Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords, I-Vt.
Ranking Member, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
On Approaching Deadline for EPA Action on International Paper’s Tire Burn Permit
“The EPA’s role is to protect public health, and that is precisely what it should do by denying International Paper’s permit for a trial tire burn. If this experiment is allowed to move forward, the EPA is saying that it is okay to use Vermonters as guinea pigs and put the public’s health at risk for the sake of industry savings. That is wrong. I applaud Governor 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.” Background: At a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last Wednesday, Senator Jeffords asked William Wehrum, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for air quality, whether the EPA would act to halt the test burn before the deadline to do so expires. “Will EPA fulfill its responsibilities by making an active and informed decision regarding the permit before September 11th?” Jeffords asked Wehrum. “Hopefully you will agree with me -- and the other members of the delegation, Governor Douglas and our constituents -- that the permit should not be issued,” Jeffords said. Wehrum responded that the test burn would allow the EPA to determine if tires could be burned in “an environmentally appropriate manner.” He then promised Jeffords a written response to the question, which the EPA delivered late Friday afternoon. In that letter, Wehrum gave no indication of how the EPA might respond, only noting that Sept. 11th would be the final date for the EPA to act on the IP permit. “We will contact you soon afterwards to let you know what decision we have reached,” Wehrum wrote. (Click here to see a copy of the letter.) Jeffords has repeatedly said that he would not oppose IP’s plan to burn tires for fuel if the plant installed the same equipment that is used by other tire-burning facilities. Equipment such as an electrostatic precipitator or a kevlar baghouse would capture the fine particulate matter that is otherwise released into the air when tires are burned. Jeffords introduced legislation last year that would have required the EPA to establish performance standards for pulp and paper mills that would require such equipment be installed before permits are issued for tire burning. Despite the significant technical and legal issues surrounding a trial burn, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation agreed to issue a permit to IP earlier this summer. By law, the EPA has 45 days to object to the permit. That deadline expires today.