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Vermont Guardian

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A breath of fresh air

Posted November 17, 2006

News that International Paper has cancelled the test burn of tire-derived fuel is welcome, but Vermonters shouldn’t jump for joy just yet. The company began its intended two-week test burn of tire-derived fuel on Nov. 7, as Vermonters headed to the polls.

Within days, state and company officials found higher-than expected particulates emitting from the plant, nearing their permit levels. At the time, the plant was burning about one ton of tire-derived fuel per hour, one-third less than it had hoped.

It began the test burn by burning a half ton per hour.

“International Paper has some hard decisions to make,” said Jeff Wennberg, Vermont’s environmental commissioner. “The level of particulates is higher than we would expect for this relatively small volume of tire chips. These results further add to Vermont’s long-held view that International Paper should install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment on the boiler in Ticonderoga.”

Therein lies the big question: Will International Paper put the money into the plant now that the test burn has failed, or will it look elsewhere to make investments?

All along, the company said this was more of an economic issue than one that was going to be based on environmental results. It expected to save about $4 million annually on fuel costs as a result of using tire-derived fuel.

State officials, citizens, and environmental groups should keep the lines of communication, such as they are, open with International Paper to see if they would now be receptive to offers of helping them put the necessary pollution controls in place to keep the plant operating.

Beyond that, the question remains: What do we do with all the tires we leave behind?

Approximately 290 million used tires are generated annually in the United States, according to the Lake Champlain Committee.

There are five principal markets for the 230 million used tires that now reenter the market. Of those, civil engineering projects account for about 24 percent. These tires are shredded and can be used as road fill in construction projects, as cover in landfills, as backfill for bridge abutments, and in various other locations. An additional 12 percent of reused tires are ground fine and used in asphalt, ground cover, or molded rubber products. Three percent of tires are cut, punched, or stamped into new products such as bumpers at marinas or to weigh down feed covers on farms. About four percent of tires are exported to foreign markets. However, the majority of tires reentering the market — 56 percent — are used for fuel.

While converting used tires to fuel is more wasteful than reusing them in construction projects, it is definitely better than tossing them into a landfill. Tires can safely be used as one component in a facility’s fuel mixture, at reduced cost compared to oil, but it means different pollutants must be caught by new technology.

The time is now to make such an investment, and Vermont and New York environmental officials should soon be putting their heads together along with International Paper to make sure it happens.

Public decency

When is a partially-revealed woman’s breast considered indecent? When it’s selling lingerie on television? Nope. When it’s pushing a brand of beer? Guess again. When it’s trying to lure primetime viewers? Sorry.

It’s when you’re breastfeeding your baby on Delta Air Lines or Freedom Airlines, according to a recent complaint filed with the state’s Human Rights Commission by a New Mexico woman.

Emily Gillette said she was kicked off an airplane about to leave Burlington International Airport because she was breastfeeding her baby, and when asked by a stewardess to cover herself with a blanket she refused.

Vermont law does allow a mother to breastfeed in public. And, while the airline does allow for “discreet” breastfeeding, a spokesman said Gillette was not breastfeeding discreetly enough.

It’s a sad commentary that breastfeeding still gets lumped in with public nudity when it comes to acceptance. In fact, it might even have less acceptance given some of the late night cable TV shows.

If anything, the commission should take up this case and send a clear message that breastfeeding your child in public is not something to be ashamed of.