Court rescinds Rosemont’s state air quality control permit

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A Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court judge today rescinded the state air quality control permit for Toronto-based Hudbay Mineral’s proposed Rosemont copper project in Arizona.

Judge Crane McClennen reversed the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s (AzDEQ) January 2013 decision to issue the air pollution permit for the proposed mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit copper mine planned for the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.

“This Court concludes there was not substantial evidence to support the action of the AzDEQ, and the action of the AzDEQ was contrary to law, was arbitrary and capricious, and was an abuse of discretion,” the ruling states.

The ruling sends Rosemont’s air quality permit back to AzDEQ “for further consideration using the proper criteria.”

McClennen ruled in favor of an appeal filed by the Tucson-based citizen’s group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas that argued that the proposed mine would violate national air pollution standards. SSSR also presented evidence that demonstrated Rosemont’s air pollution model was flawed and understated the potential for air pollution from mining operations.

“This Court concludes the authorities and arguments provided by SSSR are well-taken, and this Court adopts those authorities and arguments in support of its decision,” the ruling states.

SSSR’s appeal overcame substantial legal hurdles that favored upholding AzDEQ’s decision to issue the air permit. In reviewing an agency’s decision pursuant to the (Arizona) Administrative Review Act, the superior court must affirm the agency action unless it is “not supported by substantial evidence, is contrary to law, is arbitrary and capricious or is an abuse of discretion.”

The court’s decision delivers a major setback to Hudbay’s plans to construct the $1.5 billion copper mine. A second lawsuit challenging the Rosemont air quality permit is also pending in Pima County Superior Court.

SSSR’s request for attorneys’ fees was deferred until expected appeals and subsequent rulings from higher courts are issued.

“Because it is likely this matter will be appealed to the Arizona Court of Appeals with possible review by the Arizona Supreme Court, this Court considers it more appropriate to wait until the further appeals process has run its course before considering the issue of attorneys’ fee,” McClennen ruled.

The decision marks another major twist in Rosemont’s effort to secure the air quality control permit. The permit issue has bounced around for more than three years between the state and Pima County governments since the mining company applied for it, the Arizona Daily Star reported in January.

Rosemont sharply criticized SSSR when it filed the law suit challenging the air permit. Rosemont Copper vice president Kathy Arnold told the Arizona Daily Star in June 2014 that the suit was another request for legal review filed by a group that has appealed and lost on other issues.

“We are confident that this will be rejected after review,” Arnold, Rosemont’s vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs, told the newspaper.

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7 Responses to Court rescinds Rosemont’s state air quality control permit

  1. OMG–Such good news!! So many people worked so hard on this one and it has paid off. And the Judge was brave enough to tell it like it is “arbitrary and capricious.” I had worked with ADEQ personnel before Brewer days and they were wonderful people, helpful, knew how to get things done–although it did also take the Attorney General Goddard to get clean water from mining in Green Valley. Now all of those good people are gone from ADEQ. It is absolutely illogical to have the head of ADEQ a political appointment!! Something has to change… hopefully, this is the first step to sanity!!

  2. Tricia Gerrodette says:

    Fabulous ruling by Judge McClennen. He ruled the same way against ADWR in the development case that would impact the San Pedro River. He seems to have gotten (been?) pretty tough! He did grant us attorney fees, although they aren’t collectible until after the case appeal runs its course, and it is being appealed just like this one will be. But it’s a great feeling to win in Superior Court!!!

  3. Tom Liston says:

    Just to reassure you that there are a lot of folks outside Arizona who appreciate the work you are doing to preserve the Santa Rita’s. Congratulations on this latest victory in court. Keep up the good fight.

    Tom Liston
    Stow, Ohio

  4. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THOSE WHO SUPPORT THE SSSR CAUSE . A COMBINED EFFORT HAS PRODUCED POSITIVE RESULTS AND THEN SOME . LETS KEEP THE MOMENTUM MOVING FORWARD .

    EVIDENCE IS GROWING THAT THERE APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN COLLUSION , PAST AND PRESENT , BETWEEN ROSEMONT COPPER AND THE FOREST SERVICE . DURING AUGUSTA’S REIGN MANY IRREGULARITIES OCCURRED . HUDBAY MAY BE TRYING TO CARRY OUT ” DAMAGE CONTROL ” BUT IT IS TOO LITTLE , TOO LATE . WATER AND AIR PERMITS REMAIN OUTSTANDING . WHEN WILL THE FOREST SERVICE COME OUT WITH SOME COMMENTS ?

  5. T J Stewart says:

    Good Golly Tree-Huggers Must All Come From Outer-Space And Drink That “Obama Kool-Aid” However Please Put Down Your “Free Kool-Aid” And Leave The Experts And Forest Service Call The Shots On Air-Quality And Give The Mines Permits To At Least Start Work!! God Bless America And The Forest Service.

  6. James says:

    Wow what great news we live within site of this proposed Environmental disaster and scar on the gorgeous Santa Rita’s and are very hopeful for thier protection for all to enjoy in the future. Keep up the good work, thank you.

  7. Susan says:

    Good news! Thank you, your Honor!…and SSSR