Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva yesterday sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighting serious concerns about the preparation of a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) at the Rosemont Mine project south of Tucson. Grijalva cites, among other concerns, the fact that public hearings on the draft were scheduled not by the Forest Service but by Rosemone Mine’s public relations firm and the fact that a draft of the analysis was not provided to the public 15 days before the first hearing, as required by law.
Grijalva writes in the letter: “The fact that Rosemont’s representatives are directly involved in the planning of these public meetings raises obvious questions as to how much influence Rosemont has had in the overall timing, location and structure of these meetings – all important factors in determining a successful public involvement process. [. . .] The public’s trust that the Forest Service will conduct a transparent and meaningful public involvement process is certainly compromised when it appears that Rosemont and its agents are allowed to rig this process.”
As the letter explains, “all but one of the meetings were scheduled on Saturday afternoons, in direct conflict with several important southern Arizona events. [. . .] Rosemont’s involvement could at least in part explain why these public hearings are being expedited in violation of [regulations that call] for 15 days between the delivery of the DEIS and a public hearing about it. Southern Arizonans and others are just receiving their copies of this massive document this week, just days before the first originally scheduled hearing.”
Grijalva’s letter follows one sent to the Coronado National Forest by Chairman Ned Norris of the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation highlighting many of the same concerns. Grijalva writes: “As the Chairman’s letter notes, he finds it ‘troubling that Rosemont Copper and its PR firm arranged these public meetings, not the Forest Service.’ The Chairman is absolutely correct. This is indeed troubling, particularly, as the Chairman also points out, given the earlier criticism of both the Forest Service and Rosemont Copper by Judge Frank Zapata of the Federal District Court in Tucson for an ‘appearance of impropriety’ as a result of Rosemont’s participation in Forest Service meetings that were closed to the public.”
To fix the situation, Grijalva writes, “The current public comment period for the Rosemont Copper DEIS must be immediately suspended and a new public information process without Rosemont’s involvement and with consultation and regard for community events must be redesigned. Only then should the public comment be reinitiated.”