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Commission to debate phosphate today

Published By: Sun Herald

The Charlotte County Commission will discuss the latest proposed settlement with Mosaic.

Today, when the Charlotte County Commission discusses the latest settlement proposal with the Mosaic fertilizer company, it will consider taking a bit of motherly advice: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

Commissioner Tricia Duffy noted at a pre-agenda meeting Friday that Charlotte County has a Web site and pays consultants to spread negative information about phosphate mining and its impacts on the Peace River basin and the area's drinking water supply. Duffy, who is Charlotte County's representative in the phosphate settlement negotiations, said she will bring her concerns before the board at today's meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Murdock Administration Center.

"Apparently the previous board direction was a very anti-phosphate attitude," Duffy said. "I think we need to address this. We still have full-time employees whose sole purpose, I assume, is to stop phosphate mining. We have a public relations firm we're still paying, and we have a Web site that's very anti-phosphate."

Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota counties and the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority are currently engaged in settlement negotiations with Mosaic Fertilizer. Under the latest draft of the so-called Phosphate Compact, the local governments would agree not to challenge permits for future phosphate mining, and Mosaic would take extra steps to prevent or mitigate its impacts to water quality and quantity.

The County Commission will discuss the latest draft of the agreement at today's meeting.

Chairman Dick Loftus and Commissioner Tom Moore, present at Friday's pre-agenda meeting, agreed with Duffy that it was a matter that should be discussed.

"We need to set some rules on what we say and what we don't say," Moore said.

Commissioners Adam Cummings and Tom D'Aprile were not present at Friday's meeting.

Duffy noted that Mosaic has included in its settlement offer a clause that would prevent Charlotte County from being negative towards Mosaic. The county's Web site contains information critical of phosphate mining.

"While we're in the position of negotiating, I don't think we should be continuing to have such an anti, negative attitude," Duffy said.

Any changes that could be made, though, should only be made in the interest of fair negotiations, as long as the talks continue, Duffy said.

"If we decide not to go with the agreement and we decide to go back to litigation," she said, "then those things would be appropriate."

You can e-mail Neil Hughes at nhughes@sun-herald.com.

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