Mining company appeals to NC Supreme Court

Published 6:45 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The limestone mining company seeking to discharge water into Blounts Creek has appealed to the NC Supreme Court to remove a Superior Court judge from jurisdiction in the case.

Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. has again asked a higher court to remove Superior Court Judge Douglas Parsons from retaining jurisdiction over the case should it land back in Superior Court at a future date. In December of 2015, attorneys for Martin Marietta made the same request of the North Carolina Court of Appeals — a request that was denied.

In September of 2015, Parsons ruled that Sound Rivers (formerly Pamlico-Tar River Foundation) and the North Carolina Coastal Federation did have the right to challenge a Division of Water Resources permit that would allow the mining company to potentially discharge up to 12 million gallons of fresh water per day from a southern Beaufort County mining facility into Blounts Creek. The ruling directly opposed Administrative Court Judge Phil Berger Jr.’s earlier decision that the groups had no legal standing to question the state permit allowing the discharge. Parsons, at the time of his ruling, sent the case back to the Administrative Court for a full evidentiary hearing and ordered that he would retain jurisdiction over the case pending a further Administrative Court decision.

“It’s essentially the same petition that they filed in the Court of Appeals,” Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper Heather Jacobs Deck wrote in an email. “We expect it to end in the same result and our attorneys are working on a response.”

The evidentiary hearing Parsons ordered is expected to take place in May or June, and will include witness and expert testimony over the course of several days, Deck said. The hearing will be the culmination of more than two years of legal wrangling by attorneys with Martin Marietta and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (formerly Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents Sound Rivers and NCCF. The case also has been cited by the EPA as an example of DEQ treading close to violating federal Clean Water Act. The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners recently passed a resolution advocating protection of Blounts Creek which has been sent to Martin Marietta, along with a letter encouraging the company to explore alternative discharge means and sites.