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Draft decision on request to vary Bell Bay pulp mill permit

The Director EPA Alex Schaap has released a draft decision for public comment on a request from Gunns to vary the Bell Bay pulp mill permit.

In April this year, Gunns made a number of requests for variation of the permit. The request stated the variations are sought as a consequence of moving directly to plantation feedstock and the adoption of the Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) Light process.

"At the time I received the request, I stated that given the high level of public interest, I would publish a draft decision outlining the rationale relied upon and that draft is now on the EPA website for comment," Mr Schaap said.

Mr Schaap said his evaluation has involved detailed assessment particularly in the area of air dispersion modelling.

"I have also taken advice from Sweco Industry Oy, international experts in pulp mill technology, and this document is also on the website."

Mr Schaap said the draft decision generally proposes to vary the permit as requested with some minor exceptions.

"The draft decision does not restrict the feedstock to plantation timber as requested because that restriction is not required in order for the proposed mill to meet its environmental requirements," Mr Schaap said.

"The draft decision also does not adopt the nitrogen oxide accounting method proposed by Gunns but instead adopts a higher figure for nitrogen oxide per tonne of pulp produced. It does not propose to alter the actual limits on the concentration of nitrogen oxides emissions from the mill stack."

‚Äč"The purpose of inviting comment is to reveal any information which is directly relevant to this assessment which might otherwise not be considered. The purpose is not to explore the merits of the mill proposal in general or the manner in which it was approved," Mr Schaap said.

Mr Schaap said it is normal practice for the EPA to receive permit variation requests and the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994(EMPCA) explicitly authorizes the Director to vary the conditions of a permit through the issue of an Environment Protection Notice (EPN).

"Such variations to permits are a routine part of business for the Director as permits often require amendment to keep up with changing circumstances."

The EPA Director said he typically makes decisions on such variations following internal assessment and issues an EPN to vary the permit as he sees fit.

"These routine processes are not generally exposed to the public but I recognise the heightened interest in this case and that is why I am advising the public that it has been made," Mr Schaap said.

The draft decision will be open for comment until COB Monday 25 July 2011.

Comments can be made in writing to the Director, EPA:

Director EPA

GPO Box 1550

Hobart TAS 7001