After three extensive days of public hearing on Mosaic's proposal, Manatee County Commissioners began deliberations in advance of taking a vote Wednesday afternoon.
"We understand what it means to the community this type of issue," Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said. "I know it is a big issue for this community."
Assistant County Attorney Bill Clague told commissioners that the County Attorney's Office doesn't have an interest in the outcome of the hearing, one way or another.
"You really have three options," Clague said.
The three options are approving in entirety, denying it in entirety or approving parts of it.
Below is earlier version of the story.
The Manatee County commission Wednesday began the third day of a marathon hearing on the Mosaic Company’s proposal to expand their mining operations in east Manatee County.
As many as 75 public comments were heard during the previous two meetings, the main reason the quasi-judicial hearing has been extended.
The meeting began with a short staff response and summary followed by an hour set aside for Mosaic to rebut.
“This hearing is not a referendum on phosphate mining,” Mosaic attorney Hugh McGuire said.
Rather, he said the meeting was about reviewing if their plan had agreed with the county’s comprehensive plan, the development code and the phosphate mining ordinance.
Mosaic staff addressed things brought up in public comment, including claims that phosphate mining is related to adverse health effects like cancer and that if the company would go bankrupt.
For procedural purposes, chairwoman Betsy Benac read questions submitted by ManaSota-88’s Glenn Compton.
Mosaic staff satisfied some of Compton’s questions, including Mosaic’s responsibility of the conservation easement and how many consent orders from the EPA or FDEP have been filed against Mosaic.
The company had only mentioned one consent order from the FDEP regarding clay slurry leaking into a wetland in the Four Corners mine. A civil penalty was paid and cleanup was completed in 2014, according to Mosaic.
Yet in a technical session during which about 10 people were sworn in to refute facts stated in Mosaic’s rebuttal, Jaclyn Lopez with Center for Biological Diversity addressed that other consent orders from both FDEP and the EPA were not addressed.
According to the EPA’s ECHO facility search regarding violations of the Clean Water Act, seven of Mosaic’s Florida facilities currently have Clean Water Act violations. Also, 17 facilities had violations within the past three years, seven facilities had formal enforcement within the past five years and two had informal enforcement.
The hearing broke for lunch at noon and will return at 1:30 p.m. to continue commissioners’ questions for Mosaic.
Mosaic is proposing to the county commission to approve 3,569 acres of the Wingate East property to mine for phosphate. Also, it is asking for setback waivers and special approval to mine in the Peace River Watershed Protection Overlay District.