What are we waiting for now?

Dear Editor:

In July, HPSII, the company proposing to mine for phosphate in Bradford and Union counties, dropped its nearly $300 million Harris Act lawsuit against Union County. The case was dismissed without prejudice, so they can refile if they so desire and feel they have a valid case worth fighting; but what about Bradford County? What does HPS intend to do about the application they submitted in 2016? That was six year ago! Why have years gone by with no action here at all? Who was responsible to act next? In other words, who’s got the ball sitting in their lap rather than moving it farther down the field?

Timeline: April 2016 – HPS files application with Bradford County. November 2019 – HPS submits new Master Mining Plan (MMP) with a statement saying, “We trust the attachments will provide the necessary information to conclude your review of the application so that we may forward to the Public Hearing component of the Special Use Permit application.” January 2020 – Hydrogeologist (Schreuder) hired by Bradford’s consultants (OEC/SWCA) submits his review of ALL documents to OEC/SWCA. His review contained numerous concerns and expressed some dire, negative possibilities. I obtained the report by a records request, or else we would not get it until the consultants submit their final report, which they have not. Schreuder retired later that year. September 2022 – Where is the final report from the consultant? No action on anyone’s part in Bradford County. Why has the consultant for Bradford not produced the final report based on the final reviews from subcontractors? Who told OEC/SWCA to hold off on the report and the submission of all findings to their client, Bradford County? Was it our county attorney or our county commission? Was it HPS? Did OEC/SWCA forget that the county is their client, not HPS, even though HPS is reimbursing the county for the consultant’s fee?

Why is this process failing to abide by the laws regarding Development Orders, F.S.125.022? There are  time frames with limits that are supposed to be followed, and a six year process with two years of silence is not the intention of the law. Since HPS was the last one to ask for a hearing, does that leave Bradford County vulnerable for legal blowback based on their/OUR inaction?

I asked County Attorney Will Sexton to inquire about HPS’ intention for our county. That was weeks ago and we don’t know if HPS ignored his request or responded but does not want to tell the public what they plan for us. Either way, it is time for the county commission to request that HPS withdraw their 2016 application. If HPS is not prepared to do that, then hold a Hearing on the November 2019 MMP. We are nearing three years of inaction on that final submission. The county commission has found themselves between a rock and hard place while holding the hot potato. They are afraid to act for fear of legal ramifications no matter what they decide now. But, we elected/hired them to make the hard decisions based on due diligence in their performance of duty. We did not put them in those seats to run from the hardest tasks.

Either HPS has proof of concept and is ready to go the hearing, or they should withdraw their application and free the county commission of quasi-judicial mode; but the ball is in Bradford’s court.

What are we waiting for?

Carol Mosley