EPA sends warning to state enviro agency in N.C.

The state's position on judicial review of permits for a proposed cement plant on the Cape Fear River, above, recently drew criticism from EPA. (© Cape Fear Riverwatch)

The efforts of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality to block citizen review of environmental permits have drawn the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a recent letter to the DEQ, EPA noted that, depending on the outcomes of two cases, they could revoke the state’s authority to administer federal water and air permits. According to EPA, the recent decisions in a case concerning a permit authorizing air pollution emissions by cement producer Titan America and a case arising from a permit to discharge mining waste in Blounts Creek “interpret provisions of North Carolina’s Administrative Procedure Act in ways that may unduly restrict the ability of citizens to pursue judicial appeal of state-issued permits.” SELC is representing citizens groups in both of these cases.

“The whole point of these suits is the right of citizens to have an impartial court to determine if the state followed the law in issuing the permit,” said Derb Carter, Director of SELC’s North Carolina offices.

According to a story about the letter in the Raleigh News & Observer, "this is the first such warning to North Carolina since the federal government authorized the state to oversee air and water regulation in the 1970s. If the federal government were to follow through, North Carolina would be among a handful of states that have been deemed incapable, or unwilling, to enforce federal anti-pollution laws."

Read the News & Observer editorial on the EPA warning.

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