry, with its entrance in walking distance of the Hillsborough County line. About 800 employees work there, turning phosphate rock into nearly 5 million tons of fertilizer and animal food ingredients every year.
They also produce a lot of waste. That’s not unusual for the phosphate industry.
Drive through much of the Florida peninsula and the land you see is flat—flat as a pancake, flat as a billiard table, flat as a contestant on The Voice who’s about to get the boot. But at the Mulberry plant, and everywhere else the phosphate industry operates, you’ll see mountains. These are massive piles of waste materials called phosphogypsum that are left over from the fertilizer manufacturing process. They rise up to 200 feet high and cover some 400 acres. On top of each one is a pond of acidic water from 40 to 80 acres in size.
Many of those mountains belong to the same company that owns the Mulberry fertilizer plant, Mosaic. It’s the biggest phosphate company in the world and a major presence in Florida. Mosaic is currently mining phosphate rock on more than 70,000 of the 380,000 acres it owns in Manatee, Hillsborough, Polk and Hardee counties. Meanwhile, despite vocal public opposition, it recently won local government approval to expand its mining in Manatee County by more than 3,000 additional acres just a short drive from Sarasota County’s northern boundary—and from the source of its water supply.
Letters to the Editor
Saturday, Feb 11, 2017
Would mining activities preclude future normal uses of mined out lands? This is question #6 from the Manatee County staff report, Standards for Master Mining Approval, page 13.
The answer is much more than staff reports. Not only building, but agriculture on reclaimed land would be extremely limited. Is the burden of proof not on the applicant? The market has not demonstrated that agriculture is a viable use of reclaimed mine land.
Mosaic may have their small, intensely managed experiments with ag after mining, however, vast areas of western Polk County demonstrate no agriculture to speak of on reclaimed land. The only exception is a rare siting of a few cows on grazing land.
Go to Hardee County. In 2008, a “Mosaic Agreement” granted the county economic gurus 42 million dollars over a ten year period as compensation for the 11,000 acre South Fort Meade Extension mine. The county will tell you is for economic mitigation in the post-mining economy. This money hopes to start up industry, but the results have been questionable at best. Is this not an admission even by the industry itself that after mining and reclamation, lands will not support the former economy of agriculture.
One time, temporary use; permanent loss. Phosphate strip mining is only profitable for Mosaic. Commissioners, think ahead one hundred years. Vote for Manatee County. Vote no on phosphate mining.
Bone Valley resident
(sorry be patient there’s an ad before the video)
Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/latest-news/article131983104.html
Four environmental groups have put the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on notice that they’ll sue if the Corps follows through with authorizing phosphate mining on more than 50,000 acres of land in Central Florida. The environmentalists say the strip mining damages wildlife habitat and endangers drinking water and they’re threatening to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has recently approved the phosphate mining development of about 50,000 acres of central Florida and this is predominately in Hardee, Manatee County areas and a little bit in DeSoto County. Most recently, they approved 7,500 acres of mining to start eminently, any moment now, in Hardee County.
“All this mining is going to be taking place in a region known as Central Florida Phosphate District. It’s an area that has seen tremendous phosphate mining over almost the last century. If you go out to that area, which is just east of Tampa, you’ll see the scars from historic phosphate mining.
“Before 1975, phosphate mines didn’t have to be reclaimed. If you’re ever in an airplane over that region of Florida, you’ll see these, sort of really pretty colored bluish-green bodies of water, like lakes, in these strips. That’s the legacy of strip-mining in Florida for phosphate. Since 1975, the companies have been forced to reclaim the land, which is to put it back to some sort of beneficial use, but, not necessarily to restore it.
“Our concern with this 50,000 acres of additional mining is first, it leaves a huge footprint on Florida. You’re removing 50,000 acres of habitat for imperiled species like, the eastern indigo snake and the crested caracara. Also, you’re adding to our existing phosphogypsum problem.
for complete article http://www.wmnf.org/environmentalists-sue-corps-florida-phosphate-mining/
The Mosaic Corporation is denying their responsibility of continuing to tests wells for the areas surrounding the New Wales Plant where 215 million gallons of radioactive toxic water entered the Floridan aquifer in a sinkhole disaster in August 2016. The FDEP should require the continued testing of any Floridian resident wells who think their well water might be compromised by this enormous “accident”. There are 22 gypstacks in central Florida and each one of them has the potential to contaminate our water supply.
Testing began in September, shortly after Target 8 revealed 215 million gallons of contaminated water drained into the aquifer.
Mosaic claims a private company it hired, Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., has conducted tests on 1,200 private wells.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 67 wells showed they contained contaminant levels that exceed the government’s drinking water standard. But the department states none of those wells was impacted by the water that escaped from the sinkhole at the plant.
While Mosaic and the state contend the contaminated water is contained on site, some neighbors just don’t have a lot of confidence in the testing that’s going on. “I have zero comfort,” Kristie Simpson said.
Simpson lives about five and a half miles west of the sinkhole. She was told tests on her well showed the water was safe to drink.
“Then later on my water started smelling different; there’s a lot of black stuff coming out of the pipes. My neighbors have that problem too,” Simpson said.
She claims she wanted her well tested for arsenic and other contaminants and was refused. Now she buys purified water and has filters on her showers.
At the root of her distrust is that the DEP waited for three weeks, until after Target 8 broke the story, to make public the threat of potential contamination. “So right there, there is zero integrity,” Simpson said.
She said Mosaic’s plan to test only wells within that four mile radius for another two years in not good enough.
Mosaic contends the ground water in the area of the sinkhole moves about 500 feet per month.
If that’s the case, Simpson argues the wells in the area should be tested for 20 or 30 years.
Mosaic also stopped delivering bottled water to wells where tests came back within Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards. It will continue delivering water through this month for those wells in which contaminants exceed standards.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After making a public records request to the State of Florida for documents about the Polk County sinkhole, and experiencing weeks of delay in receiving a response, Congresswoman Gwen Graham today said that the records which were released raise serious questions about the response of the governor’s office and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to a potential crisis.
“Unless there are records that were not produced as required by law, the disclosures show an alarming lack of communication among state regulators about a threat to the health and safety of Florida families and our environment,” said Graham. “I am very concerned that we had a watchdog agency asleep at the wheel.”
According to the records, before the sinkhole was exposed by the media, nearly all of the electronic communications regarding the incident were email exchanges between the DEP and Mosaic employees. Records from the governor’s office and DEP contained very few internal communications between state employees concerning the sinkhole before it became public. And while there were several emails from the governor’s office about Graham’s questions, there were none demonstrating concern over the sinkhole and DEP’s response or examining potential solutions to the problem.
Equally concerning was the state’s communications with its own scientists, much of which appears to be instructions on how to handle questions from constituents and the press. At least one geologist, who has spent more than 20 years working for the state, raised concerns over the lack of information: “I’m working on that facility with EPA but no one told me about it [the sinkhole]. So much for communication.”
“These public records responses indicate communication has broken down within Governor Scott’s state agencies,” Graham said. “With this kind of threat to Florida families and the environment, the governor’s office and DEP should have been ringing alarm bells and taking swift action. Nothing in these records indicates they were operating with any sense of urgency. Either we are still missing documents, or the state didn’t particularly care. Neither situation is acceptable.”