CORNER BROOK — Corner Brook Pulp and Paper says it will establish an advisory committee with public representation to work out details of how a test burn of tire-derived fuel would be conducted should the mill be permitted to do the trial.
In a letter to the editor published in today’s edition of The Western Star, company spokesman Dwayne White said the company would like to keep the public dialogue going beyond today’s deadline for public comments to be submitted to the Department of Environment and Conservation in relation to the environmental assessment of the mill’s proposal.
Corner Brook Pulp and Paper’s intentions to conduct a test burn of shredded used tire material has been a controversial topic since the mill registered its plans for environmental assessment in late October.
Environment and Conservation Minister Charlene Johnson’s decision on whether or not the plans to conduct a test burn should be subject to further environmental assessment is due Dec. 12.
The committee the mill is now proposing will not be formed unless Johnson approves the proposal. The committee would consists of scientific, health and industry experts, members of the public and representatives from organizations with an interest in the tire-derived fuel issue.
The company said it would welcome suggestions from the public as to how the committee is to be set up.
“We want to make sure that the public can continue to be involved beyond the initial stages and part of that is to involve them in this public advisory committee on what our next steps will be as far as the trial and testing plans are,” White, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper’s continuous improvement manager, said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
White has no experience forming such a committee, but does plan to discuss how to go about such a process with the mill’s woodlands division, which has used public advisory committees to discuss harvesting and forest management plans for years.
White said the mill may appoint someone to carry out administrative functions for the committee, but the company will be “an equal member with the public interest groups” that also serve on the committee.
“If it’s a biased committee, it’s not going to work,” said White. “That’s not something I would support and we’re not going to move forward with.”
The mill, which has held public information sessions and has met with concerned groups individually, has a rough idea of how it would like to conduct the test burn and monitoring, but White said nothing has been set in stone.
“We want the public, through the interactions we are already getting and through this public advisory committee, to be part of the process,” he said. “We want to be as open and transparent as we can.”
White could not say what might happen if Johnson approves the project, but the committee subsequently cannot endorse a trial burn, as the terms of reference for the committee are not yet in place.
“We are going to look at all of the issues raised,” he said.
“Some public concerns have already been expressed, some of which we have been able to answer and some which we are continuing to find information on.”
Mario Levesque of the Environmental Policy Unit at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, said any committee must be part of an environmental impact statement, which he would like to see Johnson order. That committee, said Levesque, should be the entity which decides whether or not a trial burn should go ahead and should not just be established to merely oversee a pre-approved trial.
He believes the mill would go ahead with the test burn, even if the committee could not agree to endorse any approval given by the minister, since the mill would already have government permission to do the test burn.
“It sounds like a (public relations tactic) in order to get approval right here,” Levesque said of the mill’s plans to form a committee. “They want that in the media so people might believe them and to influence people’s opinions. Make no mistake, I think a good case can be made for the use of (tire-derived fuel). However, research needs to be done to support that case and, to date, that research has not been done.”
Meanwhile, the Environmental Policy Unit has posted the submission it has made to the Department of Environment and Conservation online. The 40-page report can be found on the Grenfell website at swgc.mun.ca/epu/Pages/PolicySubmissions.aspx.
The Western Star