Company wants exemption for new nickel emission limit
By DENIS ST. PIERRE, THE SUDBURY STAR
Community activists are renewing calls for the Ontario government to enforce new air-pollution standards on Vale Inco.
"Vale Inco has no right to exceed pollution limits," stated a news release issued Monday by a coalition of groups including mining unions, pensioners, academics, health-care professionals and environmental activists.
The news release was issued to bring attention to a public meeting Wednesday in Sudbury, scheduled by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
The meeting was scheduled to allow public input on Vale Inco's request for an exemption of up to five years from a new limit on nickel emissions in Sudbury.
The environment ministry plans to impose a new standard for nickel emissions in little more than one year -- on Feb. 1, 2010.
Last fall, however, Vale Inco requested a temporary exemption from the new standard, arguing it needs more time to make the changes within its operations to meet the new rule.
The company's request for an exemption drew criticism from several residents who attended a public meeting on the issue last October. The response prompted the environment ministry to schedule another meeting to provide the community with "an opportunity to learn more about the ... standards process and the framework for the ministry's review of the request that was recently submitted by Vale Inco," the ministry stated in a public advisory.
"The ministry is also willing to host further public consultation meetings over the next year at specific milestones during the review process," the advisory stated. "The purpose of these meetings would be to ensure that the local community is involved in the ministry's review to the extent possible, and is kept informed of the status."
Wednesday's public meeting will be held at Tom Davies Square, Room C-11, beginning at 7 p. m.
The coalition of activists arguing against Vale Inco's exemption request is known as the Community Committee on the Sudbury Soils Study.
Coalition members allege an exemption for Vale would allow the company to produce nickel emissions more than seven times higher than the new standard proposed for next year.
"The ministry needs to enforce environmental standards," said Julien Dionne, a committee member and representative of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees.
In 2007, Vale's Copper Cliff Smelter "released 31 tonnes of nickel and nickel compounds into the air," Dionne said. "This is unacceptable. The ministry needs to have Vale Inco comply with the new provincial air regulations and not allow the five-year delay they are applying for.
"We strongly recommend that members of the public come to the meeting and voice their concerns over Vale Inco's request to extend the time limits to meet the industry's new and improved standards."
Vale Inco has the time and resources to meet the tougher emission limits proposed by the province, said Homer Seguin, a veteran Steelworkers activist and member of the Community Committee on the Sudbury Soils Study."Vale Inco has known that this regulation was coming for several years and they still have 13 months to come into compliance. We feel that is ample time," Seguin said. "In the last couple of years, Vale Inco made record profits so they can't plead financial hardship to comply with the new regulations."