Environmental groups sue EPA: Seeking oversight of fertilizer mining

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Advocacy groups are filing a new lawsuit demanding action from federal agencies, putting pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten regulations on the fertilizer production industry.

A group of 11 environmental advocacy groups says it plans to sue the EPA to respond to a rulemaking petition that seeks to tighten regulations on hazardous waste produced by phosphate mining companies during fertilizer production. The EPA was notified.

The issue dates back to February 2021, when 17 organizations filed a rulemaking petition with the Environmental Protection Agency asking the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate phosphogypsum and wastewater produced during fertilizer production under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. . The 1991 decision to exempt phosphate manufacturing waste from federal hazardous waste regulations exempts this waste from hazardous waste regulations.

From the archive: Environmentalists are concerned about a proposed phosphate mine in DeSoto County

update: DeSoto County Mosaic mine project delayed by at least two years

Just weeks after the petition was filed, an emergency at the former Piney Point Fertilizer Plant in Manatee County prompted state officials to issue an emergency permit to release approximately 215 million gallons of wastewater from the facility into Tampa Bay. I was forced to.

Three years later, the EPA still hasn’t responded to environmental groups.

“This lawsuit simply seeks an answer to that petition,” said Ragan Whitlock, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA has been sitting idle for the past three years and has been unable to respond to us. My guess is that this is a difficult question and that the EPA cannot justify a ‘no’ if it wants to issue one.” Because you can.” One. “

“They need to either say on the record that they agree that we did make a mistake, or justify on the record why they continue to cater to the phosphate industry,” he said.

Whitlock said it’s not just the Piney Point incident. Another leak occurred at Piney Point in 2011, and this one also caused 170 million gallons of wastewater to be dumped into Gulf waters. In 2016, approximately 215 million gallons of wastewater was drained into a giant sinkhole at a facility in Mulberry owned by Mosaic.

“That’s something we all saw firsthand,” he said. “The Piney Point disaster was horrific. It affected tourism. It affected endangered species. It was one of the worst environmental contaminations I’ve ever seen. And the EPA did nothing in the wake of that disaster.”

Manatsota-88 Chairman Glenn Compton said the lack of oversight has opened the door to lower-cost alternatives for how to dispose of fertilizer industry waste, including use as roadbed, agriculture and landfill cover.

“Phosphate companies have been trying for decades to come up with other ways to dispose of their waste instead of putting it in gypsum piles,” Compton said. “What we’re seeing are proposals to not contain the waste but spread it around and have less oversight and regulation.”

“We are simply asking the Environmental Protection Agency to do its job of protecting public health and the environment from hazardous toxic waste,” said Glenn Compton. “They’ve been neglecting it for decades.”

Although the lawsuit was filed by organizations across the country, Whitlock said Southwest Florida has been disproportionately affected by the presence of fertilizer giant Mosaic.

“In Florida alone, more than 1 billion tons of phosphogypsum is stored in chimney systems, and more than 30 million tons are manufactured in Florida each year. It contains large quantities of phosphate ore, and Mosaic et al.’s intention is clearly to continue mining.”

“Mosaic is a Fortune 500 company with net revenues of $3.6 billion in 2022,” he said. “Our position is that the company can take a financial haircut to better manage our environment.”

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