SARASOTA – Four area environmental groups announced Tuesday that they plan to sue two federal agencies over approvals of more than 50,000 acres for phosphate mining across central Florida.
The groups contend the operations “irretrievably damage habitat for imperiled species, threaten water quality and forever change Florida’s landscape” in and around critical watersheds that are a major source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Southwest Florida residents, including Manatee and Sarasota counties.
The joint lawsuit will be filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, ManaSota-88, People for Protecting Peace River and Suncoast Waterkeeper against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the notice of intent to sue issued Tuesday morning.
The notice claims a series of violations to the Endangered Species Act in both agencies’ environmental reviews of mining impacts over the past three years within the Central Florida Phosphate District – an area with tens of thousands of acres of active and proposed mines spanning 1.2 million acres and six counties from Sarasota to Polk.
It also claims the agencies erred in approving a permit for the South Pasture Extension Mine, an expansion of an existing Mosaic Fertilizer mine in Hardee County. “We’re taking a stand against the continued reckless expansion of phosphate mining,” said Justin Bloom, executive director of Suncoast Waterkeeper.
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