CATAWBA, S.C. — For more than a month now, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been soliciting public feedback on a proposed consent decree and $1.1 million penalty against New-Indy Containerboard for high levels of foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide emissions.
After receiving requests for an extension on the comment period, the Department of Justice has decided to extend the comment period for an additional 30 days, or until March 11.
Since early last year, homeowners have filed thousands of complaints alleging the paper mill's emissions caused them to develop nosebleeds, headaches, and coughs.
The paper mill, which is part-owned by NFL owner Robert Kraft, is also the subject of two lawsuits that could potentially be consolidated into class-action status.
Attorneys for homeowners are attempting to intervene in the EPA's proposed consent decree, which they criticize as being too soft on the paper mill.
The EPA has not said whether they will hold a second public comment meeting, similar to what they hosted last month.
Some homeowners criticized the format of the January meeting, particularly the two-minute time limit placed on each speaker.
Additional information on how to submit a comment can be found on the Federal Register's site.
The recent visit inside New-Indy Containerboard
After nine months of emails and requests, WCNC Charlotte's Brandon Goldner was finally granted access inside the mill. While onsite, Goldner was limited to locations he could visit, as the mill had already decided which locations he could visit.
After the tour, Hobson conducted a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation, where he only answered a few questions that reporters were required to submit in advance to the company's media representatives.
WCNC Charlotte agreed to these conditions in order to provide at least some glimpse inside the restricted grounds.
In response to the extension for the proposed consent decree, New-Indy said in a statement: "We fully support the terms of the consent decree and welcome public participation in the process. The extension is an additional opportunity for residents and other stakeholders to share comments about the proposed decree. The mill is an important source of economic activity for the region with more than 400 employees. The consent decree will allow the mill and its employees to continue to operate in a safe and healthy manner."
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