New York Court rejects Vermont challenge to IP tire burn test
According to the AP on August 10, 2006--Vermont Gov. James Douglas' office issued a statement quoting the governor calling the court's ruling "astounding. IP isnt conducting research; theyre proposing to burn tires without the appropriate pollution control devices in place."
Douglas and other Vermont officials have argued that before it burns tire fuel, IP should be required to install state-of-the-art equipment to clean its emissions. The company has said that would cancel out savings from the fuel switch.
"Currently, the Ticonderoga paper mill does not have industry standard pollution control devices in place," Douglas said. "Without such pollution control devices, the public health of Vermonters would be at risk from toxic particulates and the same material would degrade the states air and water quality. I simply will not tolerate that."
Douglas vowed that Vermont would appeal the decision.
"I remain prepared to exhaust all available legal avenues to prevent this potentially toxic tire burn." -- Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, August 10, 2006
Background on the suit
On February 2nd of this year, Vermont's Attorney General filed suit in New York State Supreme Court, County of Albany, challenging the NYS DEC's determination to exempt IP's test burn from NY environmental laws. The suit comprised over 400 pages of findings and affidavits
Over three months later, on April 11th, New York State submitted its response to the court comprising over 900 pages of exhibits and affidavits.
On May 19th, the Vermont Attorney General responded to New YorkÝs response in a relatively shorter 80 page document.
Vermont was denied to present oral arguments in the case. On August 10, 2006 New York state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi rejected Vermont's arguments. The Vermont Attorney General's Office will appeal the decision.
Summary of Vermont's Law Suit and New York's Response
Vermont's petition states that the NYS DEC has violated SEQRA. SEQRA is the NY State Environmental Quality Act which contains the criteria for the permit process. The NYDEC has classified IP's request for a test burn of tires as a Type II action, which therefore would require no environmental review. According to the criteria for a type II action, the test burn must not segment one part of an action from another part,( ie the test from the intention to burn tires on a permanent basis), must not result in any increase in pollutants, must not result in a change in air or water quality, and must not be a major change in the type or quantity of energy used. Vermont states that all of these criteria will be violated by the test.
New York's response denies that any of these criteria will be violated. In Eliot Spitzer's affidavit he states that "the two week test will not violate any applicable ambient air quality standards and will harm neither human health nor the environment.... There will be no physical changes to the plant to accommodate the temporary use of TDF as fuel... The emission limits in the plantÝs current Title 5 permit will continue to apply..."
NY says that Vermont has misinterpreted SEQRA. NY also says that Vermont has failed to consider the "study" provision contained in SEQRA, which they say includes water pollution and water quality studies and basic data collection.
Vermont, in turn, refutes the various New York claims.
The environmental impact of the test burn should not be considered separately from the environmental impact of burning tires on a permanent basis because the test burn is a first step toward burning tires on a permanent basis.
The SEQRA law does not allow separating the test burn from the permanent burning of tires.
The test burn will release a complex mixture of environmental toxicants that will impact Vermont. The health of Vermonters will be endangered by toxins released by the test burn and Vermont has a serious legal interest in protecting the health of Vermont residents.
Vermont has legal standing to challenge the New York permit review process because:
1) Vermont residents have already been involved in the permit review process through participation in public hearings and submission of public comments
2) Vermont will be exposed to increased toxic emissions released during the test burn
3) The SEQRA law does not exclude states other than New York from participation in the review process
4) Vermont, New York and Quebec agreed in signing "The Lake Champlain Memorandum of Understanding" that they will all participate in reviewing projects that effect Lake Champlain.
MORE ABOUT THE TIRE BURN LAW SUIT