Groups Urge EPA: Veto Mining Wetlands and Nurseries
Environmental groups today urged the Environmental Protection Agency to veto the mining of almost 1200 acres of critical wetlands and nurseries while still allowing continued PCS Phosphate mining of 11,000 acres in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to address serious concerns about irreversible harm during a rare national elevation of the mining permit.
“Now it’s up to EPA whether commercial fishing, tourism, and health of North Carolina’s people will be protected while mining continues,” said Derb Carter, director, Carolinas Office, Southern Environmental Law Center. “EPA already determined the mine expansion will destroy important fisheries and river ecosystems, crippling our children and grandchildren’s economic future and health until long after PCS has left the area.”
The concerns were so grave that the EPA called them “unacceptable” and elevated the proposed mining expansion to the national level for careful review. In issuing the permit, the Corps rejected the minimum steps EPA determined were necessary to avoid “unacceptable” impacts from the mine expansion. Now, under its mandate to protect people and their environment, the EPA must demand additional protections through a veto of the proposed permit while still allowing for uninterrupted and profitable mining for 29 more years.
A letter from Environmental Defense Fund, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center asks EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to stand by her agency’s findings and put into practice the Obama Administration’s words in a May 20th letter to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, “we need to identify opportunities to expand protection of wetlands and other aquatic resources that are especially vulnerable or critical to sustaining the health of [aquatic] systems.”
PCS Phosphate’s current mine expansion proposal in North Carolina would be the largest single destruction of wetlands permitted in state history, causing irreversible harm to tourism and fishing in the immediate area and downstream along the state’s beautiful coastline. It jeopardizes the irreplaceable ecosystem of Albemarle-Pamlico Sound, the nation’s second largest estuary and one of the most productive American fisheries which generates thousands of jobs and over $1 billion annually.
In its objections to the permit, EPA requested that the Corps revise the permit to
- reduce wetland impacts by 29 percent (1,166 acres);
- prohibit mining that would affect the most sensitive fish nursery areas;
- prohibit mining of rare hardwood wetlands; and
- improve the proposed mitigation to compensate for remaining wetland and water quality impacts.
The Corps’s response to EPA reduces wetland impacts by only 1 percent (44 acres) and fails to address all other EPA concerns and recommendations.
Concern over PCS Phosphate’s planned destruction of wetlands and primary nurseries near the Pamlico River remain unaddressed despite consistently being raised by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council throughout the whole permit process.
Acting as its own agent of delay, the company sued the state for years during the permitting process after being warned such action would delay the issuance of any permits. PCS Phosphate plans to mine 11,000 acres, including 4,000 acres of wetlands and more than four miles of tidal creeks and streams bordering the Pamlico River.
About North Carolina Sierra Club Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization with over 17,000 members in North Carolina.
About Pamlico-Tar River Foundation The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, founded in 1981, is a grassroots environmental organization representing greater than 2000 members and a licensed member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. Our mission is to enhance and protect the Pamlico-Tar River watershed through education, advocacy, and research.
About North Carolina Coastal Federation The North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF) is the state’s only non-profit organization focused exclusively on protecting and restoring the coast of North Carolina through education, advocacy and habitat restoration and preservation. www.nccoast.org
About Environmental Defense Fund A leading national nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit www.edf.org.