As some of you are probably aware, the battle over Titan Cement's new facility in Hanover County is still raging. Dozens of (medical) doctors have joined to voice their concern, as well as hundreds of citizens and a few of my favorite environmental orgs. Most recently, these groups pleaded with the NC Department of Administration to generate a formal review of Titan's application/permit, and the answer was, in a word, stupefying.
Rejecting a request from several groups representing residents in the affected areas, Governor Perdue’s Department of Administration this week ruled that the full environmental impact of the proposed Titan America cement plant on surrounding areas--including New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties—does not need to be examined before North Carolina begins issuing permits for the plant.
“North Carolina taxpayers are contributing millions of dollars to this plant and deserve to know how it will affect their air, water, and health before the state starts issuing permits – Administration’s decision denies that comprehensive review,” said Geoff Gisler, attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center.
Among the groups concerned by toxic emissions—including mercury—from the proposed plant are the North Carolina Coastal Federation and Cape Fear River Watch represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“By not insisting that Titan must be regulated by our own Environmental Policy Act, the Department of Administration has performed a serious disservice to our citizens and the environment that the state is entrusted to protect,” said Doug Springer, CAPE FEAR RIVERKEEPER ®, Cape Fear River Watch.
Okay, this is bad enough, but the reason given by NCDOA is beyond bureaucratic bungling, it's downright malfeasance:
The state and New Hanover County, where the cement kiln and mine will be located, have awarded Titan America $300,000 and $4.2 million respectively in support of the project. The Department of Administration’s rejected the request based on a finding that these grants, though paid through taxpayer dollars, do not constitute an expenditure of public money.
Read that last part again. Not public money? So where does it come from, the magic money tree?
You can read the actual letter here, but the gist of the position is that, since all permits must be issued before Titan can collect any of these incentives, and not all permits have been issued yet, the money hasn't actually changed hands. So the review isn't legally required. Or some horseshit.
What is SEPA?
The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) is a statute entitled the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act of 1971 (G.S. 113A 1-13) that declares a state policy which is designed to maintain and protect the state’s environment. The statute requires state agencies to the fullest extent possible to identify significant environmental effects of their actions and to implement measures to minimize negative effects. This Act was enacted in response to the passage of federal legislation in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The SEPA compliance process is administered by the Department of Administrative (DOA)
And here's the kicker:
The purpose of SEPA is to require state agencies to evaluate the potential negative environmental impacts of a proposed project.
Get that? PROPOSED project. See, part of the goal of the review (and the statute) is to AVOID spending taxpayer dollars on environmental nightmares like Titan Cement. Do you think the legislature originally intended for the money to be spent first? If you do, you're an idiot.
By the way, the person I'm talking to is the only guy left from Mike Easley's administration, Britt Cobb. And just to let you know, I've spent the last two nights digging for any type of business/money/whatever connection between Mr. Cobb and Titan. I haven't found anything yet, but I ain't done looking.