A Red-shirt rally

Carbon dioxide “polluted” the air this week in UNC Wilmington’s Kenan Auditorium as a large crowd (“Hundreds”) of hooting, cheering red-shirted opponents of the Carolinas Cement Company’s plan to build a plant north of Wilmington applauded activists who rose to denounce the company.

False allegations and hostility toward the CCC fomented by the Stop Titan movement activists over the past more than four years has also created a social pollution—suspicion, fear and divisiveness.

The usual suspects show up at meetings and rallies: agitators and allies with the N.C. Coastal Federation, the Sierra Club, the American Lung Association, a self-anointed “Waterkeeper,” college staff and students, retirees and assorted out-of-towners—even mothers bring their young children as pawns in this political game—a mixed bag of festivity and foolishness. A Wilmington StarNews photo shows many gray-hairs in this audience.(link)

I arrived with a couple of friends a few minutes before 6:00 p.m. when a North Carolina State Division of Air Quality (DAQ) moderator promptly opened the public hearing for comments about extending an air quality permit to the company (issued in February 2012 after “four years of exhaustive study and three public hearings”).

No construction can proceed without the permit that expires the end of this month. Last April the Stop Titan gang used the Southern Environmental Law Center to file a lawsuit against the N.C. DAQ as one of a long series of tactics to stall the building process. Ironically, the red-shirts were pleading with the state agency to reject a new permit while their legal operatives are suing the same agency—not what I’d call a friendly persuasion.

Adding further confusion (and emotion) to the issue, in late 2012 the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency amended the 2010 Clean Air Act standards for cement manufacturing plants. As a result, the CCC must align the particulate matter (PM) limit with EPA changes reflected in the application for the air permit extension. Expected emissions will not change according to the company. Opponents claim they will increase.

The EPA amendments changed the method plants use to monitor emissions of PM. Earlier standards were unattainable, contrary to claims by CCC opponents. The company responds that “To be attainable they must be achievable over a long term and must be measurable.” Neither can be shown in “real world operation of a cement plant.”

But environmental activists don’t operate in the real world; their Utopian visions are mostly unreasonable and unachievable. Yet they expect to force their illusions on all of us. One can find plenty of examples at these rallies.

By 6:10 it was announced that 69 people had signed up to speak, prompting the moderator to note that with the 3-minute limit for each the process would take them until 9:30, assuming no interruptions. During the next half hour, of 12 speakers that I noted, two-thirds were opposed. After each opposing commentator the crowd loudly shouted and applauded despite requests to refrain from it. Some speakers rambled beyond their allotted time.

The opposition included a retired academic environmentalist; a former environmental bureaucrat; someone with an environmental “coalition” (webs of these exist); a staff member of the American Lung Association (she claimed to have asthma); and a retiree who said that people come here for beaches and bike-paths (implying they don’t come for projects involving productive work). A Sierra Club (a radicalized hiker’s group) “government relations” staffer added to the fray, and a guy who, after telling about seeing a cement plant in Barstow, Calif., predicted that if the CCC built a plant New Hanover County will be covered by cement dust.

After about 45 minutes I couldn’t take any more. I felt sorry for the DAQ guys who had to stay and listen to this until 10:00 p.m.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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