Longform

From Dust to ... Golf?

Page 6 of 6

Pond, however, is convinced the golf-course plan is sound. He testified that the Verde Valley Ranch permits were based on solid technical data.

That was what he concentrated on, he said. Technology.
But Pond admitted that he made one mistake.
A big mistake.

He issued the permit that would make Verde Valley Ranch possible to the wrong company.

He granted the permit to Phelps Dodge Corporation, instead of to the original applicant, Phelps Dodge Development Corporation. He said he did this because "it's preferable to have the parent company on the hook" should compliance or financial issues arise.

But by having its subsidiary as the original applicant, Phelps Dodge avoided disclosing a complete five-year history of environmental-enforcement actions taken against the company. The law is unclear as to whether the actions would pertain to sites across the country or across the world.

Because Phelps Dodge never applied for a permit, it skirted these potentially embarrassing disclosures.

"Is there anywhere in either of those applications where Phelps Dodge's history of state-federal enforcement actions on environmental laws is set forth?" attorney Jeff Bouma asked Pond at the hearing.

"No," Pond answered.
Is that required in the rules? Bouma asked.
"Yes," Pond replied.

"Did you get all of the information required by statute out of these people?" Bouma asked again.

"Apparently, I did not," Pond answered.
Later, Bouma asked Pond if the rules allowed him to "issue a permit to a corporation that has not filed [for] one."

"I am not aware of any rule," Pond answered.
"So you admit that you don't have any jurisdiction to [grant a permit] to a company that hasn't filed for one?"

"I don't know," Pond answered.
Bouma, who is not charging the environmentalists for his time, could barely conceal his pleasure at the answers.

"The undisputed evidence," he told the hearing officer, is that Phelps Dodge never filed for the permit it received.

Bouma says he figures the environmentalists have only "about a 5percent chance" of winning their case at the Water Quality Appeals Board hearing.

The real test, Bouma says, will come when he takes the case to Superior Court.

If he loses that battle, he says, the environmentalists will fight in federal court over federal environmental issues.

None of this, he insists, is simple obstructionism. Or a move to force the site onto the state or federal Superfund list, which may well happen if Verde Valley Ranch isn't built.

"In the short term, yeah, this might work," says Bouma. "For the first ten, or 15, or 20 years it might work really well. But our concern is that by the time it starts to fail, it is going to have a subdivision around it.

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Terry Greene