Stop Mosaic in Their Tracks

On Thursday, February 2, at 9 am, Mosaic Phosphate will go before the Manatee Board of County Commissioners to ask for another permit to mine in eastern Manatee County.  The permit would allow Mosaic to mine 661 acres and destroy another 50 acres of wetlands.  Our Planning Commission voted in favor of this permit and now it goes before the Board and this is where it must stop.

This $3.9 billion cash corporation has severely mined Central Florida (over one million acres) and is now coming south into Northeast Manatee County and our Peace River and Myakka River watersheds.  They draw 65 million gallons of water a day from our already declining aquifer, while we are on water restrictions. This water that they are stealing from the state is non-replaceable and will come to tremendous cost to us all.

Don’t be deceived by their showy ads on TV and their jobs claim.  Mosaic provides fewer workers per acre, than any other industry. They are currently spending millions of dollars monthly on advertising to convince you that they are doing a good thing.  Why would a company advertise so much and put large billboards on 301 when they do not sell their product to you?  They want to conceal the negative aspects of their operations which add billions of dollars of cleanup in its wake.

The Federal Courts have insisted Mosaic STOP any further mining until a complete and thorough Area-wide Environmental Impact Study (AEIS) has been performed. Evidently, Mosaic is in fear of the outcome, as they chose to circumvent the rules by attempting to secure another mine before the truth comes out.

Please stop Mosaic in their tracks, have the wisdom and courage that The Planning Commission lacked, and find out the real story.

Mosaic and their consenting codependents are counting on the apathy of Manatee citizens to get their way. Please, please, make an effort to show-up on Feb. 2, at 1112 Manatee Avenue, First Floor Commission Chambers and STOP this from going any further. We need to fill the chambers. You may or may not speak, but fill a chair.

We can’t leave our kids with enough of anything to fix what Mosaic is getting away with.

Placating a Disaster Prone Industry

Expanding Phosphate Mining… Seriously?

Published Sunday, January 15, 2012 12:10 am

by Dennis Maley

As the Manatee County Commission gets set to vote on a Duette phosphate mining expansion recommended for approval by the county’s planning commission, we need to again ask when Florida is going to seriously evaluate the cost/benefit ratio of placating such a disaster-prone industry that has brought relatively little to the table, considering the havoc it’s reeked on our state.

The history of phosphate mining in Florida has been, on the whole, nothing short of disastrous. Locally, our experience over the decades with the Piney Point site should have permanently saddled each resident with a bad taste in their mouth. It’s a dirty business that threatens our environment, while gobbling up precious water supplies and destroying vital wetlands.

Mining phosphates also leaves behind a toxic substance called phosphogypsum, a radioactive byproduct of processing the phosphate, for which no safe use has been found. Dozens of these “gypsum stacks” already line the Florida landscape, and acidic wastewater sits in lined ponds waiting for tears to happen like the one which sent millions of gallons of hazardous discharge into local waters last year. In a hurricane-rich state, these dangers are only heightened.

The mining operations also produce plenty of fluoride gases that once upon a time escaped into the air and poisoned surrounding agriculture and livestock. Pollution control technology like wet scrubbers have helped to contain the fluoride, but it still needs to be disposed of. That’s where you come in. While the FDA has never approved fluoride ingestion for medical use, your body acts as a free filtration system when municipalities buy the toxin from such companies (with your tax money) and dump it into your drinking water, ostensibly to to prevent cavities – a practice that’s been compared to drinking sunscreen lotion to protect from a burn.

For their part, the fertilizer companies promote economic impact, jobs and feeding the world in their multi-million dollar PR campaigns that not only shine the public perception, but also provide fat accounts (and conflicts of interest) for the media outlets that might otherwise be more blunt in their assessments of the industry. But the fact remains, the biggest mining counties in the state are also the most economically depressed and the industry is among the least labor intensive, employing only a handful of people per acre of land mined.

Considering our experience with phosphate mining already, along with the future potential impact of the mining that’s already been done, it doesn’t seem sustainable or desirable to continue going down this path with a resource-intensive industry whose footprint long outlasts the short term and seemingly short-sided benefits.

Dennis Maley is a featured columnist and editor for The Bradenton Times. His column appears every Thursday and Sunday on our site and in our free Weekly Recap and Sunday Edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

Wingate Mine Extension Approved by Manatee Planning Commission

Mosaic request gets nod of Manatee planning panel
Planners give preliminary OK to mine extension

By SARA KENNEDY – [email protected]

MANATEE — A plan to extend a phosphate mine over 661 acres of East Manatee won preliminary approval Thursday from the Manatee County Planning Commission.

Commission members heard a presentation from the applicant, Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, and from a few opponents, before voting unanimously in favor of two resolutions that would allow extension of the Wingate Creek Mine, west of Duette Road and north of State Road 64.

Speaking in favor of the plan was Bartley E. Arrington, Mosaic’s manager of mine permitting, who said that about 598 acres would be mined, and about 50 acres of wetlands and surface water areas would be disturbed — but replaced — once mining is finished.

Officials said the extension of the mine would pose no problem for nearby residents from noise, light, air pollution and other byproducts of the industrial process, a neighbor who lives in a subdivision more than a mile away said he frequently experiences too much noise and light already.

“You can sit on my front porch and listen to that mine operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” said John R. Henslick, a senior scientist for ECo Consultants Inc., of Sarasota.

“People stop the conversation and ask: ‘What is that noise?’” said Henslick.

Henslick complimented the company on the job it does, and said he didn’t mind the mine. But he added he thought there were steps it could take to improve or lessen the impact on its neighbors.

Others also objected to Mosaic’s request.

Linda Jones wondered if the company was on schedule for other reclamation projects it has in the works. A county staffer said it was on schedule at all of its Manatee County sites.

Sandra Ripberger said she was “very concerned” about the 50 acres of wetland the project would displace, adding, “Mosaic has not shown it can re-create wetlands to function as well as they did originally.”

She also wondered whether the mine would degrade the Myakka River, noting that parts of it in Sarasota have been named by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as “Outstanding Florida Waters,” providing special protection due to its natural attributes. The Florida Legislature also designated a 34-mile Sarasota portion a “Florida Wild and Scenic River.”

However, the river’s north end in Manatee County carries neither designation, according to Charlie Hunsicker, county director of natural resources. The river arises at the Flatford Swamp, north of Myakka City, and flows southwest through eastern Manatee, then via Sarasota and Charlotte counties to the Gulf of Mexico, he said.

Mosaic, among the world’s leading makers of phosphate and potash crop nutrients, is seeking a master plan authorizing mining and reclamation; a waiver of the setback requirement for mining adjacent to the county’s Duette Preserve; and approval of a build-out date for mining of Dec. 31, 2019, and reclamation until Dec. 31, 2023.

The company also has requested a rezoning of 645.9 acres from General Agriculture to the Extraction zoning district, according to county records.

The Manatee County Commission is slated to make the final decision at 9 a.m., Feb. 2 at the County Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031
Read more here:

Manatee Planning Commission Recommends Duette Phosphate Expansion

Manatee Planning Commission Recommends Duette Phosphate Expansion

Published Friday, January 13, 2012 2:11 am

by John Rehill

BRADENTON — At the Planning Commission meeting Thursday, the seats were full of Mosaic suits. They were there to explain why they should be allowed to mine a 660 acre expansion to the Wingate mine, located in eastern Manatee County.

Many environmental organizations feared Planning’s rubber stamping of phosphate mining would continue and Thursday’s meeting certainly demonstrated that. The increasing concerns over the depleting number of quality wetlands, which ultimately threatens water supplies, has yet to find a sympathetic ear.

There will be 50 acres of wetland destroyed next to the Duette Preserve. These “wet prairie” wetlands are not low grade wetlands as Manatee’s Environmental Manager Joel Christian described. They are highly valued and can’t be duplicated. But that isn’t the only problem that the proposed mining will provoke. Glenn Compton from Manasota 88 claims Wingate Creek is a Class III water. It is designated as a “Outstanding Florida Water” and is to be afforded the highest protection, as is Johnson Creek. Both are also tributaries to the Myakka River.

Linda Jones, one of two who spoke against the proposed mine expansion claimed only 354 of the 14,000 acres have completed reclamation. Estimates by the EPA put the reclamation of thousands of acres of mined land in the billions of dollars range. Bonds secured with the county by Mosaic for reclamation are only in the tens of millions. Jones also mentioned that 60 percent of Phosphate is shipped overseas. Planning Commissioner Chairman Richard Bedford later replied when referencing Jones’s statement, “I had hoped it would be more.”

This demonstrates the hypocrisy concerned citizens find in those governing this process. If phosphate is of a dwindling and sparse supply, why spend so much of our precious water supply retrieving it, if it is going to China or India? That would make the soon to be burden fall on the residents that would ultimately be in need of both, and here is an official who seemingly wishes to expedite that.

After the meeting, I attempted to ask Commissioner Bedford a couple of questions. I mentioned that he and another commissioner spoke to the economic prosperity that comes from mining phosphate. I asked, “Since four out of five of the most economically depressed counties in Florida are mining-dominated counties, and the fact that Hardee County brought that to Mosaic’s attention before they settled on a $40 million dollar package for compensation, how exactly by crossing the county line, just miles away, is it now prosperous? Bedford said “I don’t know.” I asked him, “If each year, we have fewer and fewer wetlands, why are we downgrading them? Don’t the ones we have left become more and more valuable, the more of them we lose? He said, “I don’t know.” He then turned and left.

It was obvious staff had spent much time hashing out the plans with Mosaic, if only from all of the “thank you for all your help” that kept going out to the staff.” And the commission was eager to provide double the allotted time to the applicant to state their case, considering their agenda items 4 and 5 were being heard simultaneously. But when citizens Linda Jones and Sandra Ripberger spoke, they were restricted to just three minutes each.

Commissioner George Mendez never missed an opportunity to express a narrow vision of the mining process. He spoke several times, if only to fill in what compliments Mosaic forgot to give to themselves.

It was of no surprise that the Commission voted 6 – 0 to recommend Mosaic be permitted to mine the Wingate extention, or that staff went out of their way to accommodate them, yet cancelled a meeting with concerned citizens. The issue will now go to the Manatee County Commission for a final vote.

I will say, I too have stood before the Commission in an effort to keep Mosaic out of my back yard. I am reminded every minute and a half when the ground shakes and I hear the roar. You see, that’s the sound of the rubber stamp, and it would seem that we’d better get used to it.

Mosaic Seeks to Expand Wingate Mine

Manatee phosphate mine expansion advances

By Halle Stockton

Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 4:10 p.m.

MANATEE COUNTY – Mosaic Fertilizer plans to expand its phosphate mining operations on more than 3,000 acres of Duette pastureland, east of an existing 7,300-acre tract that has been mined since the 1970s.

But while the new land is tied up in a federal environmental study, Mosaic has gone to Manatee County to get started on a separate 600-acre extension located between State Road 64 and State Road 62.

On Thursday, the Manatee County Planning Commission gave preliminary approval to the world’s leading producer of concentrated phosphate to extend its Wingate Creek Mine operation.

Local environmental groups and a Duette resident opposed the extension, arguing that the existing mine already threatens park land and rivers, and degrades the rural landscape with constant noise and light.

“It is a historical mistake,” said ManaSota-88 Chairman Glenn Compton. “To expand upon an existing mistake is irresponsible.”

Mosaic contends that its operations are safe, environmentally viable and provide the county with hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact.

“It’s unfortunate that these groups would like to derail the permit, those jobs and that economic output based on concerns that really aren’t relevant for what the permit contemplates,” said Mosaic spokesman Russell Schweiss. “The mine has operated for 30 years without detriment to the downstream water bodies they are concerned about.”

The Manatee County Commission will make the final decision on the Wingate extension at its Feb. 2 meeting.

Mosaic is unable to mine 3,000 acres southeast of the Wingate Mine and cross over Duette Road until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes an environmental impact study in about a year.

If approved, mining at the 600-acre extension would begin in 2014.

Mosaic is seeking permits now in anticipation of any delays. Streamlining the process could prevent the mine from shutting down and laying off workers as mine reserves run out, Schweiss said.

The existing mine employs 130 people and provides $19 million in annual wages, the company said. An economic report projected the extension of the mine would generate an average of about 300 jobs annually for six years.

The Mosaic mine would destroy 49 acres of wetlands; the company says it would replace those with what it promises would be higher quality wetlands. The company has also committed to working with the county on a water improvement project at the Duette Preserve.

“This is a temporary impact,” said Bart Arrington, Mosaic’s permitting manager. “We put it back better than we find.”

John Henslick, a Winding Creek subdivision resident about a mile from the mine, said the noise and light are already intolerable.

“A lot of us moved out east to enjoy the country and the evening sky,” he said. “But at night, looking at the Mosaic property is like looking at St. Pete.”

Compton and Sierra Club member Sandra Ripberger had concerns over how the mining threatens fish and wildlife that rely on the Wingate and Johnson creeks, which feed to the Myakka River.

Though Mosaic assured that dams follow rigid quality standards, Compton said habitats could be destroyed if the mine’s holding ponds were to fail and release toxic waters.

“We are one hurricane away from finding that out,” he said.

Judge won’t delay phosphate mining halt

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 10:33 AM
Judge won’t delay phosphate mining halt

A federal judge has refused to postpone an order that has blocked extraction from a major U.S. phosphate mine.

The Mosaic Co.’s South Fort Meade mine, which represents 20 percent of U.S. phosphate production, was shut down earlier this year by a federal judge in Florida.

Environmentalists groups claim the federal government improperly approved an extension of the mine without a sufficiently thorough environmental analysis.

In July, U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams granted a preliminary injunction against rock extraction at the mine because environmentalists were likely to prevail in the lawsuit.

Mosaic challenged that decision in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked the judge to delay the injunction while the appellate process was underway.

Adams refused their request on Jan. 3, ruling the company had failed to demonstrate such a stay was warranted. The 11th Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on March 6.

Mosaic Cuts Phosphate Production

The Mosaic Co.said Wednesday it is cutting phosphate production for the short term as cautious North American farmers have lowered demand for the fertilizer.

Plymouth-based Mosaic (NYSE: MOS) said in a news release that it is cutting phosphate production by as much as 250,000 tons through the end of March.

“The current spot prices in this market do not reflect our outlook for the business, nor do we think they are sustainable,” Mosaic CEO Jim Prokopanko said in a statement.

But Prokopanko said he still expects above-average demand for phosphate in 2012.

“We are confident strong farmer economics and agricultural fundamentals will ultimately prevail over the near-term cautious sentiment,” he said.

Financial Mismanagement Hits Hardee County

This article by John Rehill of The Bradenton Times casts aspersions on Hardee County’s Economic Development Authority – the same entity that agreed to $42 million in mitigation funds for a permit to mine the S. Ft. Meade Mine Extension.

How to Take Down a Town
The Bradenton Times
Published Friday, December 16, 2011 2:20 am
by John Rehill
The Background:

Hardee County is located in central Florida and has a modest population of 28,000. It is an agriculture community that depends heavily on phosphate mining revenue. Hardee’s per capita income is half of that of the state’s average and over 20 percent of its population lives below the poverty line. Hardscrabble is the first word that comes to mind, when describing the area. Such a profile is not uncommon in counties where mining is prevalent. Among all of the Florida counties that suffered from a lack of economic growth, those most troubled are mining counties.

Bill Lambert, Director at Hardee County Economic Development knows this. So when Hardee County made its last agreement permitting Mosaic Phosphate to mine 11 thousand acres within its borders, he requested the company make-up the economic hardships consequential to their operations. Mining supports fewer jobs and produces less revenue per acre for the county then other industries, so he proposed Mosaic offer the county incentive capital to put into an economic stewardship fund for compensation. They accepted.

That project was the South Ft. Meade mine, and the amount agreed upon was $42 million over a 10-year period, if the county permitted the mining operation. They did. Hardee County accepted Mosaic’s first installment of $5 million, which they deposited into the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) account.

An IDA is a declaration by the local government to recognize an independent government body for the development and financing of projects within the description of the said boundaries. In Hardee’s case, their IDA was deeded and delegated the responsibility of owning, managing and marketing the Hardee Commerce Park, as just one of their projects.

The IDA’s officers are responsible for reporting transactions, annual financial reports and for fulfulling all of the provisions required by The Sunshine Law, as is any local government in Florida. It is mandatory for the IDA to assemble an authority board. Those board members were appointed by the Hardee Board Of County Commissioners (BOCC).

In Hardee County, the local authorities and county agencies that oversee the public’s trust are the BOCC, the IDA, the EDC (Economic Development Council) and the EDA (Economic Development Authority). State law requires all to have outside audits and quarterly/annual reports for accountability.

The Players:

Our story starts with a concerned citizen. His name is Hank Kuhlman, a UPS pilot and resident of Hardee County, living in Ft. Green. He and a friend, Frank Kirkland, frequent the county commission meetings. Their purpose: to protect their property from the rubber-stamping of permits for mining, landfills and industrial parks. Kuhlman and Kirkland claim that Hardee Commissioners overwhelmingly favor the interest of those applicants over the interest of their residents.

Kuhlman read a report announcing that Hardee County was looking at a solid waste project that claimed to turn all of the county’s trash into clean fuel, eliminating the need for a landfill. The project was to be built in the west part of the county where Kuhlman lived. Mr. Kuhlman wanted the full story, so he and Kirkland went to the public meeting where the promoters were selling their idea to the county commission.

The company: Waste Generated Products (WGP), and two of their representatives, president, Guy Wardlaw and treasure, Rick Fishman, were at the meeting answering questions, and making claims Kuhlman thought were outlandish. The two men alleged their technology could transfer hundreds of tons of unsorted garbage a day into jet fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel. They claimed they could operate their system off the fuel it creates, while running generators to sell power to the electric company. They marketed the process as “emission free” and at absolutely no expense to the county.

This was only the third reported time the WGP reps met with county officials. The first was Oct. 7, of 2011, when they proposed their plan. The second, on Oct. 14, was when they briefed the commission on how their operation worked. Then at this Oct. 20 meeting, WGP had returned to close the deal. EDA Chairman Bill Lambert, sat with the two WGP reps during the meeting, encouraging the board to go forward by signing a memorandum of understanding, committing the county to co-sign a $40 million loan to build the plant.

Kuhlman and Kirkland wondered, whether this three week romance might turn into a $40 million liability. According to the proposed deal, WGP would purchase a “financial instrument” or “insurance bond” to protect the county from any liability.

I was familiar with these instruments, aka “derivatives,” as well as the “gasification” process technology WGP would use to perform their claims, Kuhlman and Kirkland contacted me to see if I could help them find out the story. They thought WGP was a shell company and that it had just incorporated in Florida, May 17, 2011. They couldn’t find any history that coincided with any of the claims WGP made at the meetings and pointed me to county posted videos to those meetings on the internet. I reviewed all three (in keyword – type “waste generated products”)

There are various legitimate claims to the variety of sciences supporting this process, but I know of none that equal the assertions both WGP reps made in the videos, which clearly would be global game changers. I also didn’t find any of the projects both men claimed they currently had in operation in New York, Michigan and London. I called the Massena N.Y. (the town WGP reps claimed to have operations) Solid Waste manager to see how it was working out for them. They had never heard of WGP.

In WGP’s Hardee proposal, they referenced LBO Capital Corp. and U.S. Quest as “strategic partners.” I couldn’t find anything on U.S. Quest, (who reps proposed would handle their licensing), and LBO Capital was a non-active stock that had a $.02 value and had been flat for years (no action). I was wondering, are the only ones vetting these guys the aforementioned two local citizens and one local reporter? Then I remembered that the IDA treasurer, Michael Douglas Manley, had just been arrested for misappropriations of funds. So surely the authorities were looking at the commission and would soon know about WGP, right? Like many things, the answers are never quite that simple.

I decided to go to Venice, FL, where WGP’s “Global Headquarters” is supposedly located. At their address, there was a duplex. The door on one side had a 12″ sign: “WGP, Global Headquarters.” The other side was Pro-Health Products, but no sign of anyone there. I knocked and a man who identified himself as Guy Wardlaw (the same WGP rep in the video) stood in the doorway and asked me what I wanted. I told him I was a reporter for TBT and was doing a story on alternative solid waste disposal methods, heard about his company and wanted to ask a few questions. Each question I asked was answered with a “go to our website.” I asked if I could come inside to chat and after a reluctant pause, he let me in.

Inside it was completely dark with no sign of electricity and he walked me to a nondescript backroom that had some windows and two chairs. I asked for some brochures or any printed info to describe their process. Wardlaw said he didn’t have any and all that wasn’t “proprietary information” was on the website. He told me they do work for the government and there were things he couldn’t tell me. He added that some of their technology was used by Boeing, the U.S. Navy and Department of Homeland Security.

I asked about other projects in other towns or cities, and Wardlaw responded, “We have ongoing projects in Oklahoma, Texas and in Michigan.” He never mentioned Hardee County or the town of Massena. I asked, ” How much fuel can you get from garbage?” He replied after some consideration, “We can get a gallon of fuel from 10 lbs. of garbage.” I knew that was a bogus claim and that something wasn’t quite right, so it was time for me to leave.

I kept looking for anything that could validate what I had heard on the videos or at their office, and decided to call Hardee’s Bill Lambert, the EDA Chairman who was also once administrator and commissioner. Lambert was on a couple of the videos telling the commission how wonderful this project could be for the county.

When speaking with Lambert, I mentioned that I had contacted Massena and that they claimed to have never heard of WGP. I asked him if he had vetted the company, adding that I had and couldn’t find anything. He said not to worry, that all of that would be done before anything was signed. Lambert didn’t know that while I was sitting there on the phone, I was looking at copies of the signed documents. They were signed by Lexton H. Albritton, Hardee County Manager and EDA Administrator, and by Minor L. Bryant, chairman of the board of county commissioners.

Lambert also didn’t know that I had in front of me a copy of a Nov. 9, 2011 certified letter from the Office of the Governor’s Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, in Tallahassee, stating:

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee is in receipt of correspondence and documentation from a concerned citizen of Hardee County, regarding: (1) the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority (Authority) and (2) the County’s Development Agreement with Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC (LLC), dated August 14, 2008, in which the “matching payment” from the LLC is being paid directly to the Authority.

The referred to “authority” has been in existence since 1996 and had never submitted a financial report or an audit. This is the authority that received Mosaic’s $5 million check. It is unlikely the letter was connected to Manley’s arrest, but feasibly may later be connected through related issues.

Kuhlman had prepared 30 questions to be submitted on paper and three orally for the December 1, commission meeting. His flying schedule changed, so his wife Dorothy attended, taking his place. After asking the questions, she then passed a copy of the Legislative Auditing Committee document to the commissioners.

Not all of Hardee’s officials must have seen the letter, addressed to Minor L Bryant, BOCC Chairman and Ken Evers, BOCC Attorney, because when the Honorable Hugh Bradley, Clerk of the County Court, viewed it, he announced he was appalled to hear of such conduct and called it “criminal,” adding that he would have nothing to do with the Director’s conduct. He vowed to hold back the next IDA check from the county, for the amount of $530,000, until the matter was settled.

County attorney Kenneth B Evers, blew it off, saying that was just an oversight. Evers is not only the attorney for the county, but also for the commission, the IDA, and the EDC. Rick Justice is now the chair for the IDA and sits on the board of the EDC. Joe Albritton is the chair at the EDC and sits on the board of the IDA. Mike Manley was the treasurer for both the IDA and the EDC, but after his arrest on November 14, they had to shake things up a bit. Authorities said his charges for misappropriation of funds was of an amount exceeding half a million bucks.

It appears that between Lambert, Evers, Albritton, Justice and Manley, there was tight control over Hardee County’s money and very little oversight. There is also a holding company, “First Hardee Holdings” that connect Lambert, Justice and Manley outside the county government, that certainly could use a closer look. I imagine authorities will be taking a closer look at everything including the IDA’s recent $2 million dollar start-up investment deal with David Brown’s “Lifesync Technologies.” Lambert recently endorsed using IDA funds. The Authority was funding a company that Mr. Albritton has ties to.

This is so complex, so convoluted and so under the radar, that we can only hope state and federal authorities do their job and take a fine-toothed comb to this tangled mess. We can thank concerned citizens, Kuhlman and Kirkland, whose suspicions might save the residents of Hardee County millions dollars by putting the brakes on another rubber stamp, destined to fail.

What could have happened had this ill fated venture not have been exposed? WGP surely would have failed; the Wardlaw brothers, Guy and David, Rick Fishman and James E. Johnson (the only four that make up WGP) could have spent only a fraction of the money before WGP went belly up and disappeared. The county WOULD have been stuck with the $40 million note, (the instrument would have been challenged – canceled, and then the co-signer would pay). Municipalities are easy and prime targets for these derivatives.

Why are banks so willing to accommodate these seemingly designed-to-fail deals?

Prime example of the answer: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – 40 years ago Pennsylvania’s capitol borrowed $12.3 million to build an incinerator that would generate electricity. The first plan failed. Most of the money was spent, but the debt the city incurred was reason enough to continue the pursuit to make it work. The bank is more than happy to refinance with a derivative called, “Interest Rate Swaps” (unregulated and capable of skyrocketing).

The bank knows to cover this new, larger, more expensive note, the legislators only need to raise the millage rate on their residents – and by a fairly unoticeable amount in some cases. More projects are adopted, the new money blankets the first debacle, (as in Harrisburg’s case) and the incinerator again continues to fall short of completion. Then another IRS is needed, much like a ponzi scheme. It is not uncommon and many municipalities around the country are held hostage to this practice.

Over the years, Harrisburg renewed their IRS’s 11 times, and a debt that started as a $12.3 million loan is now $300 million, and that is why it’s said Harrisburg has the most expensive incinerator in America. The city’s recent bankruptcy attempt was denied.

Jefferson County, Alabama, did the same thing, borrowing $250 million to start a sewer project that began in 1979. That influx of funds spawned many other projects, feeding jobs to the cronies and friends of legislators, soaking up the money flow. Jefferson County was forced over the past 25 years to re-up their IRS’s over 20 times and now that debt has climbed to $5 BILLION! In those years, sewer bills have risen from $14 a month to over $100. They have already filed bankruptcy and 11 of their commissioners have gone to jail for their malfeasance. Auditors say 2 of the $5 billion are fees and interest. These municipal derivatives are a huge profit center for the banks, and this is also why so many cities are facing default and foreclosure.

For Bill Lambert and Ken Evers to ignore the lack of credentials, knowledge, experience and traceable background that representatives for WGP displayed, and not be alarmed or even ashamed, is egregious and irresponsible. To go forward with the idea of any agreement for the amount of $40 thousand let alone $40 million, with the knowledge they now have, would be criminal and indictable. There is no “bond,” no “policy,” that can protect Hardee County officials from such obvious mistakes. Both Lambert’s and Evers’ actions should be investigated to determine whether there was more than just incompetence at work.

Slime Billboards on 1-75

Water Coalition places ‘slime’ billboards along I-75
By Virginia Chamlee | 12.07.11 | 12:48 pm

Slime Billboard
One of the Florida Water Coalition billboards (Pic by Florida Water Coalition)
The Florida Water Coalition, a group that recently filed a petition against the state’s recently drafted water rules, has put up two billboards in an effort to “educate Floridians and visitors about the state’s widespread algae pollution problem and to urge citizens to let their government representatives know that they don’t want more delays – they want clear limits on the amount of sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution in our public waters.”
Both billboards contain a photograph of a large-scale algal bloom in Fanning Springs, an area that was once clear all the way to its sandy bottom. According to the Coalition, “development and large-scale agricultural operations in the spring’s watershed have spewed pollution underground into the aquifer, and it bubbles up in the spring, altering the water chemistry and triggering nauseating toxic algae outbreaks.”
One billboard is loicated on Interstate 75 between Gainesville and Ocala, the other is also on I-75, just south of Lake City.
The Florida Water Coalition — which is comprised of the Florida Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper — recently filed a petition against the state’s “numeric nutrient criteria,” a set of standards they argue aren’t strong enough to ward off nutrient pollution in waterways.
The coalition has argued that the standards are so poor, in fact, that they “would actually be less protective than no numeric nutrient standards.” Many environmentalists have argued that the government dragged its feet in producing the standards, and is now favoring the polluters over the public.
“The toxic algae that comes from sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff is a public health threat. It is poisoning our drinking water and making people sick,” said Monica Reimer, an attorney with Earthjustice, in a press release. “Among other things, it causes respiratory problems, stomach problems, and rashes.”
Another problem, says Reimer, is that the pollution is harming businesses across the state.
“We depend on tourists to run our economy,” Reimer said. “Look at the reality on our billboards. This is obviously not good for Florida tourism. This affects jobs.”
According to a press release, the funding for the billboards came from grassroots activists. Though there are currently only two billboards erected, the Coalition has hopes it can spread its message across the state as the campaign expands.

Tampa crane operator seriously injured after dock collapses under him

Tampa crane operator seriously injured after dock collapses under him
By Stephanie Wang, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Nov 08, 2011 08:08 PM

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A crane operator was seriously injured Tuesday evening after a dock under the machinery collapsed, authorities said.

Fire-rescue crews found a 40-foot-tall rail crane, used to load phosphate onto ships, tilted on its side over the water at the CSX Phosphate Terminal, 3701 Causeway Blvd.
The crane operator was taken to Tampa General Hospital with multiple injuries, where he was listed in serious condition. Tampa Fire Rescue officials did not release his name.
Authorities were still investigating the cause of the collapse.

[Last modified: Nov 08, 2011 08:08 PM]

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