Toxic Titan

In recent months, North Carolina's coastal areas have been caught in a swirl of threat from two well-heeled industrial polluters, PCS Phosphates and Titan Cement. In the face of massive public resistance to its plans to operate on public land, the leaders of PCS Phosphates wisely backed down, deciding to search for a location where, we hope, their toxic impacts will be less damaging.

Titan Cement, on the other hand, has given the old one-finger salute to the people of North Carolina, and more specifically, to the residents of the Cape Fear River basin.

As Democracy North Carolina observes, Titan has a long history of (expletive deleted) to get its way. It has even filed lawsuits to quash criticism by community organizers, and has recently secured approval of a draft air-pollution permit.

The Wilmington Star News says that government officials are largely going along, even though Titan has a record of making misleading statements, if not lying. The NC environmental agency says it “had to issue the draft permit, based on state law and scientific models of the potential impact,” because computer models “showed that plant emissions would not exceed health standards outside the plant’s property line.” But why trust Titan to supply correct information to go into those models? Says the newspaper: “Titan’s actions during this process speak for themselves. In an interview shortly after plans for the plant were announced, Titan officials told the Star-News Editorial Board that it would comply with the new federal standards, even though they had not yet been announced. After the stricter limits were finalized, the Portland Cement Association challenged the rules.

I don't know for certain that the executives who run Titan are liars, but all evidence points in that direction. Which raises this question: Can we convince the Governor to use her considerable influence to put the permitting process on a slow track to nowhere?

To be fair, the differences between Titan and PCS Phosphates are considerable. PCS was trying to operate on state land, which make their position less tenable. Titan wants to despoil private land, and has argued that their emissions won't pollute the Cape Fear River and surrounding air, or at least not more than was allowed by previous standards. In light of the company's record of deception, diligence in protecting our natural resources is in order. The state must bring an extraordinary level of scrutiny to Titan's computer models. Accepting their word requires an impossible leap of faith.

Governor Perdue knows how to get things done when she wants to; we've all seen her in action. And if ever there was a time to step up and protect families and the environment, this is it.

I believe showing that she will stand up to companies that intimidate citizens ... and showing that she will protect Carolina's rivers and sandhills communities ... will strengthen her record with families, the environmental community, physicians, public health professionals, fishermen, and more. The people who want jobs at the expense of the environment would never support her anyway. They have a darling in the wings, Myers Park Pat, whose only question would be, "Can you throw in some extra CO2 with that mercury?"

This isn't about cement, or even about Titan. This is about location, location, location. Titan Cement says they'll bring 161 jobs to Wilmington. Even assuming they're not lying, is that really worth turning the lower Cape Fear River into a permanent toxic dump?

Who knows if Titan's permit will be challenged in court, but I hope it will. I'll certainly contribute to the effort. In the meantime, please encourage Governor Perdue to encourage Titan to find a more suitable location for its shiny new mercury factory.