Titan America announced Thursday that it is shutting down plans to build a years in the making cement plant because, "project economics no longer support the construction of a cement plant in Castle Hayne."
The plan, first announced in 2008, met significant opposition from some folks living in New Hanover County. The process to get the proper permits took years and the project has hung in limbo for several months.
"The decision was purely financial," said Bob Odom, general manager for Carolinas Cement in New Hanover County. "There are still two Carolinas Cement workers at the terminal on the property. This decision will not affect their jobs."
According to a news release from parent company Titan, there are several reasons for calling off the project, including the increased cost of building a new plant and the potential for cement imports on the Carolina coast.
“Our decision to suspend construction on the cement plant in Castle Hayne is driven by basic project economics,” said Bill Zarkalis, Titan America’s CEO. “The pace of demand growth in the specific markets does not seem adequate to justify the addition of substantial new production capacity - more so because the costs to construct a new cement plant in the United States have risen substantially in the past few years. Finally, the overall risk profile of the project has worsened as new coastal capacity in North Carolina could be vulnerable to cement imports, considering the strong US dollar, the global cement supply situation and low ocean freight costs.”
Odom said the opposition did not have anything to do with the decision. A grassroots effort to oppose the plant bubbled up early and continued into 2015 with meetings to update the project.
“I think there was a lot of bad information out there. I think there is a lot of emotion. I think if you look at the facts and visit our Roanoke plant like we ask many people to do, it was not a big deal. I understand their concerns. I think their concerns are overblown,” Odom said.
Kayne Darrell was an outspoken critic of the project, who was also sued by Titan for slander. The parties eventually settled.
For almost 8 years this community has committed itself to protecting our air, our water, our environment and our children's health from the many negative impacts Titan Cement would inflict on all of us. All of those who worked so hard for this day should be very proud. I can tell you I have been dreaming of this day for 8 years and even through all the sacrifices and frustrations, all the time and hard work devoted to this cause, I never once doubted that this day would come! We live in an amazing community with so many amazing dedicated people, all of whom never stopped believing that the Power of the People works and, like me, never doubted that we COULD stop a multinational billion dollar, polluting corporation from building it's dirty plant in this beautiful place we call home. We did it!
The NC Sierra Club released the following statement on the decision.
Today’s announcement is a victory for the thousands of citizens who have fought tirelessly for years now to protect their community and our coast. The proposed facility would have drastically and negatively impacted the region’s clean air and water. Today’s announcement moves New Hanover County one giant step forward in the right direction towards an economic future built on environmentally sustainable principles.
Mike Giles with the NC Coastal Federation called it a citizen win Thursday.
"This is a culmination of 8 years of thousands of citizens fighting and standing up for what they believe in," Mike Giles said. "And this goes to show you that citizens can make a difference. There were a lot of organizations involved - the Coastal Federation, Cape Fear River Watch, Citizens against Titan - but more importantly, there were thousands of students that stood up for what they believed in."
The Southern Environmental Law Center issued the following statements.
The citizens of New Hanover and Pender counties can now breathe easier with the threat of Titan’s toxic air pollution now gone. According to expert analysis, the air pollution from the plant that Titan proposed to build would have resulted in hundreds of cases of acute respiratory symptoms, one premature death each year, and associated health costs of millions of dollars for the adjacent three county area. Southeastern North Carolina can now forge a new path forward built on the region’s remarkable natural environment. -- Geoff Gisler, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Pender County residents are delighted with the news that Titan America is terminating plans to build a huge, polluting cement plant on the banks of the Northeast Cape Fear River. -- Allie Sheffield of the PenderWatch & Conservancy.
The residents of Castle Hayne and surrounding communities can now breathe easier, knowing that their health will not be compromised by the pollution from cement manufacturing, and that the waters and wildlife of the NE Cape Fear River region will be preserved. We look forward to continuing to work with the community to bring sustainable economic development to the region that is in harmony with the rich natural resources the region possesses. -- Michelle Nowlin, supervising attorney at the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.
The debate over building the plant became a political hot potato in New Hanover County, with commissioners starting a special use permit years ago because of this project. That special use permit vote has been debated many times over the years and has even come up as a topic in this year's election.
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