By JOHN FLOWERS
TICONDEROGA, N.Y. — With a final permit now in their grasp, International Paper Co. (IPC) officials confirmed on Thursday they are targeting early November to conduct a controversial, two-week test burn of tire-derived fuel in one of the boilers at the company’s Ticonderoga, N.Y.-based mill.
Vermont officials and environmental groups, meanwhile, vowed to pursue legal action and corporate peer pressure to compel IPC to postpone the test burn until it installs state-of-the-art pollution control equipment at its mill.
“We are prepared to exhaust all available options to prevent this potentially toxic tire burn without… safeguards in place,” Gov. James Douglas, a Middlebury Republican, stated in a press release.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation issued IPC a final permit on Wednesday to conduct a two-week trial burn of up to 72 tons of tire-derived fuel per day to power one of its boilers. International Paper hopes to replace up to 10 percent of its fuel oil stream with waste tires to save around $4 million each year.
Vermont authorities and environmentalists are concerned the test burn will release a myriad of toxic particles from the company’s stack, particles that could blow into neighboring Addison County. Douglas and the citizens’ group People for Less Pollution (PLP) have argued that IPC should install an electrostatic precipitator on its stack prior to conducting the test burn.
International Paper officials have argued that their current pollution-control equipment is sufficient, and that the test burn will reveal whether the company should invest in an electrostatic precipitator.
Tire-burn opponents were dealt a serious blow on Sept. 11 when the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chose not to object to IPC’s permit application. With the EPA on board, opponents were quietly resigned to the prospect of IPC landing its final permit.
“It’s not a surprise; we just didn’t know what the timing would be,” PLP President Rich Carpenter said. “We will still push very hard to prevent this from happening.”
Douglas said the state has already filed a petition with the EPA asking that the agency object to the permit. Vermont has also filed an appeal of an earlier New York state trial court’s ruling that the test burn application did not require an environmental impact study.
“I will continue to work with (U.S.) Sen. (James) Jeffords, I-Vt., and the Attorney General (William Sorrell) on other potential legal avenues,” Douglas said.
At the same time, PLP and other environmental groups are recruiting “green” businesses to urge IPC brass to postpone the test burn until the company upgrades its pollution-control equipment. Carpenter said a handful of prominent companies — including Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation and Newman’s Own Organic — have sent letters to IPC.
Carpenter added PLP is not, at this point, participating in a call by Sen. Matt Dunne, D-Hartland (and candidate for lieutenant governor) to boycott IPC products.
“We are very sensitive to the fact that IPC is a major employer in the Champlain Valley,” Carpenter said. “We believe they could be a major employer and environmentally conscious; that’s the path we’re pushing for.”
Donna Wadsworth, spokesperson for IPC, acknowledged the company has received letters from “green” businesses. She said the letters have given IPC “an opportunity to talk to a lot of CEOs, and let them know there are two sides to a story. We are finding that many leaders of these companies are standing by us.”
As for a boycott, Wadsworth said she hopes consumers recognize the value and quality of IPC’s products, and that the company has taken pains to be environmentally friendly.
“We believe in our company and the values of our company, and we hope our customers do too,” Wadsworth said.
She described IPC as being in the “logistics phase” right now in planning for a test burn in early November. The company must line up a certified lab to analyze results, as well as a contractor to supply the tire-derived fuel. International Paper must also give New York authorities 30 days notice before conducting the test.
“We are staying the course,” Wadsworth said.