Sunday, May 25, 2014

Every Breath We Take


This is a new blog which will address the shenanigans of more than my Mining and Energy Commission family members.Doings of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) , Environmental Management Commission (EMC), the Governor and that big happy family which resides at the North Carolina General Assembly will all have starring and lesser roles here.

My! The Jones Street branch of my dysfunctional family has been busy in the just over 7 days they came back from vacation! This first post is about clean air. You remember clean air? Look fast, because the North Carolina Senate is poised to pass S734 which, among other things, extremely limits a community's ability to appeal an air permit decision, and will make the Division of Air Quality  take off-line or remove any ambient monitoring stations not required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Among the monitors in jeopardy is the baseline ambient monitor in Lee County, which was sited to monitor the air prior to the commencement of fracking there. Bill puts Lee County air monitor at risk May. 25, 2014

The bill also allows polluters to "self-report" violations without fear of enforcement actions and to keep internal audits out of the hands of state regulators. You can read more at former DENR Secretary of Environment Robin Smith's blog:

News and Observer article here:

North Carolina's clean air is already under attack:

In 2012, the General Assembly effectively dismantled the air toxics program. See Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Report: “First, they came for...” The North Carolina Legislature’s Assault on the Public.

In November 2013, after a recommendation from the Division of Air Quality and the Science Advisory Board on Air Toxics, the Environmental Management Commission voted to increase the allowable ambient limit of arsenic in the air ninefold. An excerpt from the BREDL "First We Came For" report:

“Even the Cat’s in on it!”  -Mortimer Brewster Arsenic and Old Lace 

Because of these troubling admissions, BREDL staffer Therese Vick began investigating the 
history behind the reevaluation. After a review of DAQ documents and several web searches, it 
became clear that the impetus behind the requested change was likely coming from influences 
outside of NC DENR. For example, in the “PSD Preliminary Review – modification 300 
construction/operation permit (Draft Revision 8, July 2011 – Assistant Secretary)” for Carolinas 
Cement Company LLC (aka Titan Cement) proposed to be located in Castle Hayne, North 
Carolina, the modeled arsenic levels are at 30% of the AAL— according to the company’s own 
modeling and after pollution control. The amount of arsenic potentially emitted into the air of the 
surrounding community is significant and dangerous. In the Draft Revision, DAQ attempts to 
diminish the potential concern over these levels by saying “Finally, the Scientific
Advisory Board is considering adjusting the Arsenic AAL.”As troubling as 30% is, it pales in 
comparison to the almost 48% of the AAL modeled in an earlier draft.

Industry is certainly following this proposed change very closely, and their relationship with the 
DAQ is inappropriate at best. Industry admits that sources are having problems meeting the 
arsenic AAL. Trinity Consultants, a North Carolina environmental consulting firm posted this on 
their website: 

“For a variety of emission source(s), particularly combustion sources, the arsenic AAL 
has often been problematic in TAP air dispersion modeling. In some cases, affected 
facilities have had to improve pollution control systems, increase stack heights or place 
operational limits to demonstrate compliance with the arsenic AA(L)."

 At the November 2010 meeting of the SAB, Brendan Davey, DAQ staff from the Asheville 
Regional Office, remarked that “there are a few combustion sources in the Asheville region that 
are having difficulty complying with the AAL for arsenic given current regulations”, “the control technology for these emissions is insufficient...”Mr. Davey was speaking of Blue 
Ridge Paper in Canton, Jackson Paper Manufacturing Company in Silva, and Zickgraf 
Hardwood Flooring Company in Franklin, NC 

Perhaps most troubling is the downward trend in enforcement actions. This chart is from a DAQ document summarizing enforcement actions since 2009. "NOD's" are notices of deficiency supposedly reserved for minor permit violations. "NOV's" are notices of violation which can result in fines or other enforcement actions.  

DAQ Enforcement Actions (2009-2013)
NOVs (number)
Penalty Assessments
Penalty Assessments
Special Orders by Consent
[dollars (number)]
$34,000 (1)
$24,000 (2)
$30,000 (1)
$40,000 (1)
$12,000 (2)

There is not one reported civil penalty imposed on an industry since the July 2013 report on the DAQ website. It's nice to know our industry is doing such a great job! .  View the reports here: Division of Air Quality Civil Penalty Assessments.

Its enough to choke a mule.....

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