Environment

Comments due today on proposed state rule to loosen regulations on digital billboards

Image: Scenic NC

North Carolina environmental advocacy groups are calling on concerned groups and individuals to weigh in by today’s deadline in opposition to a proposal from the state Department of Transportation to loosen billboard regulations.

The proposal would override local ordinances and allow billboards with a state permit to be converted to digital and raised to 50 feet in height, even if such changes are not allowed by the applicable city or county ordinance.

In a letter opposing the proposal, the state chapter of the Sierra Club put it this way:

“Billboards are ads that all drivers are forced to see, whether they want to read or not. Digital billboards are like giant television screens, distracting to drivers, a nuisance to residents, and en eyesore damaging to the scenic beauty of North Carolina.”

The letter goes on to explain why: a) the proposed rule also violates the stated legislative intent that was expressed by state lawmakers in adopting the underlying statute, and b) an alternative scheme advanced by DOT last March that would recognize local government ordinances and limit the changes that could be made to an existing boards.

A letter from the Southern Environmental Law Center expressed similar concerns:

“The proposed rules would disregard the wishes of local governments as expressed in applicable city or county ordinances, instead allowing a billboard with a state permit to be converted to digital and raised to 50 feet in height. Many local authorities have more stringent regulations than the State regarding outdoor advertising—the reason for which is often rooted in public safety. Studies show that digital billboards distract drivers, causing a significantly greater impairment to driving performance than static billboards. These giant flashing screens are especially dangerous to young drivers who may be easily distracted, and in areas with greater traffic safety challenges.”

Comments are due today (March 5), can reference the Sierra Club and SELC comments and can be sent via email to rulemaking@ncdot.gov.

Environment

Not-so-clean North Carolina generated 501.4 million pounds of chemical waste in 2018

Source: EPA

North Carolina’s industrial facilities emit or discharge an average of more than a half-ton of pollution per square mile, which places the state among the top third nationwide based on that measurement.

With 1,022 pounds per square mile, North Carolina is ranked 19th of 56 states and US territories, according to recent Toxics Release Inventory released by the EPA.

The Toxics Release Inventory is composed of 755 individual chemicals that the EPA has deemed significantly harmful to human health and the environment.

Companies, such as utilities, manufacturers and mining interests, that emit or discharge chemicals on the TRI list above certain thresholds must report the amounts, as well as their waste management and pollution prevention activities, to the EPA by July 1 of each year. Small companies, those employing fewer than 10 workers, are exempt from the reporting requirement.

 

 

However, the list of TRI chemicals is not comprehensive. The 2018 data do not reflect emissions and discharges of perfluorinated compounds — PFAS. The 2020 data will include PFAS as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress in December 2019. Now industry is required to report production, management and disposal of any of the 172 types of PFAS.

There are 779 TRI facilities in North Carolina. Collectively, they generate 501.4 million pounds of waste. Nearly 40 million pounds are disposed of on-site, in the water, air, or on land. Fifteen million pounds are transported off-site. The majority — 446 million pounds — is recycled, treated or used for energy recovery.

New Hanover County tops the state in total pounds of chemicals “managed” — generated — with 183.3 million pounds. Fortron Industries, a chemical company, is the county’s largest pollution source; it disposed of more than 1.8 million pounds of chemicals, all of it off-site. Elementus Chromium disposed of 1.67 million pounds on-site.

Beaufort County has the largest TRI pollution source — PCS Phosphate, a mining company and chemical plant. In 2018 it disposed of or released 5.5 million pounds of chemicals, accounting for nearly all the the TRI pollutants in the county. About two-thirds of PCS Phosphate’s emissions enter the air; the rest are disposed of on land.

Here are the top 10 counties in pounds of chemicals generated. Scroll down for the entire list, pounds generated and largest pollution sources.

  1. New Hanover
  2. Catawba
  3. Guilford
  4. Person
  5. Forsyth
  6. Buncombe
  7. Haywood
  8. Rutherford
  9. Craven
  10. Martin

The TRI site can be a rabbit hole, so here’s a quick primer on how to dig deeper into the site:

Start on the main page

From here you can type in or click on North Carolina. The next page will give you a summary of North Carolina releases, emissions and disposal methods. It also lists the top five chemicals emitted into the air and discharged into the water.

If you want to search by county, you can click on the map on this page, or an easier way is to return to the main page, type in North Carolina and the county name.

For example, Columbus County shows there are five TRI facilities, which generate a total of 7 million pounds of chemicals; the largest pollution source is International Paper in Riegelwood, with 3 million pounds.

If you want to search by chemical, start on the Data and Tools page.

The TRI Explorer offers several search parameters, including geography, facility and chemical. After clicking on “User Selected Chemical,” I chose 1,4-Dioxane from the selection box.

The next page shows that 17,658 pounds of the compound were released in 2018 in North Carolina. Select “1,4-Dioxane” and you’ll see a list of companies that report discharging or emitting the compound.

 

 

Alternately click on the small arrows at the top of the 1,4-Dioxane column for more detail on air and water emissions.

And if you’re still hungry for more information, the TRI offers a deeper dive on “Factors to Consider When Using TRI Data.”

Below is a county-level summary. Not all counties have a TRI facility. If a county is listed as “0” that means its companies did not report any TRI chemicals in 2018.

Toxics Release Inventory, 2018    
COUNTYNO OF FACILITIESPOUNDS MANAGEDLARGEST POLLUTION SOURCEPOUNDS DISPOSED/ RELEASED ON-SITE/
OFF-SITE BY LARGEST POLLUTION SOURCE
ALAMANCE12349,300SOUTH ATLANTIC GALVANIZING93,558
ALEXANDER4187,700PIEDMONT COMPOSITES AND TOOLING23,010
ALLEGHENY100
ANSON53EDWARDS WOOD PRODUCTS3
ASHE2323,500UNITED CHEMI-CON1505,
BEAUFORT45,900,000PCS PHOSPHATE5,514,524
BERTIE37,100,000LEWISTON PROCESSING2,213,456
BLADEN85,100,000SMITHFIELD TAR HEEL2,9521,01
BRUNSWICK94,500,000CPI USA4,183,306
BUNCOMBE2314,900,000DUKE ENERGY STEAM PLANT3,180,810
BURKE116,000,000HEXION148,808
CABARRUS175,200,000VENATOR CHEMICALS343,347
CALDWELL63,700,000SHURTAPE TECHNOLOGIES247,577
CARTERET690,200PARKER MARINE37,047
CASWELL200
CATAWBA2623,300,000DUKE ENERGY MARSHALL2,291,146
CHATHAM82,100,000ARAUCO504,096
CHEROKEE4979TEAM INDUSTRIES184
CHOWAN2109,300REGULATOR MARINE97,117
CLAY12COLEMAN CABLE2
CLEVELAND201,400,000CORMTECH313,782
COLUMBUS57,000,000INTERNATIONAL PAPER RIEGELWOOD3,004,487
CRAVEN712,200,000INTERNATIONAL PAPER NEW BERN MILL678,361
CUMBERLAND1210,000,000CARGILL371,426
DARE24,000DARE COUNTY BOMB RANGE3,699
DAVIDSON11640,500ELECTRIC GLASS FIBER AMERICA14,269
DAVIE2219,600PALLET ONE1
DUPLIN9278,400HOUSE OF RAEFORD133,266
DURHAM126,400,000CREE27,944
EDGECOMBE83,700,000HC COMPOSITES45,316
FORSYTH2516,100,000ARDAGH METAL BEVERAGE 611,188
FRANKLIN43,900,000NOVOZYMES133,447
GASTON235,100,000DUKE ENERGY ALLEN148,454
GRANVILLE11364,300CERTAINTEED230,540
GUILFORD5717,300,000AKZONOBEL COATINGS141,374
HALIFAX611,000,000KAPSTONE KRAFT PAPER1,060,739
HARNETT515,400WARREN OIL7,977
HAYWOOD31,3900,000BLUE RIDGE PAPER2,516,225
HENDERSON173,700,000BLUE RIDGE METALS204,626
HERTFORD21,1400,000PERDUE FARMS160,741
HOKE100
IREDELL255,100,000TYSON FARMS53,438
JACKSON2104,700JACKSON PAPER186
JOHNSTON11560,800RAVEN ANTENNA/GLOBAL SKYWARE16,558
JONES14,600ROWMARK CUSTOM LAMINATIONS4,600
LEE82,100,000PILGRIM’S PRIDE789,161
LENOIR8872,300SANDERSON FARMS ST PAULS56,557
LINCOLN10821,900ROBERT BOSCH TOOL95,894
MACON200
MADISON100
MARTIN21,1800,000DOMTAR PAPER979,006
MCDOWELL3111,200BAXTER HEALTH CARE29,184
MECKLENBURG609,400,000CHARLOTTE PIPE AND FOUNDRY620,309
MITCHELL130,800BRP US8,079
MONTGOMERY7299,300UNILIN US205,691
MOORE453,700ERICO INTERNTAIONAL95
NASH133,800,000UNIVERSAL LEAF96,113
NEW HANOVER13183,300,000FORTRON INDUSTRIES1,859,946
NORTHAMPTON2553,600GEORGIA-PACIFIC CHEMICALS143,284
ONSLOW61,200,000CAMP LEJEUNE954,033
ORANGE5951,600ARMACELL1,065
PASQUOTANK200
PERQUIMANS15HARVEY POINT DEFENSE TESTING ACTIVITY5
PERSON716,800,000CPI USA2,301,448
PITT111,200,000GRADY WHITE BOATS155,466
RANDOLPH194,000,000ENERGIZER MANUFACTURING118,569
RICHMOND5663,000DUKE ENERGY SMITH ENERGY318,336
ROBESON112,800,000SANDERSON FARMS ST PAULS149,144
ROCKINGHAM106,500,000EDEN CUSTOM PROCESSING189,013
ROWAN215,700,000SOUTHERN CO ROWAN POWER PLANT78,010
RUTHERFORD913,600,000DUKE ENERGY ROGERS1,130,555
SAMPSON5234,100SMITHFIELD CLINTON67,664
SCOTLAND4890,000RAILROAD FRICTION414,769
STANLY9141,700MICHELIN AIRCRAFT25,292
STOKES210,500,000DUKE ENERGY BELEWS CREEK598,228
SURRY91,600,000WAYNE FARMS DOBSON FRESH PLANT225,834
SWAIN212,000NOT REPORTEDNOT REPORTED
UNION161,200,000OMNOVA SOLUTIONS110,521
VANCE571,200ARDAGH GLASS31,408
WAKE245,800,000KELLOG’S SNACKS153,732
WASHINGTON11MURPHY BROWN NEW COLONY MILL1
WAYNE9230,100GEORGIA-PACIFIC WOOD PRODUCTS61,546
WILKES81,800,000LOUISIANA PACIFIC314,583
WILSON7837,100ALLIANCE ONE INTERNATIONAL79,185
YANCEY219,000ALTEC450
Environment

Citizen sleuths, here’s how to sniff out air polluters before they come to your town

Illustration: Creative Commons

When a polluting industry wants to locate in a neighborhood, residents often learn about the plan when it’s too late, or nearly so. For example, recently, Active Energy has applied to build and operate a wood pellet plant in Lumberton, in Robeson County. And last fall, Carolina Sunrock filed paperwork with the state to operate a mine in Prospect Hill, in rural Caswell County. Both projects face vigorous community opposition.

Citizen watchdogs want to know how to find out about these facilities and permit applications well before the state announces the public hearings and comment periods. Fortunately, there’s a semi-easy way to monitor what could be coming to your neighborhood. The NC Department of Environmental Quality keeps a running online database of air permit applications where you can learn about the status of the facilities. You have to drill down a bit, so I’ll take you through the steps:

  1. Midway down the page at https://deq.nc.gov you’ll see a section “What We Do.” It contains a link to “Learn About the Divisions.”
  2. Click on “Air Quality.” At the bottom of the air quality page is a section on permitting.
  3. The “Online Access to Air Quality Permits” is the motherlode.  For active permits, you can see a map and a database of currently permitted facilities. (Note: Forsyth and Mecklenburg counties have their own local air programs; their data isn’t available through the DEQ site.)
  4. For air permit applications, click on “Active Air Permit Applications Status Reports.” You can download a .pdf or an Excel document. The pdf isn’t sortable, but good for a quick perusal. In my work, an Excel document is preferable because I can sort the information by city, county, name, etc. I can also map the facilities since the latitude and longitude are also listed. There are more than 240 pending air applications in North Carolina, as of today. As an example, I’ve excerpted the first 40-plus rows of the comprehensive status report below.
  5. Most of the header row descriptions are self-explanatory except for “Facility Classification.” The schedule is the type of permit. A Title V is the most complex type of air permit, reserved for major pollution sources. A “synthetic minor source” applies to facilities that could emit regulated pollutants like Title V sources. However, synthetic minor sources have agreed to restrictions to keep its emissions beneath that threshold. “Small” is just what it sounds like: minor polluters.
    It’s important to note, though, the cumulative impacts on neighborhoods were several facilities are located near one another. Four “small” pollution sources could add up to one large source, which is why it’s important to view these facilities on a map.
  6. Other odds and ends: When you see TV-501 (b)(2), that refers to the section within the air quality rules. Here’s that rabbit hole. Under “Permit Application Type,” a greenfield permit is another name for construction and operation.

I check the database about three times a week, to see if any there have been updates to the facilities I’m monitoring. Now you know — happy sleuthing!

Table 1                        
Facility (Applicant) NameSite AddressCityZip CodeCountyLatitudeLongitudeFacility ClassificationPermit Application No.Permit Application SchedulePermit Application TypePermit Review EngineerPermit Review Location, Regional Review Location URLPermit Application Received DateCurrent StatusFinal Status Date# Add Infos RequestedTotal Days Waiting for Add InfoLast Add. Info. Requested DateAdd. Info. Received DateApplication Sent to EPA (start date)EPA Review (end date)Public Notice Published DatePublic Hearing Date
Active Energy Renewable Power1885 ALAMAC RdLUMBERTON28358Robeson34.589024-79.006110Unknown7800242.19AStateGreenfield FacilityGregory ReevesFayetteville Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/fayetteville.shtml43773Waiting for information23743850
American & Efird LLC - Plants 05 & 1520 AMERICAN StMOUNT HOLLY28120Gaston35.290620-81.011810Title V3600224.17ATV-502(b)(10)ModificationJudy LeeRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43038Waiting for information184843038
American & Efird LLC - Plants 05 & 1520 AMERICAN StMOUNT HOLLY28120Gaston35.290620-81.011810Title V3600224.19ATV-SignificantModificationJudy LeeRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43480Waiting for information240643549
American & Efird LLC - Plants 05 & 1520 AMERICAN StMOUNT HOLLY28120Gaston35.290620-81.011810Title V3600224.19BTV-RenewalRenewalJudy LeeRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43549Waiting for information213343880
American & Efird LLC - Plants 05 & 1520 AMERICAN StMOUNT HOLLY28120Gaston35.290620-81.011810Title V3600224.18BTV-502(b)(10)ModificationJudy LeeRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43418Waiting for information145643430
American & Efird LLC - Plants 05 & 1520 AMERICAN StMOUNT HOLLY28120Gaston35.290620-81.011810Title V3600224.18ATV-502(b)(10)ModificationJudy LeeRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43145Waiting for information174143145
American Woodmark Corporation838 LINCOLN COUNTY PkwyLINCOLNTON28092Lincoln35.546700-81.226370Synthetic Minor5500112.19AStateOwnership changeAlejandra CruzMooresville Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/mooresville.shtml43812Issued438580
Arauco North America, Inc.985 CORINTH RdMONCURE27559Chatham35.601516-79.043366Title V1900015.19DPSDModificationJoseph VoelkerRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43768Waiting for information2-28544185
Arclin USA, LLC790 CORINTH RdMONCURE27559Chatham35.604033-79.047966Synthetic Minor1900030.20BStateModificationDena PittmanRaleigh Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/raleigh.shtml43874In progress0
Ardagh Glass Inc.2201 FIRESTONE PkwyWILSON27893Wilson35.760200-77.882600Title V9800155.18BTV- State OnlyModificationJoseph VoelkerRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43439Waiting for information139243494
Ardagh Glass Inc.2201 FIRESTONE PkwyWILSON27893Wilson35.760200-77.882600Title V9800155.18ATV-502(b)(10)ModificationJoseph VoelkerRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43200Waiting for information168643200
Ardagh Glass Inc.620 FACET RdHENDERSON27537Vance36.291066-78.391883Title V9100069.18ATV- State OnlyModificationJoseph VoelkerRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43462Waiting for information139243494
Armacell LLC7600 OAKWOOD St EXTENSIONMEBANE27302Orange36.077916-79.251050Synthetic Minor6800076.20AStateRenewal/ModificationSindy HuangRaleigh Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/raleigh.shtml43847In progress0
Baker Interiors Furniture Company1 BAKER WAYCONNELLY SPRINGS28612Burke35.718300-81.440800Title V1200037.20ATV-RenewalRenewalEric CrumpRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43853In progress0
Bentonville LNG Facility2256 HARPER HOUSE RdFOUR OAKS27524Johnston35.329483-78.263450Synthetic Minor5100172.20AStateModificationMaureen ConnerRaleigh Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/raleigh.shtml43873In progress0
Bernhardt Furniture Company - Plants 3&71502 MORGANTON BOULEVARDLENOIR28645Caldwell35.902500-81.547500Title V1400007.18ATV-502(b)(10)ModificationMark CuillaRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43192Waiting for information169443192
BF Grady Rd2940 NC HIGHWAY 24 WESTTURKEY28393Duplin34.996704-78.153190Unknown3100179.19AStateGreenfield FacilityDean CarrollWilmington Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/wilmington.shtml43809Waiting for information13943847
Black Creek Renewable Energy, LLC7434 ROSEBORO HIGHWAYROSEBORO28382Sampson34.980800-78.457300Title V8200149.15ATV-RenewalRenewalBooker PullenRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp42114Issued438661254378743812438174386243817
Blackburn Sanitary Landfill3993 ROCKY FORD RdNEWTON28658Catawba35.605550-81.309166Title V1800488.18ATV-RenewalRenewalJoshua L. HarrisRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43266Waiting for information257643811
Blackburn Sanitary Landfill3993 ROCKY FORD RdNEWTON28658Catawba35.605550-81.309166Title V1800488.19ATV-SignificantModificationJoshua L. HarrisRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43767Waiting for information17543811
Blackburn Sanitary Landfill3993 ROCKY FORD RdNEWTON28658Catawba35.605550-81.309166Title V1800488.17ATV-SignificantModificationJoshua L. HarrisRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43040Waiting for information3111443811
Blue Ridge Paper Products LLC175 MAIN StCANTON28716Haywood35.535600-82.841900Title V4400159.18GTV-Sign-501(b)(2) Part IIModificationJenny SheppardRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43249In progress1234384543868438754392043875
Blue Ridge Paper Products LLC175 MAIN StCANTON28716Haywood35.535600-82.841900Title V4400159.20ATV-MinorModificationHeather SandsRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43852Pending acceptance0
Boise Cascade Wood Products, LLC - Roxboro EWP Plant1000 NORTH PARK DRIVEROXBORO27573Person36.454916-78.947866Title V7300052.20BStateModificationMatthew MahlerRaleigh Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/raleigh.shtml43843In progress1294384343872
Boise Cascade Wood Products, LLC - Roxboro EWP Plant1000 NORTH PARK DRIVEROXBORO27573Person36.454916-78.947866Title V7300052.20ATV-RenewalRenewalRussell BraswellRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43816Waiting for information11143875
Branch & Brush Debris Depot, LLC21435 HWY 17 SOUTHHAMPSTEAD28443Pender34.438250-77.630530Unknown7100087.20ATV-GreenfieldGreenfield FacilityJeff TwisdaleRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43868In progress124388043882
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC3001 FIRESTONE Pkwy NEWILSON27893Wilson35.759650-77.867150Title V9800043.20ATV-SignificantModificationGautam PatnaikRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43479In progress0
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC3001 FIRESTONE Pkwy NEWILSON27893Wilson35.759650-77.867150Title V9800043.18BTV-502(b)(10)ModificationGautam PatnaikRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43390Waiting for information149643390
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC3001 FIRESTONE Pkwy NEWILSON27893Wilson35.759650-77.867150Title V9800043.19BTV-SignificantModificationGautam PatnaikRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43479In progress0
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC3001 FIRESTONE Pkwy NEWILSON27893Wilson35.759650-77.867150Title V9800043.19ATV-Sign-501(b)(2) Part IIModificationGautam PatnaikRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43479In progress0
BRP US, Inc.1211 GREENWOOD RdSPRUCE PINE28777Mitchell35.909700-82.091700Title V6100088.17ATV-502(b)(10)ModificationMark CuillaRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp42958Waiting for information192842958
Burlington Industries LLC - Burlington Finishing Plant906 N. ANTHONY StBURLINGTON27215Alamance36.083416-79.421033Synthetic Minor0100160.20AStateAdmin. AmendmentLeo GovernaleWinston-Salem Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/winston-salem.shtml43874In progress0
C.M.I. Enterprises, Inc. - Forest City135 PINE StFOREST CITY28043Rutherford35.314600-81.855300Synthetic Minor8100228.19AStateModificationAmro AliAsheville Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/asheville.shtml43467Waiting for information336943538
Carolina Poultry Power RG1, LLC8966 WEST MARLBORO RdFARMVILLE27828Pitt35.591133-77.611620Synthetic Minor7400310.17BStateModificationJeff TwisdaleRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43075In progress0
Carolina Sunrock - Woodsdale5280 WOODSDALE RdROXBORO27574Person36.520833-78.967583Synthetic Minor7300078.20AStateAdmin. AmendmentMary Rose FontanaRaleigh Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/raleigh.shtml43861In progress0
Carolina Sunrock LLC - Prospect Hill Quarry and Dist. Center1238 WRENN RdPROSPECT HILL27314Caswell36.297970-79.173840Unknown1700017.19AStateGreenfield FacilityDylan WrightWinston-Salem Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/winston-salem.shtml43787Waiting for information27043874
Carolina Sunrock LLC- Burlington North12971 S NC HIGHWAY 62BURLINGTON27127Caswell36.250965-79.326850Unknown1700016.19AStateGreenfield FacilityLeo GovernaleWinston-Salem Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/winston-salem.shtml43725Waiting for information46943874
CCF of NC, LLC - Randleman4964 ISLAND FORD RdRANDLEMAN27317Randolph35.829334-79.832016Unknown7600348.20AStateNew PermitDavis MurphyWinston-Salem Regional http://daq.state.nc.us/about/regional/winston-salem.shtml43809Waiting for information1843878
CertainTeed Corporation200 CERTAINTEED RdOXFORD27565Granville36.292783-78.613483Title V3900040.19ATV-502(b)(10)ModificationMark CuillaRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43781Waiting for information110543781
Chemours Company - Fayetteville Works22828 NC HIGHWAY 87 WESTFAYETTEVILLE28306Bladen34.844500-78.831250Title V0900009.20ATV-Sign-501(b)(2) Part IModificationHeather SandsRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43874In progress0
Chemours Company - Fayetteville Works22828 NC HIGHWAY 87 WESTFAYETTEVILLE28306Bladen34.844500-78.831250Title V0900009.19CTV-502(b)(10)ModificationHeather SandsRaleigh Central http://xapps.enr.state.nc.us/aq/humanResources/StaffDirectory.jsp43802In progress1134378943802
Environment, Trump Administration

In contract negotiations, EPA employees demand right to scientific integrity

Left to right: Dan Doyle, national vice-president for the American Federation of Government Employees; Ken Krebs, an EPA chemist and leader in the local union, and Janice Dye, a research biologist at the agency. They were among about 20 EPA workers, union members and advocates who demonstrated in front of the agency’s office in Research Triangle Park.

Several EPA workers, their advocates and union representatives with the American Federation of Government Employees demonstrated outside the agency’s Research Triangle Park offices Tuesday, the first day of key contract negotiations with management.

The union, management and a mediator will try to agree on a contract for the entire agency at the EPA offices in Research Triangle Park over the next two weeks. The discussions have taken on even more importance given President Trump’s proposed 26% budget cut to the agency, announced last week.

Ken Krebs, a chemist who works in the EPA Office of Research and Development, is also the executive Vice President of the local AFGE chapter. “Morale has always been questionable,” Krebs said. But the hiring freeze has hurt the agency’s ability to handle the workload, and the layoffs, Krebs said, have meant the loss of long-time employees and the benefit of their institutional memory.

Congress sets federal employees’ wages, so the negotiations are not about pay. Instead, the bargaining team wants better working conditions for EPA employees. These include “the attacks on science, the gutting of regulations,” said Dan Doyle, Vice President of the AFGE’s Fourth District, which includes part of the Southeast. “And the staffing levels.”

President Trump’s proposed budget would cut EPA’s workforce by 11% over last fiscal year, from 14,172 full-time equivalent positions to 12,610. In 2012, there were 17,000 FTEs at the agency,

This includes whistleblower protections, the protection of scientific integrity in EPA work, the enforcement of environmental laws without political interference, and the right to openly discuss solutions to climate change and conduct climate change research.

Last summer, the EPA abruptly ended negotiations with the union and imposed a “sham” contract on the workers, Doyle said.

The one-sided contract “severely limited telework, evicted union representatives from agency office space and restricted employees from filing a grievance over disciplinary actions,” Government Executive magazine reported at the time. The contractual dispute predates the Trump administration, dating to at least 2010.

Doyle said some EPA managers are also afraid of retaliation by the Trump administration. “My personal belief is that they have no safety if they speak truth to power. If they speak out get fired.”

 

Environment

New wood pellet plant proposed for Lumberton, area already home to multiple pollution sources

Photo of wood pellets

Trees are ground into wood pellets, which are then shipped to the United Kingdom, where they are burned for fuel, emitting carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the air. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Note: There have been questions about the difference between company’s projected tonnage of 400,000 tons per year by 2021 and the amount listed in the article. The 39,420 figure came from the best official source I had at the time. The draft air permit is not yet posted on the Division of Air Quality’s website, so the final amount is not yet public.

Active Energy Group, a publicly traded British company, has applied to the state Division of Air Quality to build and operate a wood pellet plant in Lumberton, raising environmental justice issues for the largely Native American community.

If approved, the facility would annually produce 39,420 oven-dried tons of wood pellets, sourced from forests in North Carolina and the Southeast, at a plant located at 1885 Alamac Road. From there, the pellets would be shipped to the United Kingdom and Europe, where they would be burned instead of coal. Even though wood pellets generate large amounts of carbon dioxide when burned, Europe and the UK are using them ostensibly to help attain their renewable energy goals.

The Active Energy plant in Lumberton is near several pollution sources. NC Department of Environmental Quality’s Community Mapping Tool lists at least a dozen:

  • The Town of Lumberton’s solid waste landfill;
  • Two inactive hazardous waste sites;
  • Three above-ground storage tank incidents;
  • Two closed coal ash structural fill sites;
  • One unlined landfill;
  • Duke Energy’s former Weatherspoon plant, where the coal ash is being excavated;
  • A brownfields site, where solvents had been detected in the groundwater;
  • And a NC Renewable Power plant, a major pollutant source that burns poultry litter and wood waste; DAQ recently cited the facility for three exceedances of nitrogen oxide in 2018.

Other polluting facilities in Robeson County include the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a related compressor station, as well as a liquified natural gas plant operated by Piedmont Natural Gas.

According to federal data 1,633 people live within the census tract of the proposed wood pellet facility. Two-thirds of the population is non-white; nearly a third are below the federal poverty line. The area also has higher rates of heart disease, stroke and hospitalizations from asthma than the state average.

The wood pellet industry has framed the fuel source as “renewable.” However, as Policy Watch has previously reported, the science shows that every step of wood pellet production carries significant environmental and climate consequences.

When trees are timbered from North Carolina forests, they exhale carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, into the air. Replanting cannot keep pace with the timbering in terms of the carbon dioxide balance. Once abroad, when wood pellets are burned, they produce more carbon dioxide than coal, further contributing to climate change. In turn, those changes cause extreme weather, like Hurricane Florence, which devastated eastern and southeastern North Carolina in 2016 and 2018.

In fact, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 reportedly compelled Alamac American Knits to close its facility the following year. Ironically, Active Energy, bought the Alamac Knits building,  the Laurinburg Exchange reported in April 2019.

The EPA has also sacrificed science on wood pellets and instead caved into industry pressure, according to former EPA Science Advisory Board member and Duke University Professor Bill Schlesinger. He discussed on his blog that as a SAB subcommittee deliberated wood-as-renewable-energy, then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced  that the agency considered woody biomass to be carbon neutral. “He had ignored the SAB process and what the SAB might have reported from a scientific analysis of the issue,” Schlesinger wrote. “I can’t say there is evidence that politics were involved—such as lobbying by the forest products industry—but it sure looked like it. Make America Great Again by harvesting trees.”

A separate company Enviva already operates four facilities in North Carolina, all of them in or near communities of color or low-income neighborhoods: Garysburg, Hamlet, Faison and Ahoskie.

The Active Energy facility would use its proprietary CoalSwitch technology. According to the company website, CoalSwitch treats the wood to remove most of the soluble mineral contaminants, lowering its production costs but still producing “top shelf products that command a substantial premium over other biomass-derived products.”

A public meeting hosted by DAQ is tentatively scheduled for Monday, March 16, 2020 at the Bill Sapp Recreation Center, 1100 N. Cedar St., Lumberton, at 6 pm.