CATAWBA, S.C. — Attorneys representing homeowners in a class-action lawsuit against New-Indy Containerboard, the York County paper mill part-owned by NFL owner Robert Kraft, have asked a judge to allow them to intervene in a separate complaint filed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA's complaint dates back to mid-July, right before the agency's emergency order against the paper mill was set to expire.
The order called on New-Indy to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions after regulators blamed the chemical for a noxious odor plaguing homeowners across the Carolinas.
To extend that order, the EPA first filed a civil action against New-Indy, followed by a consent order.
The consent order was an agreement between the EPA and New-Indy to essentially extend the core elements of the original emergency order beyond its 60-day window while it paused all further proceedings in the civil action.
But on Thursday, the attorneys for homeowners who are suing New-Indy in a class-action lawsuit filed a motion asking a judge to lift the pause in the EPA's civil action and allow them to intervene in the agency's case.
"We want to help the process," Phil Federico, one of the attorneys representing homeowners. "We want to speed up the process. We feel we're in a position to make things happen a little bit more quickly than maybe the EPA is."
He said they also have concerns about how the EPA is conducting its investigation.
He and other attorneys want the EPA to install more monitors to measure New-Indy's emissions, and they want the EPA to expand its scope to measure three other reduced sulfur compounds.
In their motion, the attorneys want a judge to order New-Indy to immediately reduce the amount of chemicals the company releases in the air, including, if necessary, "substantially reducing or ceasing production at the facility."
"It's always our goal in an environmental case to make sure that the company that's involved on the other side of the case does not become less profitable, that nobody loses their job," Federico said. "We think that can be avoided. Absolutely think it can be avoided. but again, you can't ignore the environment just to keep people in their jobs. You can do both. They just have to be willing to come to the table, invest the money they need to invest in remediation and upgrade this facility."
The three sides are expected to go before a judge in the next 30 days.
New Indy continues to decline interviews despite WCNC Charlotte's repeated requests going back five months. The EPA also declined to discuss ongoing litigation.
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