Easley Legacy Continues

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.

I'll let the folks at the Southern Environmental Law Center explain it:

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.

So let's take a look at what the DOA says SEPA is all about:

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.

Comments

Calling Bob Orr and Les Merritt

This looks like a perfect case for Bob Orr's Center for Constitutional Law and Les Merritt's team of self-styled vigilantes. Oh wait. I forgot. They don't get involved on behalf of regular people, they only do what Art Pope says. Guess that's why we call it the Puppetshow!

I'm putting my money on the Southern Environmental Law Center. I'm hoping they'll take Bev Perdue and her slack-ass administration all the way to the Supreme Court.

Maybe, just maybe,

our new Governor is poised to do the right thing:

WILMINGTON – Gov. Bev Perdue is weighing in on the debate over whether Titan America’s proposed cement plant should be allowed to come to New Hanover County.

She’s asking the attorney general’s office and the SBI to look into the plant that would be built in Castle Hayne, N.C. Now, there are questions over whether the Easley administration was involved with permitting issues for the cement plant.

Political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer initially asked the governor to look into the proposed cement plant. In the letter, Sinsheimer wrote, “The attorney general’s investigation should focus on actions taken by the Easley administration to exempt Titan from the State Environmental Policy Act as well as the state Senate’s abrupt decision to kill legislation on this matter this year without a vote.”

Perdue said she asked the SBI to investigate because there are concerns there were expectations during the permitting process. She said the state doesn’t want any questions regarding the behavior of any North Carolina agencies.

“The concern was raised that perhaps there were things that were made exceptions of and the permitting. I have no reason to know one way or the other, that's why we've asked the SBI to find out,” Perdue said. “We don't want any questions about any agencies behavior in North Carolina.”

Whether she's doing this out of genuine concern or because Joe S backed her into a corner, I don't really care. As long as it gets done.

And in case Roy or the SBI is reading this, you can (first) look at how/why our former Governor got a job with the lobbying firm that represented Titan Cement:

Gov. Easley represents corporate clients on issues including economic development within North Carolina, as well as biopharma, life sciences and energy issues. He also serves as a senior advisor within the firm's public affairs subsidiary, McGuireWoods Consulting.

Oh yeah, I'm sure that was a coincidence...

Somewhere there is a link between Titan, the New Hanover County

Commissioners, and one or more people at the State level whose oversight, or lack thereof, will enable Titan to move ahead on this project against the will of the people. By the time the link is uncovered Titan will already be in operation and somebody will adjudge it's too late to shut the whole thing down. Fines will be paid into the State and or local treasuries and the people will continue to be poisoned and the environment destroyed.

I've spent as much time as I could afford researching the (on-line) minutes of past New Hanover County commissioner's meetings to see if I could determine when and how and why our commissioners decided to spend millions of our tax dollars to incentivize Titan to come here. I can't find anything to hang my hat on. The info's either not there or I missed it. What I did find was minutes of the New Hanover County Board of Health meeting where the members expressed surprise upon learning about Titan wondering aloud why they weren't informed and what they ought to do so as not to look stupid or irrelevant.

The question is: Who benefits if Titan locates here and how might these folks influence those who can and will over-ride the citizenry?

Stan Bozarth

There has to be something

Some kind of link, anyway, between a (local) mover and shaker and Titan. Maybe someone who will get the contract to provide coal, or some other high-volume service. Hmmm.

p.s.

Sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment, Stan. I started thinking/researching this blog in Texas, wrote the thing in Louisiana, checked on it in Georgia, and now I'm in South Carolina. I think... :)

Ignorance in the drivers seat

I have been following this for a while. The first thing that caught my eye was a petition @stoptitan.org (put together by heathcare professionals).
I looked up articles and then posted a bunch of links on my blog and linked it to facebook trying to raise awareness.
Here is a bunch of links that can take you from the stoptitan petition to newspaper coverage...

This aspect of government or lack there of is extremely frustrating. The Cape Fear River is considered "impaired" from the previous cement plant yet the powers that be ignore that fact and all the petitions, letters and emails from a group of Doctors and citizens.

Again, ignorance in the drivers seat..
The fundamentals are being ignored. We need to stop burning coal and we certainly don't need another coal fired cement plant spewing mercury into the air that will get in the water of an already impaired river basin.

This type of governance burns my ass.

We're in total agreement, Jim

I'm all for economic development, but our elected officials have to pay at least some attention to negative consequences. What's the point in having them if they don't? We might as well just let industry do whatever it wants.

In the case of Titan Cement, the negative consequences, to our environment and our health, far outweigh any benefit the State may derive from this project. To proceed as they have, by ignoring professionals and citizens and NC statute and even the EPA, is worse than just ignorance. It's more along the lines of ethical or even criminal misconduct.

If they could focus on the truth..

It is criminal..
They try to push their agenda (whatever that is) by falsely stating the jobs this industry would bring to the area. Other reports state that out of those approximate 160 jobs 40-60 might be locals, the rest would experienced techs, etc that would be brought in.
So what jobs are they referring to, more healthcare professionals to deal with mercury poisoning?

With all the climate change and energy debates you would think people (in government)would get on board with more progressive answers to these problems.
Burning coal and tires ain't the freakin' answer.

If polluters had to pay than maybe change would be inevitable.