Lawsuit Claims $1.6-Billion Toyota-Mazda Factory Could Push Fish Species to Extinction
HUNTSVILLE – July 26, 2018
An environmental group said Wednesday it is planning to file a lawsuit against Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA and the city of Huntsville in order to protect the habitat of a rare small fish in Limestone County.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has filed a formal notice of intent to bring legal action, according to a press release. That notice comes a day after Mazda Toyota announced it was resuming construction after an almost two-week hiatus.
Within 60 days, the organization said it intends to file the lawsuit "for violations of the Endangered Species Act" due to construction of the $1.6 billion Mazda Toyota plant in west Huntsville, if construction is not halted.
July 12 Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA announced a suspension of the site in preparation for its $1.6 billion plant in west Huntsville.
At issue was protecting the habitat of the spring pygmy sunfish, a one-inch long fish deemed a "threatened species" by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found only in a spring near the site of the plant. The fish was declared "threatened" in 2013 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We are aware of the Center for Biological Diversity's concerns regarding the sunfish," Toyota's statement on July 12 said. "Throughout the planning and design of this project we continue to work closely with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the city of Huntsville and our joint venture partner, Mazda, to ensure that the necessary protections are in place. Mazda and Toyota continue to make environmental preservation a priority and we are committed to developing the property sustainability."
Toyota claims it is extremely dedicated to not hurting, damaging or negatively impacting to the environment.
This Tuesday, Mazda Toyota acknowledged its work with the CBD in a statement announcing work had restarted at the site.
"(Mazda Toyota) engaged with multiple stakeholders and environmental experts, including the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "MTMUS also hosted a tour for CBD to demonstrate measures being taken to help achieve this, including site grading, construction Best Management Practices and related construction activities.
"Following this additional assessment and engagement, MTMUS has determined, and has informed the CBD, that it is confident work can resume on the site in a manner that helps protect the spring pygmy sunfish and its habitat."
The city of Huntsville is preparing the site and construction on the plant itself is expected to begin in October.
But this was not enough for CBD. The very next day CBD wrote a letter dated July 25 and signed by staff attorney Elise Bennett saying that the construction will jeopardize the sunfish habitat.
"The construction of the auto plant involves removal of vegetation, clearing of land, and construction of a massive facility with associated parking lots, all of which are likely to negatively impact water quality, water quantity, and aquatic vegetation in the sunfish's occupied habitat," the letter stated.
The letter also described the sunfish as "an irreplaceable symbol of northern Alabama's natural heritage."
At the same time, the statements of environmentalists caused a mixed reaction from the public. In comments and blogs they write:
“My question to you is: WHERE WERE YOU BEFORE THIS WAS ANNOUNCED? Why were you NOT worried about those fish 2 years ago? With all of the industrial and agricultural runoff into that stream 2years ago, why weren’t you suing the farmers and industrial neighbors before now??? Because you weren’t concerned then, that’s why. If you stop Toyota/Mazda you’ll be considered a hero to your cause and put money in your pockets. YOU’RE MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE HERE!! The best thing you can do for those fish, is let Toyota/Mazda protect them for you.”
“Reply to @Doug: If these whiners cared about the fish, you would have a valid argument. Unfortunately, all they care about is nailing the deep pockets of a large corporation and trying to get free press for their own egos. This has nothing to do with conservation, if it did - as you well pointed out — these clowns would have been worried about it when there were no deep pockets to tap.”
There are many more such comments online.