By NANCY J. SEMON, STAFF WRITER, The Daily Sun, Jan 26, 2023.
PORT CHARLOTTE — Charlotte County commissioners were about to postpone voting on a resolution supporting DeSoto County’s denial of Mosaic’s mining efforts pending further information.
The board had expressed interest in meeting in a workshop session with the phosphate giant about its intentions to expand into DeSoto.
Then Commissioner Joe Tiseo read aloud an email response from the company:
“‘We believe that this information will help the board make a more educated decision on any resolution related to the phosphate industry. Which, if a resolution is passed before the workshop, we don’t see any need to have one.'”
Tiseo was not pleased with the appearance of Mosaic’s senior manager of its environmental team, Bethany Niec, who touted the firm’s safety measures, among other things, during the public portion of the commission meeting.
“My frustration and disappointment is that we’ve been waiting for Mosaic to meet with us, plus or minus, for three years,” Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch said.
“Mosaic’s strategy by coming here in the chamber, is for one thing and one thing only — to not have us pass this resolution,” Tiseo said later in the meeting when the resolution was being discussed. “That’s exactly what’s going on today.”
Tiseo continued to chastise Mosaic.
“They’re putting us in a position that if we pass this, they’re telling this body, ‘Don’t pass this or we’re not going to come see you.’ That’s not acting in good faith,” Tiseo said.
After its last meeting, the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners asked County Administrator Hector Flores to arrange a meeting with Mosaic representatives to provide technical, scientific and engineering information.
That meeting was tentatively set for June.
Doherty said the plans for the workshop “may be in jeopardy” if the commission passes the resolution. He suggested the board “have it in our hip pocket” but not to pass it now.
“If you don’t care about the workshop…that’s a different story, but I do,” Doherty said. “I think it would be very important to our community.”
Tiseo turned to Commissioner Bill Truex, who is the chairman of the board.
“Mr. Chairman, I’m not going to be steamrolled by the powerful and influential…I’m a businessman,” Tiseo said. “Their business model is to act in the best interest of their shareholders, not Charlotte County residents. Well, guess what? My role is to act in the best interest of my constituents, which are my shareholders.”
Earlier, some half-dozen residents urged the commission to pass the resolution supporting the denial of further expansion by Mosaic in DeSoto County.
Activist Tim Ritchie held up a blank, white poster board, saying that was what the Peace River could look like if a calamity like the December 1971 clay settling area breach happens again.
Andy Mele of Peace + Myakka Waterkeeper also spoke at the meeting. His website describes the 1971 breach as sending “a white tidal wave down the Peace River and into the Harbor, killing everything in its path.”
The resolution, unanimously passed after lengthy discussion, was amended from the previous one.
Doherty had it rewritten to include more details about the region’s water supply and past events at phosphogypsum stacks that caused discharges in 2016 and 2022.
The amended resolution also referred to Hurricane Ian’s historic rain event, which resulted in multiple breaches of the stormwater management system at a phosphate mine near Fort Meade.
Commissioner Chris Constance said he was “very disappointed in Mosaic that they sent that email. Then to request we pull it or they won’t show up.”
Deutsch, Truex, Constance and Doherty said they favored having the workshop, but sentiments changed after discussing how Mosaic set conditions for it to participate in a workshop.
“That email was a nail in the coffin for me,” Tiseo said. “I’m not going to be threatened by a big corporation to pull an item or they’re not going to meet with me.”
Image Credits: An overhead shot of the agricultural acres Mosaic hopes to one day get rezoned for phosphate mining in DeSoto County.