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)

Charlotte Sun Calls for Settlement with Mosaic

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.

Mosaic Prepares to Bolster Image

Former Jeb Bush staffer goes to work at Mosaic

Read article here

By Virginia Chamlee | 08.02.11 | 10:58 am

Mark Kaplan, former chief of staff to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has been announced as the new vice president of public affairs for The Mosaic Company, one of the top dogs in phosphate and nutrient production in the country.

Kaplan previously led Mosaic’s Florida public affairs team. A phosphate mine in South Fort Meade, owned by Mosaic, has been in hot water in recent months. Although the company was initially given the go-ahead from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to strip-mine thousands of acres of Florida wetlands, a lawsuit led a judge to halt production at a 700-acre tract of the mine, over fears that the mining activities were damaging two area watersheds.

The suit, which was brought by environmental groups including the Sierra Club, cost both jobs and money. In July, a U.S. judge extended the injunction, effectively banning the company from expanding production at the mine and pushing its stock down 5.2 percent. Following the injunction, Mosaic execs estimated that the ruling would cost them $200 million in annual costs, because it would have to buy more phosphate rock on the open market. The company has since cut that estimate in half.

Kaplan was appointed to the state’s Board of Education in 2010 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. He resigned from the board last month.

Mosaic Seeks Phosphate Sources Outside FL

US Mosaic Seeks New Sources of Phosphate as Litigation Continues
HOUSTON (ICIS)–US fertilizer company Mosaic will continue to look for ways to get more out of existing mines and find new sources of phosphate to make up for the deficit created by ongoing litigation related to its South Fort Meade mine in Florida, the company said on Tuesday.
The South Fort Meade mine is one of the largest phosphate mines in the world, producing about 6m tonnes/year of the fertilizer. It represents a third of Mosaic’s phosphate production, as well as 4% of the world’s production.
A US district judge recently ordered Mosaic to stop all operations at the mine. At issue is Mosaic’s permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers to expand the mine.
“Our first opportunity is to look at our other operations and maximise output from them,” said James O’Rourke, executive vice president of operations, during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call.

For example, a debottlenecking project at Mosaic’s Four Corners mine in Florida has produced 20% more phosphate.
In addition, Mosaic will get about 1m tonnes of phosphate from its Miski Mayo joint venture in Peru, which the company plans to expand.
Mosaic CEO Jim Prokopanko said they are also continually evaluating future mine sites.
“There’s not a deposit in the world we are not aware of,” he said. “Every week it seems we get a proposal asking us to look at this deposit or that deposit.”
For more on Mosaic visit ICIS company intelligence

By: Bobbie Clark
+1 713 525 2653

Mosaic Cuts Losses on S. Ft. Meade Mine Shut-Down


* Previously forecast higher costs of $200 million
* Expects ruling on injunction appeal by the fall
* Mosaic shares up 4 percent in midday trading (Adds executive quotes, byline; updates stock)
By Ernest Scheyder
NEW YORK, July 19 (Reuters) – Mosaic Co (MOS.N) has cut in half the estimated cost of a judge’s ruling that keeps the fertilizer producer from expanding a Florida phosphate mine.
Last week a U.S. judge extended an injunction that keeps Mosaic from expanding production at its South Fort Meade, Fla., mine. [ID:nL3E7IB1V6] Just after the ruling was issued, Mosaic said it could increase its annual costs by $200 million as it would need to buy more phosphate rock on the open market.
On a conference call with investors on Tuesday to discuss the company’s quarterly earnings, Mosaic executives said the damage could now be $100 million due to excess phosphate capacity they have found at other Mosaic mines.
“The analysis that we’ve gone through suggests that we are going to be able to mitigate more of the impact than we first thought possible,” Larry Stranghoener, Mosaic’s chief financial officer, said on the conference call. “We believe we can significantly mitigate what otherwise might have been a worst-case situation in terms of purchased rock.”
Mosaic processes mined phosphate rock into pebble and fine phosphate, which are turned into diammonium phosphate, or DAP. That is what farmers use in their fields.
Effectively, Mosaic’s mining operation sells phosphate rock to its fertilizer production operation. If its own supply were dented, Mosaic would have to buy from competitors, a situation executives would like to avoid.
Mosaic has asked a higher U.S. court to cancel the injunction, though the company does not expect a ruling until the fall.
The South Fort Meade, Fla., mine has about 15 years of phosphate reserves and produces 6.5 million tons of the fertilizer each year. That represents a third of Mosaic’s yearly phosphate capacity and 4 percent of the world’s.
Shares of Mosaic were up 4.0 percent to $69.12 in midday trading on Tuesday. On Monday the company reported earnings that beat expectations. [ID:nN1E76H1LJ] (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

EPA, GOP In ‘Head-To-Head’ Fight Over Residential Radiation Standard

EPA, GOP In ‘Head-To-Head’ Fight Over Residential Radiation Standard
Posted: July 8, 2011
A group of Republican congressmen from Florida are battling EPA over whether the agency should survey parts of the state where it fears tens of thousands of people living on former phosphate mines may be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, with the lawmakers challenging EPA’s long-held cleanup standard for radioactive contamination in residential areas.
According to one congressional staffer, the Republican congressmen and EPA’s administrator are in a “head to head” fight over the surveys, even as EPA is considering using them more widely.
At issue are approximately 10 square miles of former phosphate mining lands near Lakeland, FL, where EPA has taken no cleanup action despite having had concerns since the late 1970s that the indoor air of homes built on the lands is contaminated with cancer-causing levels of radiation. EPA’s concerns, made public by an award-winning series of Inside EPA articles in 2010, have prompted a negative reaction from the Republican congressmen, who believe the agency’s fears are overblown.
In February the lawmakers, who include Reps. Dennis Ross, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Richard Nugent and Thomas Rooney, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in which they take issue with EPA having recently conducted a preliminary aerial survey near the area in question, according to the letter, which Inside EPA recently obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The survey is considered to be a key early step in a possible cleanup process (Superfund Report, Feb. 7).
In the letter, the lawmakers call EPA’s long-held standard for cleaning up radioactive contamination in residential areas “arbitrary” and claim that past studies by the Florida Department of Health found no health risks in the area. Relevant documents are available on InsideEPA.com. (Doc ID: 2369534)
In a May response letter to the congressmen, EPA waste chief Mathy Stanislaus does not directly address the lawmakers’ challenge to the agency’s cleanup standard. But he defends EPA’s use of aerial surveys and does not offer to halt such surveys or notify the lawmakers prior to conducting them in the future, as the lawmakers demand in their letter.
Stanislaus offers to meet with the congressmen, but according to an EPA spokeswoman, no such meeting has been scheduled.
According to a spokesman for Ross, the congressmen are “still in a head-to-head fight with [EPA Administrator] Lisa Jackson about getting notification on flyovers, let alone having them brought to a halt.” Spokesmen for the other lawmakers could not be reached for comment.
Stanislaus says that the limited survey EPA conducted earlier this year “contributed valuable information to the agencies as plans for a larger-scale survey were considered . . . Based on this information, EPA is considering a larger-scale aerial survey to collect data related to phosphate mining sites and background areas.”
He adds that it “is important to note that conducting an aerial survey is not necessarily an indicator of a concern or a need for remedial action. Surveys are also useful tools for confirming areas that are not considered to pose potential health or ecological risks.”
According to the EPA spokeswoman, EPA has not yet made a final decision on how to proceed with such surveys.
The EPA standard, which the agency has used as the basis for radiological cleanups near residential areas throughout the country, has long been a source of contention between EPA, Florida and phosphate mining industry officials. The disagreement is one of the main reasons why the agency has yet to act on its concerns about human exposure in the area (Superfund Report, Jan. 25, 2010).
The standard, which comes from EPA’s regulations under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA), dictates that radium-226 concentrations in soil — which are often elevated on land that has been mined for phosphate — should not exceed 5 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) above what naturally occurs in the area. EPA has long relied on the standard as an applicable or relevant and appropriate requirement (ARAR) under Superfund law for radioactive cleanups near residential areas around the country.
But Florida officials have argued that no cleanup is necessary unless people are being exposed to more than 500 millirem (mrem) of radiation per year, a suggestion that some environmentalists fear could set a dangerous precedent given that EPA has historically considered exposures above 15 mrem to be unsafe.
In their February letter, the congressmen claim that the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) “in reviewing the [EPA] standard, stated [it] could be set two orders of magnitude higher and still be protective of human health.”
But while ATSDR in documents previously obtained by Inside EPA suggests that it would be satisfied with a 100 mrem standard, the agency in the documents says it does not object to EPA relying on its traditional ARAR, to which the congressmen and state officials are opposed.
In addition, ATSDR says in the documents that it agrees with EPA that aerial surveys of the area are necessary.
But in their letter, the Republican congressmen call such surveys “an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, the arbitrary standard advocated by the EPA creates a significant risk of placing an unjustified and permanent stigma over thousands of acres of land in [our] district[s].
“Florida’s real estate market is already under significant duress as a result of the economic downturn in our own state,” the lawmakers add. “These potential actions by the EPA stand to impede Florida’s recovery without any basis in human health risks.”
According to documents Inside EPA previously obtained under FOIA, many of the areas EPA is concerned with are occupied by wealthy, up-scale residential developments and resorts. But according to more recent documents, EPA is also concerned that some of the potentially affected areas could be low-income or minority communities, creating environmental justice concerns. — Douglas P. Guarino
© 2000-2011. Inside Washington Publishers

Douglas P. Guarino
Associate Editor
Inside Washington Publishers
(Inside EPA’s Superfund Report)
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Arlington, VA 22202