Environmental groups are once again challenging North Carolina’s decision to issue Titan America an air-quality permit for its proposed cement plant in Castle Hayne.

In August, the N.C. Division of Air Quality approved changes to an air permit for the proposed facility, pushing back the permit's expiration date and raising the amount of particulate matter the plant could legally emit. The latter change brings the permit into compliance with recent changes to federal air pollution limits.

But the Southern Environmental Law Center said that this approval of the amended air permit means the “state failed to uphold its legal responsibility to protect people from avoidable harm by authorizing increased pollution from the proposed Titan America cement plant in New Hanover County,” according to documents filed last month in state court.

The law center is representing the N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Fear River Watch, PenderWatch & Conservancy, and the Sierra Club. It filed the challenge with the Office of Administrative Hearings, a quasi-judicial agency that hears administrative law proceedings.

This is the second lawsuit the group has brought forward challenging the validity of an air permit for Titan. The first court case was filed last April and had a hearing before a judge in August; the case is still pending. The new lawsuit reiterates the same issues as the previous one but with an added emphasis on air pollution.

When the state released the updated air permit late August, Titan officials said it didn’t change its plans to use technology that emits as little pollution as possible. “We are very pleased that the N.C. Division of Air Quality recognizes the merits of our Carolinas Cement project,” Bob Odom, general manager of development for Carolinas Cement, Titan’s regional subsidiary, said in a statement. “This modification to our air permit does not change the fact that Carolinas Cement will ... consistently work to ensure the safety of public health and the environment, and will operate the cleanest, most advanced cement plant in the world.”

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