© Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star
Derek Johnson speaks with people at his table while Katie Temple writes questions to be asked at a public session on Corner Brook Pulp and Paper's proposal to burn old tires as fuel.
Corner Brook — Much has changed in the five years since Corner Brook Pulp and Paper last proposed to burn tires as an alternative fuel source.
At that time, there was immediate opposition to the tire-derived fuel proposal at the mill, and a public protest brought about 50 people to the doorstep of the mill offices. A petition was presented and protesters called for more information on health and environmental concerns before a decision was made.
That project was withdrawn from the table by the mill after discussions with the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board (MMSB), the Department of Environment and Conservation and the company reached an impasse.
Corner Brook Pulp and Paper officials led a public consultation at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook Tuesday evening. It attracted a smaller crowd than even the protest did years earlier, with slightly more than 30 participants. Following an overview of the process, they were then given some time to discuss amongst themselves their questions and concerns and present them.
The two-and-a-half hour session garnered plenty of discussion — mainly focusing on the measures the mill has or will put in place to ensure the protection of human and environmental well-being, the potential environmental impacts, the economic benefits to the mill, the long-term sustainability of such a venture and the level of accountability and public accessibility.
Robert Murphy, who is involved with the West Coast Asthma Group and the Lung Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said he thinks the public perception is different this time because of the different approach the mill has taken.
“I think the mill has changed their tactic,” he said. “They haven’t come out the same way they did five years ago. Presentations like this are very helpful, and while I thought there would be a bigger crowd here, the community is embracing it.”
Murphy said the transparency Kruger employees are demonstrating and preaching thus far is key.
He said the moment that breaks down, so will people’s acceptance to listen and await the results of the trial, if it receives approval to proceed. He also said it is not acceptable for the community to oppose the project without any merit.
“In five years technology has changed,” he said. “Everyone is concerned about the environment. The lung association saying is, ‘if you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.’ That is very true.”
Mario Levesque was another individual with environmental concerns in mind. While he said he was attending the consultation as a private citizen, he is a member of the Environmental Policy Unit at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Levesque challenged Mike Lacey and Craig Snelgrove of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and Terry Gray, an independent chemical engineer with more than 25 years experience in tire-derived fuel applications.
“I think the jury is out, and what needs to be done is to have more study first before moving to a trial,” he said.
“There are a number of questions that need to be answered, and the plan needs to be flushed out a little bit more.”
Levesque said he approached the proposal objectively and scientifically, from a non-partisan perspective.
“Let’s just take an extra month or two. If it takes six months, let’s find what those facts are before moving forward,” he said.
A second public consultation is scheduled for this evening at the Pepsi Centre at 7 p.m.
The Western Star