Manatee County commissioners have an important decision Sept. 29 and it’s critical they get it right. Mosaic seeks to rezone 3,595 acres from agriculture to phosphate mining. It owns many more thousands of acres in the county. The real question for commissioners is whether to allow the company to keep taking big chunks of productive agricultural land and leaving a wasteland behind.
The Manatee Planning Commission is concerned enough about the issue that its members voted to request a workshop with county commissioners to discuss our phosphate mining ordinance. This is a welcome opportunity for commissioners to become better informed and possibly strengthen local phosphate laws. Mosaic will move on after mining, and the county will have to deal with its mess. There may be laws mandating reclamation, but there are few examples that it truly works.
The county commission’s job is to protect local citizens, land and resources — using the county’s best interests as its guide. Do we really want to trust a company that last year was ordered to pay nearly $2 billion to settle a federal lawsuit over improper storage and disposal of its hazardous wastes in Florida and Louisiana?
If the county commission’s lawyer says it must approve rezoning or face a lawsuit, the request should be tabled until the mining workshop mining is held. The county needs to determine whether phosphate mining brings more to the table than it takes away, not just now but decades into the future.