Where are the teeth?

“It should not pay to pollute,” Ginny Lindsey of the Clean Water Fund of North Carolina told the Western North Carolina Air Pollution Control Board during its Feb. 9 meeting.

She urged the board to develop a clear, thorough and consistent civil-penalties policy.

The APCA’s current two-page policy is neither clear nor sufficiently detailed, Lindsey contends.

It should cost an industry more to remain in violation of APCA regulations than to take the necessary steps to bring it into compliance, she argued. Lindsey also called for establishing fixed penalties for violations, thereby discouraging debates over penalty amounts.

Under current policy, the penalty for an “excess emission violation” is between $1,000 and $5,000, “depending on severity.” The board regularly reduces fines upon appeal. At this meeting, for example, it reduced a $10,000 fine levied against Colonial Oil Industries, Inc. to $7,500.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources monitors air quality in most N.C. counties. But in Buncombe and Haywood counties, the APCA does the job.

Only two other counties in North Carolina — Mecklenburg and Forsyth — have independent air-quality agencies, and both “already have written civil-penalty policies,” said Lindsey, declaring, “It’s time for [this agency] to have one, too.”

The APCA’s updated civil-penalties policy should be completed by the board’s May 11 meeting, agency Director Jim Cody told the board.

The nonprofit Clean Water Fund is conducting a statewide campaign urging better enforcement of environmental laws, said Lindsey. Citizens interested in the APCA’s civil-penalties policy should contact the Clean Water Fund, or attend the APCA board’s May 11 meeting, she suggested.

Asphalt moratorium still in effect

The state ran a series of tests on so-called “fugitive emissions” from asphalt plants, but the findings were inconclusive, so another batch of tests is planned, reported Cody during an update to the board.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency also plans to run tests, scheduled to begin in April, said Cody. In the meantime, the state is not issuing construction permits for new asphalt plants.

Buncombe County also has a moratorium on construction permits for new asphalt plants, until July.

Pay thyselves

“Y’all do a lot of hard work, and you ought to be compensated for it,” Buncombe resident Jerry Rice told the APCA board during the public-comment period. He also suggested that the board meet monthly, instead of every two to three months.

Other actions

In other action, the board:

• Fined Colonial Oil Industries Inc. $7,500 because one of its drivers, William Sellers, failed to use a vapor-recovery hose when transferring gasoline from a delivery truck into underground storage tanks at a gas station on the New Leicester Highway last Oct. 7. The fine was originally $10,000, but the board reduced it. After the incident, Sellers was fired from his job, according to company representatives at the meeting.

• Delayed fining Eagle Transport Inc. $5,000 for failure to use a vapor-recovery system while unloading gasoline from a truck, because no company representative attended the meeting. The board will decide the matter at its March 9 budget meeting.

• Issued two operating permits to Hedrick Industries and one to Memorial Mission Hospital.

• Issued construction permits to the Waynesville Waste Water Treatment Plant and to Carolina Power and Light Company.

• Renewed operating permits for Medical Action Industries, Wellco Enterprises and Kearfott Guidance and Navigation Corp.

The Air Pollution Control Board will meet next on Monday, March 9 at 5 p.m. at the agency’s offices on Mount Carmel Road.

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