PCS cuts 12, blames permitting delays

Published 2:14 pm Saturday, April 11, 2009

By Staff
PTRF head: PCS to blame, not EPA
Staff Writer
PCS Phosphate announced Friday it will cut 12 contractor positions at its Aurora facility. The company blamed the move, which will take effect April 20, on permitting delays, but environmentalists said the company is to blame.
The cuts stem from PCS Phosphate’s decision to idle one of its bucket-wheel excavators, giant machines that scoop away upper layers of earth to make it easier for mining machines to access the phosphate ore below.
He said the mine is nearing the edge of its permitted area.
He added later in the e-mail, “The company steadfastly refused to compromise and it is their decisions that create the present situation.”
Environmentalists have been under fire lately for their opposition to some of PCS Phosphate’s proposed expansion. The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners recently decided to begin lobbying on PCS Phosphate’s behalf, and two commissioners condemned “long-haired” environmentalists at a recent meeting.
The latest setback to PCS Phosphate’s pursuit of its permit was a decision this week by the Environmental Protection Agency to ask for a second review of PCS Phosphate’s permit application by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ office in Washington, D.C. The review will take a maximum of 30 days, and it comes on the heels of a more-than-eight-year process of review at the Corps of Engineers’ office in Wilmington.
Smith said he’s not sure if more cuts could be coming, saying the permit-approval path from this point forward is uncertain. The Corps of Engineers’ Washington, D.C., office likely will either order its Wilmington office to approve the permit or reconsider the permit application. If the Corps of Engineers swiftly approves PCS Phosphate’s expansion, the Environmental Protection Agency has veto power over the permit.
The EPA contends the proposed expansion would adversely affect nearby waterways and the aquatic life within them. The objections mirror protests raised by environmentalists over a water-quality certification issued by the N.C. Division of Water Quality for the project. Smith said the DWQ certification adequately addressed many such worries.
Related photo: PCS Phosphate has idled one of its two bucket-wheel excavators. One of the company’s excavators clears earth in this June 2008 photograph. (WDN File Photo/Ted Strong)