Titan Cement: the tale of two letters

The ask:

Dear Governor Perdue,

My name is Kayne Darrell. I am the founder of a grassroots movement called Citizens Against Titan and the recent victim of Titan Cement’s SLAPP lawsuit. I am writing to request a meeting with you. I am aware that your advisors have met with several of the groups opposing Titan. However, I would like you to hear from the citizens; those of us who believe we have a voice in what happens in our community and the right to expect our elected officials do everything in their power to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and most especially to protect our health and the health of our children. Over 10,000 citizens in New Hanover and Pender County have signed a petition stating their opposition to Titan Cement. This is not some on-line petition drive. These are actual signed names on paper, collected from dedicated volunteers who talked to their neighbors – one on one – about the impacts this heavy polluting industry will have on our community.

My husband and I built our dream home in Castle Hayne 14 years ago. When I heard about Titan wanting to build the fourth largest cement plant in the nation less than three miles from our home, I diligently found out all I could about this industry. What I discovered was alarming and I felt an obligation to educate my neighbors about the impacts it would have on all of us. I proceeded to do that in the most responsible and respectful way possible. I talked about the health impact studies and especially the effects of cement plant emissions on children (with 8500 schoolchildren within 5 miles of the smokestack). I talked about Titan draining millions of gallons of water a day from our aquifer and possibly depleting our water supply and contaminating our main source of drinking water; and about Titan mining 2500 acres of irreplaceable wetlands; and the negative effects an industry like this will have on our local tourist economy. This is no ordinary heavy industry wanting to set up shop. The impacts from this plant are like nothing North Carolina has seen and it needs to be treated differently. After volunteering with the citizens here for two years, I can tell you that the good people of this community want to have their voices heard. They believe they deserve the right to sit down with you and express to you why your constituents believe their best interests are not being considered in this situation and why it demands your special attention.

Citizens Against Titan is not an environmental group. We are parents, business owners, teachers, homemakers, doctors, Democrats, Republicans, and students. We have educated ourselves on this issue and are resolute in our commitment to making sure everything possible is done to insure we are protected from this giant polluter compromising our health and our quality of life and then trampling on our rights.

I love where we live and I love my community. I’ve devoted so much to this effort because I believe from the bottom of my heart in the power of people to make change. Yet I now find myself, along with Dr. David Hill (a well-respected pediatrician), in the outrageous position of being sued by Titan Cement. We have had this frivolous lawsuit filed against us for comments we made at an open county commissioners meeting - comments that can be easily referenced and fact-checked. It is unfathomable to me that this billion dollar foreign company can put North Carolina citizens through this terrible ordeal for simply expressing their grievances to their elected officials. In a democracy, public participation is the cornerstone of the system; it is a bedrock principle that connects government to the governed. And yet we find ourselves having to hire lawyers and defend our actions in court. The community here is outraged that this Greek corporation has come in and tried to intimidate an entire community by bullying two of its citizens.

I hope you will agree that meeting with our small representative group is a worthwhile use of your time. I appreciate your consideration of this request and look forward to your response.

About that response:

Dear Governor Perdue,

I am disappointed that you have denied my request to meet with you regarding the Titan Cement issue.

I am compelled to write you again for this reason. I am in Washington DC right now at the invitation of Earthjustice as part of their 50 States United for Healthy Air campaign. ( http://earthjustice.org/50states) I am with a group of doctors, nurses, faith and tribal leaders, social justice advocates and affected citizens from all 50 states convening in Washington, D.C. to send a powerful message: all Americans have a right to breathe clean, healthy air. I was honored to be one of five people asked to speak at the White House yesterday. This meeting was attended by the Director for Policy Outreach, CEQ Director, White House Office of Public Engagement; the Senior Advisor for Public Health, NIEHS, HHS; Associate Director for Communities, Environmental Protection and Clean Jobs, CEQ; and the Asst. Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, EPA.

Our group also had a meeting at the EPA building with EPA staff and their boss, Ms. Lisa Jackson herself.

There are over 70 people with our group, including folks from Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico. And every one of them has a compelling story to tell. They are heartbreaking stories from communities all over the country who live in the shadow of smokestacks and are fighting for the health, and literally the lives, of their families, neighbors and children.

These courageous people, who are working so hard to stand up for what is right, have succeeded in making me even more resolute in my determination to stop Titan Cement from coming to my own community. I listen to their stories with great sadness and wish I could bring these good people back home with me so they could tell my NC neighbors and elected officials about their suffering. Maybe then people would understand what we will be facing if we allow this plant to build in Castle Hayne.

What I can do is bring their stories back with me and hope that I can do those stories justice.

Governor, I ask again for you to please meet with me. Allow me to tell you the stories I have heard this week. After my three days here in Washington, I realize how lucky we are that we still have the opportunity to protect our air, our water, our health, from an industry whose only concern is making money. They have trampled on our rights, bullied our citizens and our government, and not been truthful about the impacts their plant will have on our community. But we still have the ability to have a future free of their toxic emitting smokestack, their 2500-acre mine and their coal-fired cement kiln.

Please help us realize that future.

Thank you.

Come on, Governor Perdue. You make time to get your picture taken with every damn business that dangles a few jobs in front of you, so why not make time for good people who are working like hell to protect one of North Carolina's great rivers.


This is so true:

The impacts from this plant are like nothing North Carolina has seen and it needs to be treated differently.

This one cement plant, which will only provide 150 jobs at best, will increase the entire state's atmospheric mercury emissions by 10%.

This isn't just another factory. It's a scourge.