Port Townsend Paper mill files appeal of landfill decision

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Paper Corp. has filed an appeal to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board asking that it reverse the Jefferson County Public Health Department’s denial of an inert-waste permit for its landfill operation.

“We feel the laws have not changed, the process and the waste have not changed, so the process should not change either,” said Kevin Scott, company spokesman, in a statement.

“This moves the appeal process to the next step with the Pollution Control Hearings Board and one step closer to a long-term resolution.”

In the appeal, the company says the decision by Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, is “unlawful or unjust” because the wastes generated by the mill and placed in the landfill haven’t changed since 2004.

That year, the county health department and the state Department of Ecology concurred with the designation of wastes as inert, and the landfill has been permitted as an inert-waste landfill since then, the appeal said.

“The regulations governing the waste and landfill have not changed, nor have the mill processes that generated the waste,” the appeal said, concluding that the company’s “inert-waste landfill permit should have been renewed.”

In his denial of the permit, Locke expressed concerns about the changing nature of waste generated by the mill during operation of an expanded biomass cogeneration plant.

A state hearing has not been scheduled and might not occur until the fall, according to Jan Buechler, a legal assistant with the Environmental and Land Use Hearing Office, which houses the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Motions will be heard up to the hearing date beginning in mid-February, Buechler said.

Until the matter is resolved, the mill can continue to operate under the terms of an inert-waste permit.

Port Townsend Paper — the county’s largest private employer, with nearly 300 workers — requested in September an extension of its inert-waste permit, which had been in effect since 1989.

The county health department said Oct. 17 that the company should be required to attain a more stringent limited-use permit.

The mill filed an appeal Oct. 22, triggering a Nov. 27 hearing to review the decision.

Locke issued a denial of the appeal Dec. 3.

A denial of reconsideration was posted on the county health department’s website Dec. 31.

The paper company then announced its intention to appeal to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

If the board rules in the company’s favor, it would instruct Jefferson County to grant the permit.

If the ruling is upheld, the denial of the permit will stand.

Either side could ask the Superior Court for reconsideration.

“We were expecting this,” said Jefferson County Environmental Health officer Pinky Feria-Mingo.

“It is their legal right to appeal, our system is built upon a series of checks and balances.”

The Port Townsend mill’s $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass cogeneration expansion originally was expected to be put into operation this April, but work on the facility has been delayed until 2014 or 2015, the company said after a Dec. 10 state Court of Appeals ruling that sends a suit filed by five environmental groups to the state Supreme Court.

The suit — filed by PT Airwatchers, No Biomass Burn, the Olympic Environmental Council, the Olympic Forest Coalition and the World Temperate Rainforest Network — urges the requirement of an environmental impact statement prior to construction of the expanded facility that burns wood waste to create electricity.

Nippon Paper Industries USA Inc. in Port Angeles also is expanding its biomass cogeneration facility to generate 20 megawatts in a $71 million project that’s slated for completion this year.

It also has been opposed by environmental groups who say the facilities will increase pollution, especially of ultrafine particles that can lodge in the lungs.

To see the full text of the Port Townsend Paper Corp. appeal, visit http://tinyurl.com/a5g483t.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 29. 2013 5:43PM
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