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Appeals court backs Idaho phosphate mine expansion

| December 29, 2010 8:00 PM

BOISE (AP) - A federal appeals court ruled that agencies including the Bureau of Land Management didn't break environmental laws when they approved expansion of an eastern Idaho phosphate mine, dealing a blow to groups fighting the project.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle this month upheld a lower court ruling that the agencies' approval of J.R. Simplot Co.'s expansion of its Smoky Canyon Mine into a roadless area of Caribou County complied with federal laws.

Plaintiffs including the Greater Yellowstone Coalition argued the BLM and U.S. Forest Service failed to adequately examine impacts of selenium pollution from phosphate mining that's killed livestock and aquatic life in eastern Idaho waterways.

But the three-judge panel ruled the agencies fully evaluated impacts of the mine's expansion - and disclosed their findings to the public.

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