The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has turned down Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s plan to burn tires as fuel at its Chester, Pa., paper plant in a six-month trial run.
Citizens and labor groups that opposed the plan said they did so to protect Chester's deteriorating air quality and the health of its residents. Champions of tire-derived fuel (TDF), however, defended the environmental record of TDF and said the refusal of a permit was politically motivated.
Kimberly-Clark performed a successful three-day test burn of TDF at Chester in December 1999 and then applied for a permit for the six-month trial run, using a mixture of 8 percent TDF with its usual anthracite fuel. If the trial run was successful practically and emissions-wise, the company said, it then would have applied for a permit to use TDF permanently, at the rate of 2.7 million tires annually.
The Pennsylvania DEP announced its denial of Kimberly-Clark's application in a Dec. 9 press release.
``We denied the application because it lacked several key pieces of information and because the company's proposal did not include using the best available technology to control emissions for the burning of tire-derived fuel,'' said Joseph A. Feola, DEP regional director for Delaware County.
Expanding on this, Mr. Feola told the Philadelphia Enquirer that the department wanted Kimberly-Clark to install a scrubber costing about $1 million for the test burn, but the company balked at spending so much on a temporary measure.
Laborers Union Local 413 led the citizens' fight against the permit, enlisting the help of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and also obtaining more than 1,000 signatures on a petition opposing TDF.
``Chester is in a corridor filled with refineries, power plants, trash-to-steam plants,'' said Jim Harper, business manager for the Chester-based union local. ``We have a major problem with respiratory disease-our kids, our elders, everyone. Infant mortality is high here, and so are incidents of low birth weight. The politicians took a wait-and-see attitude, so we took a more proactive position.''
Kimberly-Clark insisted TDF would have given off fewer emissions than its current fuel. The company was seconded by Michael Blumenthal, senior technical director at the Rubber Manufacturers Association, who consulted with Kimberly-Clark in its plan to establish TDF in Chester.
``It was a most unfortunate and ill-advised move for the DEP to deny the permit,'' Mr. Blumenthal said. ``Kimberly-Clark had already run a trial and the results were good.''
The citizens of Chester ``thought they were being picked on because it was a poor neighborhood,'' he said. ``We had a Fortune 100 company that was willing to commit to TDF, but the DEP bowed to political pressures.''
It is ``highly likely'' that Kimberly-Clark will rewrite and resubmit the permit application, said a spokeswoman at the firm's Dallas headquarters. ``We believe the DEP's decision was based on permanent use of TDF and not on a six-month trial run,'' she said. ``Kimberly-Clark continues to believe that TDF is a promising new technology....''