The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has told North Carolina regulators that their draft air permit for the proposed Titan Cement plant near Wilmington isn’t tough enough to meet the new pollution standards for cement plants that EPA will soon release, according to a press release from the North Carolina Coastal Federation.
In a letter to permit engineers at the state’s Division of Air Quality, Gregg M. Worley, EPA’s chief of the Air Permit Section in the Southeast, echoed many of the concerns of the federation and other Titan opponents. The draft permit, Worley noted, would allow the kilns at the plant to discharge far more pollutants than EPA’s new standards would allow. For instance, the state would allow Titan to emit over eight times more mercury into the air than would be allowed under the new limits.
“These are the questions we have been asking, and the serious concerns we have expressed. Now that a federal agency has raised similar concerns—it’s time to get some answers,” says Tracy Skrabal, Coastal Scientist with the federation.
The EPA comments identify several areas which are substandard with current and future regulations on cement plants. In order to construct what would be the fourth largest cement plant in the country, Titan must comply with current standards and upcoming standards for cement kiln emissions. Further questions involve the state’s reasoning for approving limits of pollutants that are substantially higher than those required by EPA to protect human health and the environment. Questions similar to these were also raised by more than 150 citizens during public hearings on the matter that took place on October 20.
In the comments, EPA repeatedly requests clarification about the disparity between Titan’s proposed numbers from the EPA-proposed rules and technology. The report also raises the possibility that this permit could significantly contribute to future violations of national air quality standards for the Wilmington region.