Tucson, Ariz. – Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Ron Barber today sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging the Forest Service, which is under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), not to release a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed Rosemont Mine project near Tucson without addressing several known shortcomings in the version available for public comment. The public comment period closes today, leading to widespread concerns that the draft will not substantially change before it is finalized.
Grijalva and Barber write in the letter, which is reviewable at http://1.usa.gov/16SHSMm, that the Forest Service “has no obligation to rush through an environmental assessment,” especially because the draft “is missing essential elements [such as] analysis of endangered species impacts, consultation with Native American communities regarding impacts to historical and cultural sites, Clean Water Act permits, and responses to [earlier] public comments.”
Authorities at the Coronado National Forest, where some waste from the proposed mine may be dumped, seem tempted to fast track analysis of other federal agencies’ comments in order to issue a record of decision by Sept. 27, the letter says. New rules on approving such documents go into effect the following day – rules that Forest Service officials may be trying to avoid at the Rosemont site.
As today’s letter says, “The Forest Service has no obligation to rush through an environmental assessment. The agency’s duty, first and foremost, is to assess the proposed mine’s impacts on Arizona’s natural resources, water supplies, and public health. Such a review should take the time that is appropriate to ensure full input from the public and stakeholders. The impacts of this study will be permanent and demand full and careful review.”
Grijalva is the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. Barber sits on the House Committee on Small Business.