Last day to comment on Titan Cement

Along the banks of the mercury impaired Northeast Cape Fear River, Titan America plans to build the fourth-largest cement plant and limestone mine in the country. Proposed emissions: over 140 hazardous and toxic air pollutants including mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide (NOx), and sulfur dioxide.

That's all in the draft air permit, over which the public comment period ends today. Inextricably linked with the public health and water quality issues is the rapid pace the state has taken with the permitting process.

As our Cape Fear group chair wrote back in September, normally a project of similar size and scope would trigger the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). SEPA is triggered when the following conditions are met: (1) state permitting is needed for the project (2) the project will have significant environmental impact, and (3) public money has been accepted by the company. All conditions seem to apply to the proposed cement kiln in Wilmington. Titan has claimed that though they accepted $4,000,000 in public money, it doesn't apply to Point 3 because the funds are technically a reduction in taxes after the project is completed. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) originally determined that SEPA applied, but subsequently rescinded.

And there's more, of course. The US EPA currently has draft rules w/r/t emissions from cement kilns, and the maximum limit laid out in those rules would be exceeded by the permit granted to Titan America by the state of North Carolina. As the Charlotte Observer put it: "The state has put the cart ahead of the horse..."

Update: In a letter dated November 18, 2009, Joe Sinsheimer asked Governor Perdue for "a 90-day freeze on the Titan Cement environmental permitting process," among other things. You can read the letter and analysis at the News & Observer. In an interview, the Governor stated in response that she would look into Sinsheimer's concerns, and said specifically regarding Titan Cement: “I have asked the attorney general’s office, the SBI, to see if there was any kind of — I don’t know the word, I’m not a lawyer — if there was anything that wasn’t aboveboard in the decision making, and I believe they will.”

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