State Permit for Toxic Air Pollution from Titan’s Proposed Cement Plant Cancelled
Chapel Hill, N.C.— The four-year legal challenge to Titan’s previously proposed cement plant ended yesterday following the Division of Air Quality’s termination of a challenged air pollution permit. The permit cancellation was requested by the company and follows its announcement in early March that it would abandon its plans to build a new cement plant, which would have been a major source of air pollution near Wilmington and in New Hanover and Pender counties with significant health impacts on people living in those areas.
The company will continue to operate a cement terminal at the site, but approval for the proposed plant has been terminated. On April 12, 2016, the North Carolina Court of Appeals granted citizen groups’ request to dismiss the appeal because the approval of the plant had been withdrawn.
“For years, Titan and the Department of Environmental Quality tried to keep citizen groups from getting a hearing on significant and avoidable air pollution from this proposed plant,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Fear River Watch, PenderWatch & Conservancy, and Sierra Club in court challenges to the state permit allowing harmful air pollution from the proposed facility. “With Titan’s announcement that it has abandoned its plans and the state’s withdrawal of its authorization to build the plant, we have achieved the goal of this lawsuit—protecting citizens of New Hanover and Pender counties from Titan’s pollution when DEQ failed to do so.”
Titan Cement Company, a large multinational cement and building materials company based in Greece, proposed to build a large cement plant in Castle Hayne, North Carolina. According to an expert analysis, the proposed cement plant’s air pollution would have resulted in hundreds of cases of acute respiratory symptoms, one premature death each year, and associated health costs of millions of dollars for the adjacent three county area.
“This is great news for New Hanover County that the court case has finally been put to rest and the county can move forward in attracting clean industry. Now we hope Titan will work with the community to propose a beneficial use of the land that does not include a massive polluting cement plant and open pit mine,” said Mike Giles, coastal advocate, N.C. Coastal Federation.
The proposal not only threatened to pollute Southeastern North Carolina’s air with thousands of tons of pollution each year for the next 50 years, it would have resulted in the destruction of more than 1,000 acres of wetlands and threatened Wilmington’s long-term water supply.
“This is a major victory for the health and welfare of the citizens and the environment of New Hanover and surrounding counties” said Frank Yelverton, executive director of Cape Fear River Watch. In 2008, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed the first legal action regarding an adequate review of the project that would be a major source of toxic air pollution on behalf of N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Fear River Watch, and PenderWatch & Conservancy. The groups filed a successful challenge under the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act in 2010 and intervened to successfully defend the EPA’s stronger limits on pollution from cement plants in 2011. Since 2012, the groups have fought the state’s three permits for avoidable toxic air pollution from the proposed cement plant.
“This development is a welcome and necessary step to finally closing the books on a proposed facility that would have adversely impacted the region’s clean air and water,” said Zak Keith, lead organizer for the NC Sierra Club.
“Pender County residents are delighted with the news that Titan America is terminating plans to build a huge, polluting cement plant on the banks of the Northeast Cape Fear River,” said Allie Sheffield of the PenderWatch & Conservancy.
Over the last eight years, thousands of citizens have come together to demonstrate their support for protecting the region’s air, water, and way of life. The Titan proposal has inspired a new discussion about the region’s future and embracing cleaner, sustainable growth that builds on the area’s abundant natural attractions. Without the looming threat of Titan’s proposed plant, that discussion can continue to move forward.
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 450 member, all-volunteer and dues-supported organization which was founded in 1986 to be responsible advocates for the environment. It is located in Hampstead, NC. Visit us at 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.