Richmond County choosing between clean air, good jobs

By: Terry Lansdell - Guest columnist

Many residents and officials in Richmond County seem to miss the fact that the Enviva plant requires an air permit. A permit provides permission to pollute which is undeniable. In the permit, you can review all the toxins that are being considered as acceptable emissions in Richmond County — particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, toxic carcinogenic chemicals and greenhouse gases in large quantities. Tons per year, in fact. Tons of pollutants where there were none before.

However, what makes this permit so objectionable is that it would become one of four Title V permits with permission to create huge amounts of toxic air emissions and greenhouse gases. In fact, there are 23 toxic emission permits in Richmond County, on top of three Title V permits already approved. Now, it is appalling that leaders are considering adding another with the potential to emit over 100 tons per year of criteria pollutants, those that are deemed most hazardous and 10-25 tons per year of hazardous air pollutants. Those are the chemicals that do the most acute and long term damage to residents’ lungs and respiratory systems.

While the permit would require pollution controls to prevent exceedances of these emission limits, the fact remains that there would be a new source that would compound the dire health situation for Richmond County residents. With asthma rates significantly higher than the state, with mortality rates from respiratory diseases in the same range, with emission rates for Richmond County being 115 percent of North Carolina’s county average, you would be hard-pressed to find any resident who was not directly or indirectly affected by premature death, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or any number of respiratory ailments.

It’s unfair that Richmond County has to choose between clean air and these types of jobs. Let’s unify against this unnecessary permit, let’s rally around North Carolina’s constitution and hold our leaders to the ideal that we all must defend its declaration that: “It shall be the policy of this State to conserve and protect its lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry, and to this end it shall be a proper function of the State of North Carolina and its political subdivisions to acquire and preserve park, recreational, and scenic areas, to control and limit the pollution of our air and water, to control excessive noise, and in every other appropriate way to preserve as a part of the common heritage of this State its forests, wetlands, estuaries, beaches, historical sites, openlands, and places of beauty.”

Terry Lansdell is program director for Clean Air Carolina.

Terry Lansdell

Guest columnist