Parties sign accord

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

By Staff
Call for PCS Phosphate to be granted a permit to expand size of mine
Staff Writer
The resolution concerning PCS Phosphate that was adopted by both of Beaufort County’s major political parties Monday is a short one.
After all, both parties had to agree to sign it.
It does deliver a clear message: The county wants the company to have the permits it says it needs.
The company is working to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to significantly expand its mine-and-plant complex in Aurora and other associated permits.
The company, which is by far the county’s largest employer, has been seeking the permit for more than eight years.
Woolard said he is worried bureaucracy is slowing down the permitting process.
Heather Jacobs, the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation’s riverkeeper, said she hopes the permit will strike a balance between the county’s economic needs and preserving environmental resources for future generations.
She said the state and federal agencies have taken a long time to examine the permit request because of its scope and size.
Surry Everett, chairman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, said that because of the company’s wide economic influence in the area, the question is a practical, not a political one.
Robert Cayton, a Democratic county commissioner who attended the signing, also said the county’s needs overrode any political concerns participants might have had.
County Commissioner Al Klemm, a Republican who attended the signing, said the jobs PCS Phosphate provides are essential to Beaufort County.
Tier 1 counties are designated by the state as roughly the 40 poorest counties in the state.
Klemm’s words echoed Woolard’s remarks before the signing.
Everett also expressed similar sentiments during the signing.
Environmental groups have raised concerns that the areas PCS Phosphate hopes to expand into include important wetland habitats.
PCS Phosphate is working with the state to settle a dispute over a water-quality certification the company needs before it can get its federal permit. Vaught said she expects a resolution to be reached by the end of this week.
The N.C. Division of Water Quality wants to protect some wetlands in the middle of one of the tracts PCS Phosphate wants to mine. The company is worried protecting the wetlands would be too costly.