EPA Must Protect North Carolina’s Fisheries after Army Corps of Engineers Fails to Address Grave Concerns about PCS’ Mine Expansion
CHAPEL HILL, NC—Protection of North Carolina’s economic diversity, natural wealth and people hinges on the Environmental Protection Agency after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to address serious concerns about irreversible harm from PCS Phosphate’s planned mining expansion, according to environmental groups. “With this latest failure of the Corps, it’s now in EPA’s hands whether commercial fishing, recreation, tourism, and health of North Carolina’s people will be protected while mining continues,” said Derb Carter, director, Carolinas Office, Southern Environmental Law Center. “Destroying important fisheries and river ecosystems will mortgage our children and grandchildren’s economic future and health long after PCS has left the area. No mitigation measures can reverse such mining damage.” The concerns were so grave that the EPA called them “unacceptable” and elevated the proposed mining expansion to the national level for careful review. Now, under its mandate to protect people and their environment, the EPA may demand additional protections through a veto of the proposed permit while still allowing for some interim mining expansion. Concern over PCS Phosphate’s planned destruction of wetlands and primary nurseries near the Pamlico River remain unaddressed despite consistently being raised by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council throughout the whole permit process. PCS Phosphate’s current mine expansion proposal in Beaufort County would be the largest single destruction of wetlands permitted in North Carolina’s history, causing irreversible harm to tourism and fishing in the immediate area and downstream along the state’s beautiful coastline. It jeopardizes the irreplaceable ecosystem of Albemarle-Pamlico Sound, one of the most productive American fisheries, which generates thousands of jobs and over $1 billion annually. Acting as its own agent of delay, the company sued the state for years during the permitting process after being warned such action would delay the issuance of any permits. PCS Phosphate plans to mine 11,000 acres, including 4,000 acres of wetlands and nearly five miles of tidal creeks and streams bordering the Pamlico River. ### About Southern Environmental Law Center The Southern Environmental Law Center is the only 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 40 legal 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 FACEBOOK: http://www.fanofselc.org TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/selc_org About North Carolina Sierra Club Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization with over 17,000 members in North Carolina. About Pamlico-Tar River Foundation The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, founded in 1981, is a grassroots environmental organization representing greater than 2000 members and a licensed member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. Our mission is to enhance and protect the Pamlico-Tar River watershed through education, advocacy, and research. 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 Environmental Defense Fund A leading national nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit www.edf.org.