Report by Dick Kamp Wick Communications Environmental Liaison 2 /23/2012
San Francisco— The Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 Administrator has asked Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch to submit a new draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for public review, rejecting the existing document as a rare “environmentally unsatisfactory with inadequate information”, or EU-3 , the lowest possible category under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Fear violations of Clean Water and Air Acts
A February 21 letter from Jared Blumenfeld said that the DEIS critique and rating cited Clean Air and Water Act concerns.
Regarding air emissions, Blumenfeld stated that the mine operation as described would violate some National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone: “Despite..proposed mitigation… these impacts are projected to remain at levels that are unacceptable in their risk to human health and the environment..”
Supporting documents to the letter suggest that the project as proposed could impact Pima County's legal air quality attainment approval for ozone and particulates.
Clean Water Act comments, continuing concerns raised with ADEQ and the Army Corps of Engineers over their permits, include concern over protection of “outstanding waters” designation of Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek under the Clean Water Act.
“EPA also believes that the water quality analysis presented… may underestimate the project's potential to release contaminated drainage into Waters of the US…the proposed project has the potential to result in adverse environmental impacts to tribal and cultural resources, biological resources, and human health and safety ,” said Blumenfeld.
Only Four such ratings among thousands
Carter Jessup of Region 9, chief EIS reviewer for Rosemont , said, “the region has given this low a rating to a DEIS or EIS only 4 times since 1989, and we review approximately 120 draft and final EIS's per year. I do not have figures nationwide but the percentage of EU-3 ratings is probably commensurate with ours.”
Kathy Goforth oversees NEPA issues for Region 9 added, “In terms of whether or not the Forest Service issues a revised or supplemental DEIS, that's their decision to make. When we give them this kind of rating we are saying ‘it is so deficient it should be revised and given full public review before a final EIS is issued.' But if they issue a final EIS and the final document does not address the concerns raised, and is still deficient, they put themselves at a risk of 3 rd party lawsuit.
“If we determine that a project is environmentally unsatisfactory, and issues are not resolve, the next step is that we recommend review by (the President's) Council of Environmental Quality. They then work with the Forest Service and us to reach some resolution of the issues.”
Not a Surprise to Upchurch Coronado Supervisor Jim Upchurch said that the EU3 rating and letter were “not a surprise; we've been in contact with the Region.” He added, “The letter is only commenting on the written part of the DEIS and since that time, per discussion with the region, we've already started additional analysis that we knew we'd have to complete.
“These analyses cover a multitude of things that I won't try and relate on the phone: water quality and water quantity analyses, air quality, transportation impacts, economic effects on tourism.
“One of our options is to issue a supplemental DEIS- rather than an entire document- that goes out for public review. We're confident that we won't be making a decision without addressing these issues as best as we can.
Rosemont: Standard Procedure
In a prepared statement, Rod Pace, Rosemont President said, "This is a standard part of what a regional EPA office does. Its part of the rigorous review process that leads to a robust final EIS required by the National Environmental Policy Act…... The extensive review of the draft EIS by the EPA, as well as all of the other commenting agencies, produces the input needed by the USFS to produce the most defendable final decision documentation possible."