White House gets involved in Rosemont Copper

December 17, 2013

The White House's Council on Environmental Quality is the latest player to become involved with the progress of the Rosemont Copper project south of Tuscon, AZ.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that Coronado Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch told a news conference that the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is, in a sense, acting as a referee among various federal agencies that have taken different positions on the complicated process of getting the mine permitted and into production.

The conference was called to discuss the draft decision released by the Forest Service that would, if ratified in a few months, approve a mining layout for the $1.2 billion copper project in the Santa Rita Mountains.

“We are having substantive discussions with CEQ and other entities,” said Upchurch, referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.

During the more than seven year permitting process various state and federal agencies have often been at odds over the mine, however, Upchurch said the groups have recently made “great progress” toward agreeing on the mine's impacts on air and water quality, he said.
Upchurch said that the Forest Service and EPA, for instance, have made lots of progress even since Nov. 7, when EPA wrote its fourth in a series of highly critical letters on the project to other federal agencies.

The White House council’s role could come into play if the remaining issue of mitigation is not settled. If the agency’s can't agree on how to compensate for the mine's impacts on air and water, one of them could refer the issue to the White House council for formal action. CEQ could, for instance, theoretically determine that the final environmental impact statement recently released by the Forest Service is inadequate and order it rewritten, or conclude there's no problem and allow the approval process to proceed.

Upchurch declined to speculate on the odds of the agencies reaching an agreement without a formal referral to CEQ.

"We're having substantive discussions with the EPA, BLM and park service, to try to resolve these issues," he said.

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