By JOHN FLOWERS
ADDISON COUNTY — At the same time that Vermont politicians are preparing to take legal action to thwart International Paper Co.’s plans for a two-week trial burn of tire-derived fuel at its Ticonderoga, N.Y., mill, an Addison County-based citizens’ group is recruiting the leaders of major “green” corporations to urge IPC brass not to proceed with the test.
Rich Carpenter, the leader of People for Less Pollution, confirmed his group has reached out to environmentally conscious companies such as Starbucks, Seventh Generation Inc. and Newman’s Own Inc. to put pressure on IPC to cancel the proposed tire burn — or at least postpone it until International Paper updates its pollution control equipment.
“Some people are urging for a boycott (of IPC), but we’re not trying to put them out of business,” Carpenter said. “We just want them to do the right thing.”
The right thing, according to People for Less Pollution and the state of Vermont, would be for IPC to install a device called an electrostatic precipitator on its boiler stack prior to conducting the test burn. Critics of the burn argue that an electrostatic precipitator is needed to capture the smallest, potentially toxic particles within the tire burn emissions.
But International Paper officials believe the test burn itself will indicate what, if any, new emission-control equipment is needed at the mill.
The New York division of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) essentially agreed with IPC on Monday, Sept. 11. That was the date by which the EPA could’ve objected to International Paper’s proposed tire burn. Since the EPA did not, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) is now free to issue IPC the permit it needs to burn up to 72 tons per day of tire-derived fuel in one of its boilers. International Paper hopes those tests will pave the way for the company to replace 5 percent to 10 percent of the fuel oil it burns annually with the tire material, a cheaper alternative to oil, thereby saving the company an estimated $4 million per year.
Vermont officials from both sides of the political aisle sharply criticized the EPA’s decision not to object to the IPC tire burn.
“I’m very disappointed,” Vermont Gov. James Douglas said during a phone interview on Tuesday. “We believe strongly the release of toxins from the tire burn, without the proper pollution-control equipment, can be harmful to humans, animals and the quality of life here in Vermont.”
Douglas pledged the state would use “whatever legal means are at our disposal” to oppose the tire burn.
Those legal options, according to Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, include:
• Appealing a previous New York Supreme Court decision denying Vermont’s request for an environmental analysis of IPC’s capacity to safely conduct the test burn. Sorrell’s office filed that appeal on Monday.
• Petitioning the EPA to reconsider its decision and object to the IPC test burn. Sorrell’s office filed that petition on Tuesday.
• Challenging, in the Empire State’s court system, any final permit that the NYDEC may grant to IPC for the test burn.
• Filing a “citizens’ lawsuit” in federal court opposing the test burn.
Sorrell said the state’s legal efforts will include requests for stays, or temporary injunctions, to stave off the test burn.
“We’ve got a lot of fight in us,” Sorrell said. “We’ll give it our best.”
U.S. Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., said he’s disappointed the EPA had not objected to the IPC test burn.
“If this experiment is allowed to move forward, the EPA is saying that it is OK to use Vermonters as guinea pigs and put the public’s health at risk for the sake of industry savings. That is wrong,” said Jeffords, who is the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “I applaud Gov. Douglas and Attorney General Sorrell for their ongoing efforts to bring a halt to this experiment, and I will do everything within my power to help.”
Donna Wadsworth, spokeswoman for IPC, said on Tuesday that the EPA had yet to formally inform the company of its decision. She confirmed that when the EPA’s permission is formalized, the NYDEC could issue a final permit at any time. Wadsworth said IPC hopes to conduct its test burn late this fall.