3PR News: Comments on Army Corps of Engineers Area-wide Environmental Impact Study

Greg Martin, Reporter
Charlotte Sun


Since the AEIS scoping report is over 2000 pp. long I have obviously not read every word of it – but I have scanned it and read a number of the comments submitted. Based on what I have read and comprehended I would offer the following remarks:

As the AEIS is shaping up I am slowly losing any faith that it will provide the kind of scientific study that we, as an environmental community, were anticipating. It appears to me that the Army Corps of Engineers is happily dancing to the tune of the phosphate mining industry:
1. The scope of the study has been narrowed down to only 4 mines: Mosaic’s Ona, Wingate East, Desoto and CFI’s South Pasture Extension. How is this justifiable?
NEPA defines cumulative effects as “the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions…” According to my calculations the sum total acreage of the four mines the ACOE is including in the “area-wide impact study” is 48,500. The mining overlay in my county, Hardee, alone is around 130,000 acres. (At the industry’s request and with the compliance of our County Commission an additional 9,000 acres were added to the overlay in 2010) This does not count the overlay in DeSoto County which was also expanded by 17,000 acres in 2010, for a total of 26,000 acres. So, in those two counties alone you have 156,000 acres, and that does not include Manatee and Hillsborough Counties. I would consider it “reasonably foreseeable” that the industry intends to mine all that property given the astronomical profits they are enjoying on agricultural fertilizer. Yet the Corps of Engineers has announced they will be only considering less than a third of that in this study. Actually, since county governments are so compliant with the industry and so willing to expand their mining overlays at their behest, then I think the amount of land mined could actually be much more than that. I’ll attach the map titled “Proposed Mining Limits” which Mosaic drafted during the “global settlement” discussions with Charlotte County in 2007. You will see that they would really like to gobble up practically the entirety of Hardee County (400,000 acres).
2. The comments in the recent scoping report from the ACOE included over 2000 respondents from Polk and Hillsborough Counties, or roughly 75% of total comments. These respondents are almost universally employed by the phosphate industry or people who are doing business with the industry. I read a great many of these comments. The vast majority plea for the economic necessity of the industry and are willing to forgive any impacts to the environment. They regard environmental advocates as hostile to the industry and a threat to their livelihoods and the existence of the industry. This is the pattern at almost every conference or phosphate mine hearing I’ve ever attended over the past 10 years. Every meeting is stacked with employees of the industry who passionately defend their employers as environmental “stewards” of the land. Yet, those claims fly in the face of a great deal of the scientific data gathered by objective sources such as USGS and others, and defies common sense, in my opinion, considering that almost 600 square miles of central Florida has been mined over the years and much of that remains unreclaimed (non-mandatory lands) and 40% of that in clay slimes. Some of these respondents who support the industry feel, for example, that it’s preferable to live on unreclaimed phosphate land than it is on natural unmined land. I am sure many of these are the same people who are attacking the EPA for conducting aerial surveys for radioactivity on their property because they don’t even want to know if there’s radioactivity around their homes.
So, I don’t see much hope for the AEIS as it is shaping up. Given the narrow scope of the project and the foreshortened time-frame for its accomplishment (one year) I don’t think it will have any validity whatsoever as an Area-wide Environmental Impact Study. In their comments Mosaic argues for “no new data” either, so at the rate things are going it wouldn’t surprise me if the ACOE complied with that as well. Not to mention that the company that’s actually conducting the study (CH2MHill)is allegedly a customer of Mosaic.

Hope these remarks help with your article.

Yours Truly,
Dennis Mader
Director, 3PR (People for Protecting Peace River)