This is the full text of an editoral by Senator James Jeffords

IP ought to invest in clean air

March 16, 2005

The debate over International Paper's plan to burn tires for fuel is not just a matter of jobs vs. the environment. Likewise, turning this into a debate that pits New Yorkers against Vermonters undermines both states' goals of a healthy environment and economy.

The real issue comes down to IP's long-term commitment to New York and to its Vermont neighbors. A willingness on the part of IP to install up-to-date technology at its Ticonderoga plant would go a long way in demonstrating that commitment. But until that happens, Vermonters and New Yorkers alike should not allow our air and our lakes to be polluted because IP wants to cut costs.

Since IP first announced its plan for a test burn in 2003, much of the debate has focused on Vermont's opposition to the plan. Perhaps it is time to focus on why IP continues to balk at making this investment.

Simply put, IP wants to burn tires at its Ticonderoga plant without the appropriate emissions control technology. Misinformation continues to be reported in the media about the technology currently installed on the facility, leading to the erroneous suggestion that IP has addressed the concerns. It has not.

One only needs to look as far as IP's own admissions to see that. An IP spokeswoman recently said the company had the newer equipment installed on one boiler, but it was not the same boiler that would burn tire chips. Only after a test burn, she said, would the company decide whether it makes "good business sense" to invest in the updated equipment.

I only ask that IP install the same equipment that is commonly found in other mills that burn tires. This technology would remove the toxic fine particulates that are emitted from tire burning and contribute to the incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

These toxins not only pollute the air downwind, they also affect our water. The heavy metal by-products of the tire burning fall from the air and contaminate waterways. They then accumulate in fish. This is of particular concern for those of us who drink the water and eat the fish from Lake Champlain and its tributaries. New York and Vermont both have heath advisories that warn women of childbearing age and children under 15 from eating fish from Lake Champlain.

Addison County is directly downwind from the Ticonderoga smoke stacks. This region has a large number of dairy farms, and we know that the same toxins that turn up in fish also turn up in cows and dairy products. So Vermonters have good reason to be concerned about the impacts that even a two-week trial burn will have on the safety of our dairy industry, and I believe New Yorkers share those concerns.

IP tells us they will monitor the emissions from a test burn, but such tests do not generate immediate data for all toxic air pollutants. It could take a few weeks after the test burn before we know the total emissions, so IP's assurances that it will stop the trial burn if its monitors reveal problems are not reassuring at all.

I understand the concerns of those who view IP as an economic engine for the region. I am aware of IP's recent plant closures in Pennsylvania and New York. I am also aware that this is the same company that gave its then-CEO a $7.65 million compensation package in 2001, according to Forbes Magazine. That was the same year it laid off 290 workers at its Savannah, Ga., plant.

The question, I believe, comes down to this: Should a company such as IP show as much concern for its neighbors' health as it shows for its bottom line or executive compensation? I believe it should. The truth is that IP has the opportunity here to make a sound investment that will clean up the air and pay dividends. IP estimates that it will cost $8 million to install the equipment that other plants have installed for tire burning. It is also estimated that the plant will save between $1 million and $2 million a year in energy costs by burning tires.

Between the energy cost savings from switching to tire-derived fuel, and possibly paring down the CEO's annual compensation package, IP can afford to do what's right and invest in this plant for years to come.

On its Web site, IP states that it is committed to managing its business in an "environmentally responsible way." Now is the time to see if IP lives up to its promise.

Sen. James Jeffords, independent, is the ranking minority member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

More about the permit application and tire burn (follow the link for more information)

Why burning tires for fuel is unsafe (follow the link for more information)

International Paper Company of Ticonderoga, NY has a long history (click here to see IP's environmental track record) of being the largest polluter of Lake Champlain, the Champlain Valley and Vermont.

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