Now that Titan America has a revised air quality permit in hand, the company can take up to eighteen months to begin construction of a cement plant in New Hanover County.
If a facility is built, it will be allowed to emit 32 more tons of particulate matter per year than initially planned. Titan officials say the increase in tonnage is partly due to changes in measurement methods; opponents say more pollution is more pollution.
WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn checked in with the Stop Titan movement to see whether Titan's recent victory has altered STAN's expectations or future plans.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing a coalition of environmental groups challenging the legality of Titan’s initial air quality permit, is forging ahead with its lawsuit. The suit alleges that the North Carolina Division of Air Quality did not comply with the Clean Air Act by issuing the permit.
Attorney Geoff Gisler with the SELC says this newly-revised version of the air quality permit carries many of the same issues as the original permit.
“DAQ is relying on analysis that it conducted in issuing the initial permit. So we will have to work that out – how the two relate to each other and how the ongoing permit challenge continues from this point forward.”
When explaining the reason for requesting an increase in allowable emissions, Titan officials offer a familiar comparison: 32 degrees Fahrenheit is equal to zero degrees Celsius.
The SELC’s Geoff Gisler says that with a little scrutiny, that analogy falls apart.
“All you have to do is look at their estimate of annual emissions and that estimate goes up. What we’re looking at is the old limit was set based on a use of a fabric filter that would trap a certain level of pollutants. The new limit is based on a fabric filter that lets more pollution through.”
And that fact is reflected, says Gisler, in Titan’s estimate of how much the plant would emit when operating at full capacity. The company must still acquire additional permits – including a wetlands mitigation permit and a controversial special use permit from the county.
On Monday, Titan Americas announced their receipt of two environmental awards: one from Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality for Titan’s Roanoke Cement Plant; the other an industry award that recognizes a local Titan Company, S&W Ready Mix Concrete in Castle Hayne, as a leader in environmental excellence.
But for the Stop Titan Action Network, the fat lady hasn't yet sung. On its website, a photograph of a very large woman wearing a horned helmet, blonde braids, and brandishing the requisite spear and shield splashes across the home page. A cartoon bubble bursts from the Brunnhilde-like character's mouth declaring, "It's not over, y'all!".
Sarah Gilliam, a spokesperson for Stop Titan, says the group is planning a meet-and-greet on Thursday, September 26th at 6:30 PM at Cape Fear River Watch, to talk about education and outreach opportunities.