Accountability, lesson two

Published 6:22 pm Thursday, April 30, 2009

By Staff
This is in response to the editorial written by Mary Alsentzer in the April 14 edition of the Washington Daily News.
She began by suggesting that environmentalists have been criticized for wanting to shut down PCS Phosphate and hinted that the criticism was completely unwarranted. Sadly, this comes from the former executive director of the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, an organization that delayed Cypress Landing at least five years and kept them in court for over three years. This group has also been the party in the most-recent lawsuit against PCS Phosphate, knowing that the company has spent over eight years with the environmental agencies at both the state and federal level to reach the point at which they are today. Please tell me exactly how has PCS Phosphate delayed this process when your organization really deserves credit for this problem.
She makes the incredible statement that the company will have depleted the ore it can mine in Beaufort County in approximately 40 years, and asked, “Then what?” She is apparently unaware that there are additional ore reserves farther from the mine site currently being mined that will be utilized well into the future, perhaps as much as 100 years. At the present time, some of those reserves are not economical to mine because they are too far from the processing plant, but there will be a day in the future when prices and improved technology will make it feasible. During the mid 1960s, this writer worked in the land department for Texas Gulf, and everybody involved in selling and obtaining land realized that the property was being purchased to mine phosphate and PCS Phosphate should be allowed to do so. There is great hope that anybody reading this paper today will never see a time when PCS Phosphate is not our largest employer and taxpayer.
Regarding the wetlands issue — are they valuable? A few acres are, but most wetlands at the mining site are boggy land and pine plantations that are often not even damp. PCS Phosphate has already bought substantial amounts of farmland and has reconverted some of it to wetlands to mitigate for the land that it will temporarily change during the mining process. Not only do they already have substantial amounts of reconverted prime farmland, but when the mining efforts are completed, PCS Phosphate can put the mined land back any way the regulators want it. It can be deer or bear habitat, which some is now, or it can be indeed primary nursery areas, such as the restored Whitehurst Creek.
In the final analysis, let us not fool ourselves: the company has worked over eight years trying to get permits to continue against the opposition of environmental groups such as PTRF. PTRF was party to a lawsuit at the last minute, knowing the company was out of available land to mine and that layoffs would be inevitable. Suggesting they care about our largest employer and the jobs there is nothing short of sheer hypocrisy. There should be no doubt that if PCS Phosphate has to reduce its mining and processing or close the operation, the loss of jobs, taxes and numerous other benefits that it has provided during the years will be because of PTRF and other extreme environmentalists.
In closing, a special “thank you” to Paul Spruill, Beaufort County manager, and the entire board of Beaufort County commissioners for their strong actions in support of PCS Phosphate. Many others, especially Rep. Arthur Williams, have also shown their support in spite of the pressure and political suggestions from “outsiders” and extreme environmentalists.