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Tuolumne County Business Council Supports Local Growth

Recently Blue Mountain Minerals obtained final approval for a project on their property in Columbia. Most in the community likely did not follow the process closely – we are busy people with other things to focus on. As a result, it’s understandable that the casual observer, reading mostly the headlines, would be left with the impression that the process was necessary and beneficial to the environment.

However, those following closely and familiar with the project have a different prospective. The reason the project was originally granted approval was simple and easy to understand, it was a well thought out, sound and safe project. After a complete and comprehensive review and evaluation, some might say exhaustive, the project was given a green light.

Keep in mind, the environment was fully considered in the original application – we are not talking about looking the other way and doing harm to our environment so a business could expand. That’s where the story should have ended however, unfortunately, that’s not the case.

A local organization sued the county claiming that the law had been broken and an environmental impact report or EIR was required. They were able to do this by taking advantage of well-meaning legislation designed to protect the environment. However, as is often the case, the potential exists to manipulate the intent of the law and use it to delay or, in some cases, prevent projects.

If you take the time to research the Blue Mountain Minerals project and the process, you will be left shaking your head and asking: “How could this happen?” No tangible benefit was gained as a result of the lawsuit and subsequent additional work. The cost of the EIR was nearly $400,000 and delayed the project by 18 months.

We have to do better than this. Our fragile local economy cannot consistently absorb excessive added costs and lengthy delays. Our existing employers are less likely to pursue expansion projects if they are facing unnecessary costs and the threat of litigation.

We need a strong economy. We need to create an environment which allows our existing employers to be successful and encourages new businesses. We need to protect existing jobs. We need to pursue opportunities to create new jobs. And, yes, we need to be responsible and perform a comprehensive evaluation of projects to ensure they are reasonable and minimize long term impact to our environment.

For more information on Blue Mountain Minerals, including the products they produce and industries served, please refer to this recent feature article: Columbia Limestone Quarry Serves Valley Farms

Written by Darrell Slocum – Tuolumne County Business Council