Environmental groups ask Vermont government to stop planned New York tire burn
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
AP (Montpelier, Vermont U.S.) by Anne Wallace Allen
Several Vermont groups and individuals are asking Gov. James Douglas to stop a New York paper mill from burning tires to generate power, saying the pollution will harm Vermonters.
Douglas says he will oppose the burn until Vermont, New York and federal scientists assure him it is safe.
"As I've said before, I will continue to oppose the proposal until the scientists at our Agency of Natural Resources, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assure me that it's safe," Douglas said Wednesday. "Those agencies are looking at it now."
Champlain Valley residents learned a few weeks ago that International Paper Co. in Ticonderoga, N.Y., planned to try burning tire chips for two weeks as an alternate fuel. The proposed test burn has raised concerns on both sides of Lake Champlain, with environmental groups, lawmakers and individuals questioning the impact of the pollution on public health.
"There's no safe way to burn them," said Drew Hudson, a field coordinator for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, one of the groups that sent Douglas the letter. "Tires are not designed to be fuel; they are designed to be tires."
VPIRG says burning tires emits toxic heavy metals including mercury, lead, chromium, cadmium, arsenic and dioxin, which have been linked to health problems including birth defects and cancer.
Independent Vermont Sen. James Jeffords has asked the EPA to look into the test burn.
The Ticonderoga mill is awaiting a permit from New York officials for the test burn. The state of Vermont does not have the legal standing to weigh in on that. But if the mill were to propose a permanent tire-burning program, Vermont would have standing in the process, said Harold Garabedian, the assistant director of Vermont's air quality program.
Meanwhile, the Douglas administration is exploring other options regarding the test burn, Douglas said Wednesday. A letter from VPIRG and more than a dozen other environmental groups, lawmakers, and Champlain Valley residents asked the governor to explore all legal options for stopping the test burn.
"We don't know what legal standing the state has, if any," Douglas said. "I've asked my attorneys to look into it, and I'll have to consult with the attorney general."
Douglas noted that International Paper had agreed to put an air quality monitoring station on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain. VPIRG has said that station would not be in place long enough to accurately assess the base air quality before a burn began.
And Douglas added that burning tires might not be harmful to the environment.
"There's some suggestion this would not add to the noxious discharges...that's why I want the scientists to weigh in," he said. But "I'm going to continue to oppose it until persuaded by these agencies that it's safe."