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Preliminary Injunction Issued for South
Phosphate Mine Extension Ft. Meade
On July 8, 2011 Judge Henry Adams of the U.S. District Court in
issued a preliminary injunction against all phosphate mining at the Mosaic Company’s South Fort Meade Extension site in Hardee County Florida. Judge Adams held that the plaintiffs had shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that U.S. Corps of Engineers’ permit for the mining violated the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act. The permit would allow the destruction of 537 acres of wetlands and more than 10 miles of streams in the headwaters of the Jacksonville, Florida Peace River, a federally designated Aquatic Resource of National Importance that has been decimated by phosphate mining over the past few decades. In the latest round of this long-running litigation, Mosaic sought to mine 700 acres of what it called “uplands” within its more than 10,000 acre site, while waiting on the judge’s ruling. However, the judge stopped that because he found that these areas were covered by the permit and, based on Mosaic’s own evidence, that mining those areas would cause harm to wetlands in and around the uplands site. The judge also noted that although Mosaic has had approximately a year to do so since this lawsuit began, it had chosen not to fix its permit with the Corps of Engineers to comply with the law.
Commenting on the result, Bev Griffiths, chair of the Sierra Club
phosphate committee said, “The court has recognized that the Corps of Engineers review of this project was deeply flawed and needs to be re-done in order to protect these wetlands, streams and water flows that are crucial to wildlife and human populations. Such destruction should not occur without full compliance with environmental protections.” Florida
Plaintiffs are a group of environmental and community groups: Sierra Club, ManaSota-88 and Citizens for Protecting Peace River (3PR). Plaintiffs originally brought their lawsuit in June 2010, obtaining a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Mosaic and the USCOE appealed that order to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which vacated and remanded that injunction because the judge had prematurely issued a final order. When the case went back to Judge Adams, plaintiffs then renewed their request for preliminary injunction including a request that it include mining in the 700 acres Mosaic calls “Area 2”. While Mosaic claimed that Area 2 was almost solely uplands, and didn’t need a permit, the plaintiffs pointed out that Area 2 contained wetlands and mining the area is inconsistent with the Corps permit and had never been considered by the Corps. The preliminary injunction issued July 8, 2011, addresses the entire mine site, including Area 2.
Plaintiffs brought the legal challenge because the Corps had issued the permit over objections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, failed to comply with the Clean Water Act by not limiting the mine to the least damaging alternative and not holding public hearings, and by not preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Plaintiffs are seeking more effective protections for site wetlands and streams, including the Peace River and its tributaries, which discharge to the
estuary. Charlotte Harbor
Plaintiffs and Mosaic previously agreed to a partial settlement of the litigation to allow mining by Mosaic of 200 acre ‘Phase I’ on the northern end of the property. In return Mosaic agreed to protect an additional 40 acres, including 14 acres of high quality wetlands and bayhead swamps. The mining of Phase I ended in June, 2011.
Submitted by Beverly Griffiths