The Department of Homeland Security and Phelps Dodge: a match made in New Mexico. A New Mexico university and the federal government plan to buy the town of Playas from the mining company to train emergency workers responding to terrorist attacks (HCN, 3/3/03: Heard Around The West). Built by Phelps Dodge in 1972, the town has hit hard times since the copper smelter closed in 2000. The town’s 60 residents still don’t know if they’ll be run out of town.
Whether it was an innocent example of state and federal cooperation, or an illicit backroom deal, environmentalists want to know what happened between Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton (HCN, 4/28/03: Wilderness takes a massive hit). Last spring, Leavitt and Norton reached an agreement that prohibits the Bureau of Land Management from designating any new wilderness. Alleging that public input had been ignored, environmentalists filed a Freedom of Information Act request last April. But that request was ignored, and Earthjustice is now suing Interior for withholding documents.
Apparently, industry groups still haven’t figured out that environmentalists have lawyers, too. In August, Tucson enviros staged a protest outside the office of the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association, opposing the association’s lawsuit to remove a rare owl from the endangered species list. Three days later, Tucson police arrested Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, on charges of disorderly conduct, assault and trespassing (HCN, 3/30/98: A bare-knuckled trio goes after the Forest Service). The Center, whose motto is “Nature’s Legal Eagles,” is suing the homebuilders’ association for filing a false police report.