The party held a news conference with opponents of the government’s July decision to approve a one-year pilot project allowing Lafarge Canada to burn tires for energy at the company’s Brookfield cement plant.
NDP environment critic Lenore Zann said her party’s bill is the same as a bill tabled by the Liberals while in opposition. The Liberal bill was passed with all-party support in 2008, but it was never proclaimed into law.
“It is very deeply disappointing that the Liberals supported this legislation while in opposition, but now that they are in government have allowed tire burning to go ahead,” said Zann.
The regulatory approval was announced by Environment Minister Iain Rankin, who defended the decision as a good way of reducing the use of coal at the factory.
Mark Butler of the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre said the decision was largely based on a Dalhousie University engineering study that was too narrow in its focus and wasn't peer reviewed.
“It didn't look at the environmental and health and safety record of the plant and it didn’t look at the pollution technology that the plant had in place. So it was a modelling study, but didn’t examine what was actually happening on the ground.”
Rankin deflected Butler’s criticism, saying the Dalhousie study contained several technical studies. As well, he said his department also relied on information provided by the Health Department.
“This (incineration) is a widely used practice across Canada, the United States and throughout Europe,” he said.
Rankin said independent monitoring would be in place at the plant's kiln.
Citizens Against the Burning of Tires, a group of local residents, launched a court challenge in August, arguing the government's approval of the project violated the province's Environment Act.
Lydia Sorflatin, who lives a few minutes from the plant, said the hearing for the judicial review has been set for March 6 and 7.
She said her group believes the ministerial approval for the project is “unreasonable, unjust, non-transparent and unfair.”
Sorflatin said she wonders why the Liberals appear to have had a change of heart, given that it was Keith Colwell, now the agriculture minister, who proposed the original ban in a private members bill in 2007.
“He felt, and in opposition that party felt, this should not happen,” Sorflatin said. “Why the change? Where’s the pressure?”
She said the failure to pass the bill was “a real omission by government.”
However, the legislation also sat in legislative limbo under the previous NDP government, which was elected to govern in 2009.
To date, no tires have been burned as Lafarge waits for industrial approval from the province.
To get that approval, Lafarge must address several environmental issues, including hazardous waste and air emissions. Once granted, the approval would list the terms and conditions the operation must meet to reduce potential risks to the environment.
In an email, the company said technical planning was underway and it expects to receive the industrial approval this fall.
Spokeswoman Karine Cousineau said the company had recently improved its electrostatic precipitator, which controls dust particulates in the kiln stack.
“We are confident that our upcoming demonstration project will conclusively show that not only are scrap tires a safe fuel, but will form a key part in reducing carbon emissions in the province,” the email stated.
By Keith Doucette – THE CANADIAN PRESS