Local Groups Appeal DENR and Titan America’s Attempt to Eliminate Citizens’ Right to Challenge Unlawful Air Pollution

Chapel Hill, N.C.— On behalf of conservation groups, the Southern Environmental Law Center today appealed a lower court decision that would curtail citizens’ rights to challenge state approval of harmful pollution from large industrial polluters—like the proposed Titan America cement plant near Wilmington. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) joined Titan to defend permits allowing the company to emit thousands of tons of dangerous air pollution from its proposed cement plant in New Hanover County each year.  In the lower court, DENR and Titan obtained a decision that would effectively prohibit North Carolina citizens from challenging air pollution permits, even when the agency has blatantly violated the law.

“The Clean Air Act and state law stand for a simple premise—the people who would breathe a company’s polluted air have the right to ensure laws designed to protect their health were followed,” said Geoff Gisler, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the conservation groups.  “We’re appealing this decision to restore those long-standing protections that were stripped away at DENR’s request.”      

The law center filed the appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals on behalf of the N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Fear River Watch, PenderWatch & Conservancy, and Sierra Club.

“This decision threatens the rights of citizens to hold their government accountable,” said Mike Giles, Coastal Advocate for the NC Coastal Federation.  “If this decision if not challenged, the people in New Hanover County and beyond will have to live with the threat of more air pollution and degraded health, and no legal recourse from the pollutants that will spew from the proposed Titan plant.”

According to expert analysis, Titan’s air pollution would result in hundreds of additional cases of asthma and other respiratory problems, premature death, and associated health costs of millions of dollars for the adjacent three county area.  Pollutants that would be emitted from the plant—including particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and ozone—are also linked to chest pain, heart attacks, emphysema, and other respiratory conditions.

These pollutants are particularly harmful to sensitive populations, including children and the elderly.

“The Northeast Cape Fear draws people from across the region and state to fish, boat, paddle, and swim in its waters,” said Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear RIVERKEEPER®, Cape Fear River Watch.  “They deserve the full protection of the Clean Air Act.”

The mine for the limestone to make the cement is expected destroy about 1,000 acres of wetlands.

"The state's legal responsibility is to protect its citizens by requiring Titan to limit pollution from its proposed cement plant as much as possible, but it failed to do so,” said Allie Sheffield, president of PenderWatch & Conservancy. “This irresponsible permit puts the health of thousands of Pender County citizens, including PenderWatch members, unnecessarily at risk.”

“Titan’s proposed plant would emit thousands of tons of harmful air pollution each year," said Molly Diggins, state director for the NC Sierra Club.  “Reducing pollution from the proposed plant is not only achievable, it’s required under the law and necessary to protect the health of our members.”        

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About the Southern Environmental Law Center

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of almost 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

WEB: www.SouthernEnvironment.org

About North Carolina Coastal Federation

The North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF) is the state’s only non-profit organization focused exclusively on protecting and restoring the coast of North Carolina through education, advocacy and habitat restoration and preservation. www.nccoast.org

About Cape Fear River Watch

Cape Fear River Watch was founded in 1993 and began as a nonprofit organization, open to everyone, dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the health, beauty, cleanliness, and heritage of the Cape Fear River Basin. CFRW’s mission is to “protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River Basin through education, advocacy and action.” CFRW supports the work of the Cape Fear RIVERKEEPER, a member of the WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE. www.capefearriverwatch.org

About PenderWatch & Conservancy

PenderWatch and Conservancy is an all-volunteer and dues-supported organization which was founded in 1986 to be responsible advocates for the environment of Pender County, N.C.  It is located in Hampstead, NC.   www.penderwatch.org

About Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is a national grassroots conservation organization with over 600,000 members nationwide.  The Sierra Club, through its North Carolina Chapter, has a long history of working to reduce air pollution that adversely affects air quality in the state.  These efforts would be hampered by air pollution from the proposed Titan facility.  The Sierra Club’s over 15,000 North Carolina members include persons who use and enjoy the waters and natural areas in the vicinity of Titan’s proposed plant.  DAQ’s permitting of the Titan facility endangers the health and welfare of these members and their families by allowing excessive levels of emissions that cause air pollution.

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