Time to talk about outcomes of Mosaic suit
Charlotte Sun Herald, Editorial 08/07/11
OUR POSITION: Environmental groups should dust off phosphate compact and sit down with Mosaic.
The Sierra Club is winning — but it may lose. The powerful environmental group, which is the lead plaintiff in a federal court challenge to a Mosaic Fertilizer permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a 10,856-acre expansion of its South Fort Meade phosphate mine, recently won a preliminary injunction preventing any more mining until the court rules.
The July 8 injunction issued by Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. contains pointed language taking the Corps to task for not abiding by Clean Water Act and National Environmental Protection Act regulations in its review of Mosaic’s permit application and “violated its duty to independently evaluate and verify Mosaic’s information.” The Corps is in the process of conducting a regional environmental impact study, having acknowledged that the mine in question, known as the Hardee County Extension of the South Fort Meade Mine, plus 11 other mines at various points in the permitting pipeline, “may result in significant cumulative environmental impacts in the future.”
The Sierra Club is winning — but it may lose.
Now is the time to talk.
We share the concerns expressed by environmental groups, including ManaSota 88 and Protect the Peace River, the Sierra Club’s fellow plaintiffs, about downstream impacts on the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor watersheds from phosphate mining at the Hardee County Extension and elsewhere. Our community’s current and long-term economy is only as healthy as those two bodies of water.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with them on demands regarding water quality and quantity, setbacks from ecologically sensitive areas and ongoing monitoring. We have repeatedly called on the company to be a better corporate neighbor, not only in its home base, where its jobs and charitable giving generate tremendous goodwill, but in the coastal communities whose residents see little upside but plenty of downside to digging up the Heartland. In fact, we backed the so-called “phosphate compact” between Mosaic and coastal counties because the company agreed to far exceed existing state regulations related to all three concerns, in addition to other concessions. Sarasota and Lee counties scotched the deal after it was OK’d by Charlotte County, which had spent about $12 million challenging Mosaic permits elsewhere in Bone Valley.
Now Mosaic faces yet another appeal, an areawide review, lost revenue and higher costs at a time when prices for phosphate-based fertilizer are favorable for making money — lots of it. Mosaic estimated its 2012 costs would climb by $200 million as a result of the injunction. That’s a nice place to start talking.
The Sierra Club and Mosaic have shown a willingness to talk in this case. A mediator got the sides to agree to short-term mining on a 200-acre swath of the extension that saved scores of jobs — for a few months. But now the plaintiffs have to decide what they want. What some want — an end to mining in Florida — isn’t going to happen. We think the Sierra Club wants to win. A win would be an agreement by Mosaic for unprecedented mining setbacks, monitoring, conservation and reclamation in Hardee and elsewhere. More than the state will ever require, given the industry’s power and economic impact. More than the Sierra Club can reasonably expect to win in court, where victory in the long run is more dubious.
The Sierra Club is winning — but it may lose. It’s time to talk.