Posted on Fri, Jan. 22, 2010
Appeals court upholds vacating of mining permits
The Associated Press
A federal appeals court in Atlanta has upheld the decision of a federal district court in Florida to vacate permits for limestone mining along a strip of former wetlands west of Miami.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the opinion Thursday regarding wetlands known as the “Lake Belt.”
U.S. District Judge Jack Camp, who sat on the panel, wrote in the opinion that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida “did not err” in January 2009 when it vacated the permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to several limestone mining companies.
The permits are required to extract limestone from the Lake Belt, home to four of Florida’s largest mines, which supply about half of the state’s cement. The 57,500-acre region, which borders the eastern edge of Everglades National Park, also provides 40 percent of Miami-Dade County’s drinking water. There has been mining in the region since the 1950s, creating thousands of acres of lakes.
The 11th Circuit upheld the district court’s finding that the Corps failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act “because it did not take into consideration the impact that limestone mining would have on municipal water supplies, including the potential costs of upgrading water treatment plants,” Camp writes.
The litigation pits the interests of the mining companies against “the need for public drinking water in the Miami-Dade area” and “the protection and restoration of the ecology of South Florida, increasingly threatened by mining, development, and agriculture,” Camp writes.
The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and National Parks Conservation Association filed a lawsuit in 2002 challenging the validity of nine 10-year permits issued by the Corps.