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DAQ to hold public hearing on Titan's request to modify air quality permit

A portion of the proposed site on the Northeast Cape Fear River where Titan America is looking to build a cement plant. The exiting structures are remnants of the defunct Ideal Cement Plant.

An air quality permit is at the center of a challenge to Titan America’s plans to build and operate a cement plant in New Hanover County. 

After the North Carolina Division of Air Quality granted a permit to Titan last year, a coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit contesting its legality.  That lawsuit is still in progress.  And now that Titan wants to modify its permit, the Division of Air Quality is asking the public to weigh in on the proposed changes.    

The revised draft of Titan’s air quality permit would give the company more time to build its plant.  And it relaxes the limit on the amount of particulate matter – or PM -- that the plant will be allowed to emit.  

Geoff Gisler is an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, an environmental advocacy group.  He says the public should be concerned about the proposed changes – and not just because particulate matter has well-documented negative effects on human health. 

“Both the company and the Division of Air Quality have already determined that they don’t need to emit this pollution, that they can meet the limit that’s in the current permit, that this pollution is entirely avoidable.  So that, I think, is the big key point here.  They’re asking to pollute at a level that’s unnecessary even by their standards and what the Division of Air Quality has determined.”

A spokesman for Titan Cement says the company wants more latitude because the federal government relaxed its own standards for particulate matter. And, says Titan, the amended regulations will maintain dramatic reductions in mercury, acid gases, particulate matter and total hydrocarbons from existing cement kilns across the country. 

Titan officials also say they don’t expect the change in emission standards to impact the plant’s actual emissions because the pollution control equipment and the operation of that equipment will remain the same.

Two days after the August 5th public hearing, Titan and the Southern Environmental Law Center will appear before a judge for a hearing addressing the legality of the existing air quality permit. 

DAQ Public Hearing on the requested modifications to Titan's air quality permit:

A public hearing on the permit will be held at 6 PM on August 5th in Kenan Auditorium at the UNCW Campus. 

From the Division of Air Quality:

"The August 5th public hearing is an opportunity for citizens to comment on draft air permit revisions for the proposed cement plant.  People who wish to speak at the hearing should plan to limit their time to three minutes or less.  The hearing officer will have the discretion to further limit speaking times, if necessary, to accommodate the number of speakers and time constraints.

"The Division of Air Quality also will accept written comments emailed or postmarked no later than Aug. 9.

All written comments should be emailed to the hearing officer, Steve Hall, at steve.hall@ncdenr.gov, or mailed to the following address: Steve Hall, N.C. Division of Air Quality, DENR Raleigh Regional Office, 3800 Barrett Drive, Suite 101, Raleigh, North Carolina 27609."

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.