Commissioners finish D.C. mission

Published 7:21 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2009

By Staff
They lobby Burr on PCS permit
Staff Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The county manager and three Beaufort County commissioners met with Sen. Richard Burr’s staff Tuesday as they wrapped up a visit to the nation’s capital. They had been in the city to lobby for PCS Phosphate.
Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, had planned to meet the three, but a vote was called on the Senate floor that kept him away.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to rule today on whether PCS Phosphate may begin a proposed expansion of its mine at Aurora and how big that expansion can be.
If the Corps of Engineers grants the expansion, Environmental Protection Agency officials — who have been critical of previous Corps of Engineers decisions on the matter — would have up to 10 days to decide if they will veto the permit.
Burr’s office was instrumental in the creation of a letter sent by the area’s entire congressional delegation to the EPA earlier this year urging a swift resolution of the process.
The EPA has vocalized objections this year to PCS’s proposed expansion. Company officials have said the objections come late in a process that has already dragged on for more than eight years.
The EPA thinks that, among other things, the boundaries of the expansion should be reduced to protect more wetlands. Environmentalists have raised similar concerns for a longer time and say the expansion would be the largest permitted destruction of wetlands in North Carolina history.
Commissioner Hood Richardson, a Republican, told Burr’s staff that he thinks PCS has already given up enough of its proposed expansion, which has reduced the amount of ore available to the mine.
Commissioner Robert Cayton, a Democrat, also lobbied for the county Tuesday.
Burr’s press secretary, David Ward, emphasized the letter to the EPA Burr helped organize, and said the senator is watching the situation and could take more action in the future but hopes he won’t have to.
The visit to Burr’s office came after the local officials blitzed through several other D.C. offices Monday. The trip left County Manager Paul Spruill feeling encouraged.
Kareem Murphy, representing the Ferguson Group, a lobbying firm the county hired, said the tour helped energize the area’s congressional delegation and highlighted the decision’s potential community impact.
Spruill expressed similar feelings.
Cutline for corresponding photo: Hood Richardson, right, talks to Katie Jordan, left, of Sen. Richard Burr’s office, while County Manager Paul Spruill takes notes Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (WDN Photo/Ted Strong)