Agriculture Domestic Policy Economy Energy & Environment Government Regulation Hunger and Food Programs Legal and Judicial Top Issues Utah

No Fertilizer, No Farms

Eco-alarmists stage another assault on the American Southwest’s mineral bonanza.

Potash, “used primarily as an agricultural fertilizer … because it is a source of soluble potassium,” is about as important a resource as petroleum. It supplies an element that “is associated with the movement of water, nutrients and carbohydrates in plant tissue.” K, “vital to photosynthesis,” is “an essential nutrient in animal health.”

So naturally, professional eco-alarmists want to stop a proposed potash mine in Utah.

Earlier this month, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance filed a lawsuit “seeking judicial review of the [Bureau of Land Management’s] 2019 decision to approve nearly 125,000 acres of potash mining in Utah’s remote West Desert, known as the Sevier Playa Potash … Project.”

Peak Minerals intends to make “the most significant [sulfate-of-potash] development effort on the continent,” enabling “the region to become self sufficient in chloride-free fertilizers that will help farmers increase high-value food production to feed North America’s growing population.”

As usual for green lawfare, SUWA’s complaint is bereft of silver bullets. It is narrowly technical, alleging violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and National Environmental Policy Act. It’s also mighty thin, with a whopping four pages outlining the BLM’s alleged misdeeds. (None of the bureaucracy’s five “action alternatives” met the alliance’s standards for “a middle-ground alternative,” and BLM officials refused to fully embrace its “extensive comments highlighting potential impacts on a number of environmental resources including, but not limited to, water … climate, air quality, visual resources, and migratory birds.”)

Back on Planet Earth, the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project, including its 14 appendices, runs to 783 pages. (The document cost over $3 million to produce.) BLM imposed 19 “special stipulations” in its approval decision, covering everything from “pits, ditches, and other excavations” to “noxious/invasive weeds,” reclamation to dust control.

And winning the BLM’s blessing was just the start of the regulatory warren. Peak Metals could need as many as 24 more “authorizations, permits, reviews, and approvals” from government entities at the federal, state, and local levels before the company extracts a pound of potash.

In addition, Peak Minerals is bending over backwards to bow before Mother Gaia’s ESG clergymen — pledging “[n]o harmful chemicals or by-products made or used,” and a paltry “carbon footprint” via the use of “solar evaporation as key process element.”

It’s not enough. And it never will be.

Potash in Utah. Copper in Arizona. Lithium in Nevada. Magnesium in New Mexico. The American Southwest’s “environmentalists” take “think globally, act locally” seriously. They’ve declared war on any company proposing a mine in our region. It’s time to fight back.

By D. Dowd Muska

Dowd brings nearly 30 years of research and writing experience to the Institute. A veteran of several think tanks, he is an expert on government at the municipal, county, state, and federal levels.

Raised on an apple orchard in the Connecticut River Valley, D. Dowd Muska is a researcher, writer, editor, and commentator. His focus is the nexus of fiscal policy, economic development, and technology.

Mr. Muska is the author of numerous policy studies, and his writing has appeared in newspapers throughout the nation, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Detroit News, the Orlando Sentinel, the Cape Cod Times, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Hartford Courant, the Waco Tribune-Herald, the Albuquerque Journal, the New Haven Register, and The Oklahoman. A graduate of The George Washington University, he lives in the Albuquerque metro area, but has started (very) early planning for a relocation to the Sierra Blanca in Lincoln County, New Mexico. He recently launched the Substack platform No Dowd About It.

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