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ROSEMONT'S LATEST HURDLE

The Environmental Protection Agency has dealt a serious blow to Rosemont Copper's plan to build a massive open-pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.

In a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers obtained and released by mine opposition group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, EPA Water Division Director Jane Diamond said that the mine's construction would create "significant degradation" that would lead to "substantial and unacceptable impact to aquatic resources of national importance, including the 'Outstanding Waters' of Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek."

Diamond added in the Nov. 7 letter that Rosemont Copper's proposed mitigation of the impact on the waterways was insufficient and the plan "should not be permitted as proposed."

That spells trouble for Rosemont's efforts to get a key Clean Water Act 404 permit, which is one of the few remaining permits still outside the grasp of Rosemont Copper and its Canadian parent company, Augusta Resource Corp. The EPA has veto power over the issuance of the permit, which is necessary for the mine to get an OK from the U.S. Forest Service to use thousands of acres of Coronado National Forest land as a waste dump.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva praised the EPA's actions in a bulletin to the press last week.

"I've said all along, and I'm not alone, that good science should be more important in this decision than slick marketing brochures and political spin," Grijalva said. "Augusta Resource tried to manipulate elections, gin up a phony local support campaign, and paper over serious environmental risks with a big advertising budget. Thankfully the EPA has done the hard and thorough research Augusta has tried to prevent, and the results are as clear as it gets. This mine would be an ecological disaster and violate the Clean Water Act. If Augusta has better data, let's see it."

Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, a longtime mine opponent, was also pleased by the news.

"I always support the troops," Carroll said. "In this case, it's the Army Corps of Engineers. This is what we've been saying since the beginning: It's all about the water."

Rosemont sent out a press release saying that the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas crew was distorting the EPA letter to undermine the Rosemont project.

"The SSSR press release today was not only inaccurate but another attempt to harm our company," said Augusta president and CEO Gil Clausen. "This group has historically mischaracterized the level of impact that letters between agencies have and obviously do not understand the permitting or the evaluation process."

Clausen added that Rosemont officials planned to sweet-talk the EPA into approving a permit with some adjustments to their plan.

"Rosemont has been working closely with the Federal Agencies for the past five years to ensure the appropriate mitigations are developed to address impacts," Clausen said. "Throughout that time, the SSSR has consistently and purposely misrepresented the company's intentions, the facts and the (permitting) process."

CHILDREN'S CRUSADE

The Arizona Republic's Mary Jo Pitzl and Mary K. Reinhart revealed a new scandal inside Child Protective Services last week: Some 6,000 cases of suspected child abuse have gone uninvestigated since 2009.

The news quickly exploded in a full-blown scandal, with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers condemning the failure to investigate the cases. Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of the Children's Action Alliance, called for the resignation of Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter, saying in a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer that the scope of the uninvestigated cases makes it "clear this was not one or two rogue employees, but a systemic policy."

Fred DuVal, the lone Democrat seeking the governor's office next year, called the mess "jarring, frustrating and most of all unacceptable," and declared that Brewer should call a special session to provide enough funding to fix the problem.

As of the Weekly's early holiday deadline, Brewer was rejecting calls for a special session and standing behind her embattled DES director after ordering him to follow up on the uninvestigated cases. She also sent in Department of Public Safety officers to find out "precisely how and why this inexcusable failure occurred," according to a statement to the press.

Brewer promised that there would "be accountability in this matter and I will insist on further reforms to make sure it cannot happen again."

We have to ask: Isn't this what you'd expect to happen when you cut back on prevention and early-intervention programs, as well as other safety-net support like subsidies for child care?

As Naimark said in her letter: "One key strategy to turn these trends around is to rebuild childcare assistance and family support in the community so that families have places to turn to before CPS is ever involved. We urge you to make these issues a priority in your budget proposal for fiscal year 2015."

DOG DOPING

Tucson Greyhound Park's glory days are long gone, for a whole host of reasons, including easy access to glitzy casinos, horror stories about the treatment of dogs and generally more interesting entertainment options.

But the dog track's owners won a round a few weeks ago when the South Tucson City Council voted to stop enforcing a ban on injecting steroids into female dogs.

The ban on the injections was one of the most troublesome restrictions that Greyhound Park had to abide by after South Tucson voters passed a 2008 referendum that created new regulations about the treatment of dogs. For years, the greyhounds handlers got around the ban by crossing the city limits and driving the dogs to a nearby parking lot in Tucson and injecting the dogs there.

But that routine soured after the city of Tucson and Pima County both passed similar bans on injecting the dogs with steroids, which are designed to keep females from going into heat.

But in September, Arizona Department of Racing Director William Walsh somewhat belatedly informed the South Tucson officials that they couldn't enforce the ban on steroids because the state had sole discretion in deciding how dogs are doped.

"It is the Department's responsibility to ensure that no greyhound is treated with drugs that can harm it in any way," Walsh wrote to South Tucson City Manager Luis Gonzales back in September. "To do so it is vital that the laws and rules that govern racing be the same no matter where the racing in the state occurs."

The South Tucson City Council decided to fold rather than fighting the state, voting in October to stop enforcing the ban.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik, who started the trouble for Greyhound Park by driving the effort to ban injections in within Tucson's city limits, said the South Tucson City Council should have stood up to the state's order.

"Nobody elected Walsh to anything," Kozachik told The Skinny via email. "All he's doing is protecting his primary funding source. The South Tucson Council owed it to the voters to support their position and stand firm in protecting the health and welfare of the animals out at the park."

By Jim Nintzel

Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch at daily.tucsonweekly.com

Jim Nintzel hosts AZ Illustrated Politics, airing at 6:30 p.m. every Friday on KUAT Channel 6. This week's show features one-on-one interviews with Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll. The program repeats at 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

More by Jim Nintzel

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