Truth be told

Dear Editor:

One thing the public should be able to expect from our commissioners and public employees is openness and honesty. Florida’s Sunshine Laws under F.S.119 are designed exactly for that outcome.

In 2016 HPSII submitted a plan for phosphate mining to the Bradford County Commission. I showed up with a long list of questions and I’ve spent the last six years reviewing documents and seeking answers so as to separate spin from fact.

In 2017, the county hired OEC as consultants to review the mining plans that HPSII submitted, and then make recommendation to the county as to whether HPSII has shown that their plans are in keeping with Bradford’s Land Development Regulations (LDRs). HPSII agreed to pay for the county’s consultants (an odd arrangement), except for one section of the scope dealing with land use and regional planning, which HPSII did not want to pay for. The County has still not assigned that important section elsewhere for any review over these six years. Why not?

In November 2019, HPSII submitted their third Master Mining Plan (MMP), their cover letter stating that they hoped this was sufficient to proceed to the public hearing. In January 2020, the hydrogeologist submitted his final review to OEC, including review of the MMP. In the two years since then, despite my constant requests to know what we are waiting for, no action took place and I received no answer.

In March 2021, attorney Sexton gave an “update” saying that in September 2019 the hydrogeologist had requested more information and HPSII was working on it. Supposedly, the Request for Additional Information (RAI) was “not reduced to writing.” Mr.Sexton said he spoke with the HPS attorney and “our” OEC consultant, who both stated that the delay was a result of the September 2019 RAI.

Since my two years of requests for information about the “unwritten RAI” were unsuccessful, I wrote to OEC (that had by now been taken over by another consulting company, SWCA) but they did not respond. So in December 2022, I finally appealed directly to the hydrogeologist, who promptly confirmed that he finalized his review in January 2020 and had retired that same year. It is NOT TRUE that we have been waiting for two years for information requested by him, as stated by Mr. Sexton in March 2021.

So what is really going on here? Why did our County Attorney/County Manager Sexton drag the public and commissioners along on a two-year journey down a dead end road? Who benefits from this delay? HPSII? OEC? Not the county. Is the delay in going to a hearing due to the concerns expressed in the hydrogeologist’s review of the mining plans? Why were the commissioners negligent in getting to the bottom of the two- year delay, despite my constant requests for transparency and my evidence of obvious “anomalies?” Why are our county’s consultants seeking plans for deep well injection discharge for HPSII to consider in their plans? Is OEC/SWCA confused about their intended scope of work?

Deception and obfuscation from our public servants are NOT OKAY. The county commissioners need to demand answers from their staff and consultants. We, the public, deserve better.

The BOCC needs to tell OEC/SWCA to submit their final report, including the hydrogeologist’s review. The county then needs to bring the MMP to a hearing, as per F.S. 125.022. If HPSII is STILL not ready to proceed to the Hearing, perhaps their submission of an MMP six years ago was premature. They could withdraw their application and submit a new MMP when they are ready for the Hearing.

Carol Mosley