A community group and a retired air-pollution scientist filed separate lawsuits Wednesday challenging Arizona’s approval of an air-quality permit for the proposed Rosemont Mine.
A lawsuit from Save the Scenic Santa Ritas says the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality improperly failed to consider the group’s concerns that the copper mine’s emissions will violate federal air-quality standards. The suit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.
The other lawsuit, filed by retired scientist Joel Fisher of Green Valley, contends ADEQ illegally started to review and process Rosemont Copper’s permit application back in 2012 before the state had formally taken over control of the permitting process from Pima County. Fisher, who worked at various times for the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and the U.S. Army, filed his suit in Pima County Superior Court.
ADEQ said through a spokesman that it would have no immediate comment on the lawsuits, since its officials hadn’t yet seen them. Rosemont Copper didn’t immediately comment.
The air-quality permit is one of several key permits needed for Rosemont Copper to build and operate the copper mine, which would be the country’s third-largest.
Opponents already had filed suit challenging ADEQ’s approval of a separate aquifer-protection permit for the mine.
The proposed mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, southeast of Tucson, would create more than 400 high-paying, permanent jobs. But opponents are concerned that emissions from the mine’s heavy equipment, blasting operations and dust would jeopardize human health, reduce visibility at Saguaro National Park East and place Pima County in violation of federal air-quality requirements.
When ADEQ approved the air permit in early 2013, it said that its review of Rosemont Copper’s computerized air-pollution forecasts found that the mine’s emissions wouldn’t violate air quality standards for carbon monoxide, nitrogen and sulfur dioxide or for fine and large particles. It said that “all technical issues” the agency raised had been adequately addressed by the mining company, and that ADEQ had verified Rosemont’s computer model analysis and emissions calculations.
But Save the Scenic Santa Ritas’ lawsuit contends that ADEQ failed to consider alleged flaws in Rosemont’s computer model analysis that the group had pointed out.
“If they ran the models the way they should have, they would have found Rosemont in violation and wouldn’t have issued the permit,” said David Steele, a Save the Scenic Santa Ritas spokesman.