PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


FEBRUARY 12, 2004

Louis Zeller (704) 756-7550
Janet Zeller (336) 982-2691
Gean Seay (910) 253-8690
David Mickey (336) 769-0955


Today in Lake Waccamaw the BE SAFE North Carolina Campaign hosted a public hearing on the air permits and new proposals for International Paper at Riegelwood. Speakers took aim at the recently issued Clean Air Act permit and IP’s proposal to avoid meeting federal maximum achievable control technology standards. IP has proposed to substitute a computer-modeled risk assessment for federally mandated technological improvements.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League opposes the delays, variances and pollution trading schemes requested by IP. Janet Zeller, BREDL’s Executive Director, said, “Even before the federal MACT for pulp and paper mills has been finalized, IP is trying to get out of using off-the-shelf technology to reduce air poisons. The Easley administration must not reverse state air policy and allow these plants to make their own rules.”

Hope Taylor-Guevara, who heads Clean Water for North Carolina, was concerned that the state not violate requirements for public participation. She said, “Downwind communities suffer when the state gives permits to pollute, but IP‘s plan would set a new standard for permissive permitting.”

Gean Seay, an IP neighbor and head of the local Swamp Watch Action Team, reported that Columbus County is among the top 40% of the nation’s most polluted counties. Her concerns about health were echoed by several speakers. Seay said, “Based on EPA’s most currently available data, 54,749 people in Columbus County face a cancer risk more than 100 times the goal set by the Clean Air Act. International Paper in Riegelwood is the largest contributor to bad air. The people who live in its shadow or work in its stench have a right to know the health effect of every toxin being discharged into their air.”

The BE SAFE North Carolina Campaign promotes a precautionary approach to air pollution. Commenting on IP’s proposal to substitute risk assessment for technological upgrades, BREDL’s David Mickey described the IP plan as anything but a better-safe-than-sorry approach. He said, “Assumptions and mathematics won't protect people; stopping toxic pollution will."

The BE SAFE Campaign hosted the People’s Hearing because the NC Division of Air Quality gave inadequate public notice for IP’s Title V permit, failed to honor a written public comment period, and refused to hold a state hearing even though many local residents and statewide organizations had sent written requests. Transcripts and videos of the People’s Hearing will be provided to state and EPA officials.

The US EPA has just completed a review of the IP federal Title V permit. Citizens have 60 days to file a lawsuit challenging the permit. The NC Division of Air Quality has released a draft permit which would substitute a study for new pollution controls. Both the state and EPA are considering an “equivalency by permit” for IP’s so-called innovative technology plan. The public will have opportunities to comment on these two new proposals.


More info:

Jan. 27, 2004: BREDL comments to EPA regarding International Paper Riegelwood air pollution permits.

IP Fact Sheet