Why did County staff recommending denial of the mine project but approval of the EIR? Only denying the Mine and the EIR will defeat it for good.
This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.
Community Environmental Advocates Foundation Board: If certified, the Mine EIR will haunt us; Only denying the Mine and the EIR will defeat it for good.
May 10, 2023
The Nevada County Planning Department has, for good reason, recommended that the County Planning Commission vote to deny the Idaho Maryland Mine zone change and variance. That may sound a lot like a “No”, but the devil’s in the details. Staff continues to recommend certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
Certifying the EIR would be tantamount to leaving an opening to the future approval of a mine at this site. Only denying the Mine and the EIR will defeat it for good.
If there is no mine there is absolutely no need for an EIR
The county is under no obligation to certify the EIR if the project is denied. Case law is clear on this topic e.g., Las Lomas Land Co., LLC vs City of Los Angeles (2009) Cal.App.4th 83.
Why the EIR must not be certified
The EIR is totally deficient. It fails to disclose and evaluate the Mine’s significant negative environmental effects, it does not analyze a reasonable range of alternatives to the Mine, and it fails to identify adequate mitigation measures.
Here are a few examples: The EIR relies on groundwater data that is over 15 years old as the baseline for determining whether the Mine will have significant impacts on water quality and water supply. It fails to mitigate the Mine’s air quality impacts, even though the EIR acknowledges they will be significant; and similarly, it dismisses significant greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change.
Even if the project is denied, the certified EIR could be relied on in the future to support the approval of yet another mining proposal at this site. Rise Gold, or even a new applicant, could come back in the years ahead with a new mine proposal. However, if the EIR is certified, a new application could use the County’s officially sanctioned EIR to satisfy environmental review requirements, perhaps with minor additions. This would constrain the County’s discretion and leave it vulnerable to a claim that it is required to approve a proposal without the analysis and mitigation necessary to address the significant impacts of a future mining project.
If the EIR is certified, the community will be forced to watchdog the county for years to come, waiting for a new mine proposal and the need to fight this battle again.
The solution is simple, and the County needs to make it clear: Only denying both the EIR and the Mine will put this project and future ones like it to rest once and for all.