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Judge dismisses residents' court challenge of Lafarge tire-burning project

The Lafarge Canada Inc. Brookfield cement plant could soon be using tires to power its operations. File photo
The Lafarge Canada Inc. cement plant near Brookfield.

HALIFAX - A Nova Scotia judge has dismissed a residents' group's bid for a judicial review of the province's decision to allow a cement plant to burn tires as fuel in its kiln.

In a written decision, Justice James Chipman of the provincial Supreme Court said the environment minister's approval of a tire-burning project at the Lafarge cement plant in Brookfield, N.S., was reasonable.

He said the approval process involved the consideration and evaluation of risks, and that the minister was satisfied that any adverse effects or significant environmental affects could be adequately mitigated.

There is “ample evidence to support the factual conclusion of the minister's decision to permit Lafarge to burn whole tires,” Chipman said.

He added that based on the record, the minister's decision was an “easily determined conclusion.”

The court challenge, launched by five residents who live near the Colchester County cement plant, claimed that the Nova Scotia government's approval of the project violated its Environment Act.

Lydia Sorflaten, Allan Sorflaten, Jim Harpell and Kendall McCulloch, who live on a lake about 500 metres from the Brookfield plant, and Fred Blois, who lives about 10 kilometres to the northwest, applied for the review last August.

The application stated that Environment Minister Iain Rankin didn't properly assess the impact of emissions from the Lafarge plant on surrounding areas, including the risk of “strong potential for adverse effects” on surface water, human health and wildlife from the project.

But the judge dismissed the claim that there was no evidence to support the project as approved.

He said the court doesn't need to be “bogged down in an 'academy of science' review”' for it to be apparent that there is no support for that claim.

“When I evaluate the minister's decision as an organic whole, I find it easily passes muster and must be regarded as an outcome within the range of reason,” Chipman wrote in his decision.

Lafarge plans to burn about 20 tonnes of tires a day - up to 5,200 tonnes a year - in place of fossil fuels such as coal and petcoke used to manufacture Portland cement, a basic ingredient of concrete.

Once the company has obtained an industrial approval for the one-year pilot project to incinerate the tires as fuel, the province's waste diversion agency is expected to shift a supply of about 280,000 tires annually to Lafarge.

Nova Scotians pay a $4.50 environmental handling fee for each new tire they purchase in the province. That fee pays to shred and reuse the tires as construction materials.

However, a portion of that fee would be paid to Lafarge once it begins accepting tires – prompting critics to say they don't want to pay an environmental fee to subsidize the fuel costs of a large corporation.

A similar request by Lafarge in 2007 was denied by the province after an advisory committee recommended recycling scrap tires rather than incinerating them.

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