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Request to vary Bell Bay pulp mill permit received

20 April 2011

The Director EPA Alex Schaap has received a request from Gunns to vary the permit for the Bell Bay pulp mill.

Mr Schaap said the request states the variations are sought as a consequence of moving directly to plantation feedstock and the adoption of the Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) Light process.

“The request from Gunns is seeking an increase in the pulp production limit from 1.1 to 1.3 million tonnes per year. Gunns argues this will not require any increase in the wood chip production limit,” Mr Schaap said.

“The request also proposes a reduction in the production and emission of some chlorine compounds and reduced emission of sulphur compounds. Gunns is also seeking approval to produce hydrogen peroxide and proposes alternative means of defining the marine mixing zone and accounting for the emission of nitrogen oxides.”

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 Gunns pulp mill permit variation request can be found on: the EPA website

Mr Schaap said he will be taking further legal advice as to the matters which he can reasonably consider under the powers of the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994(EMPCA).

“Those matters I can consider will then be the subject of the usual internal scientific analysis and assessment by staff in the EPA Division, although I anticipate I may need to also take advice from external experts on some matters. Such assessments typically involve requests for further information and I anticipate that will apply in this case,” Mr Schaap said.

Mr Schaap said given the high level of public interest, he will publish a draft decision outlining the rationale relied upon.

“The intention is to invite public comment upon this draft decision as the most appropriate point at which to obtain informed comment and therefore ensure that all relevant issues are aired and properly addressed,” Mr Schaap said.

“Following consideration of relevant comment I will then determine whether to vary the permit and if so in what manner and give effect to that with an EPN in the normal way. The time this will take depends in large part upon what additional information and analysis is required but I would hope to finalise the matter within eight to ten weeks.”