Congressional candidate Bill Driscoll joins fray over paper mill permit denial

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Congressional candidate Bill Driscoll has entered the controversy over a county agency's decision to deny a permit extension for the Port Townsend Paper Corp.'s mill landfill.

Driscoll, a Republican who opposes Democrat Derek Kilmer for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by veteran Rep. Norm Dicks, is a descendent of Weyerhaeuser Co. patriarch Frederick Weyerhaeuser and a forest-products industry executive.

Driscoll said he was in the area Wednesday and stopped by the mill to discuss the landfill situation he'd read about in the newspaper.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Locke wrote to Port Townsend Paper on Oct. 17, saying the landfill permit application under the inert status was denied and needed reclassification under the more environmentally stringent limited-purpose landfill, or LPL, designation.

The deadline for a Port Townsend Paper appeal is Monday.

“It is my opinion that the classifications have changed,” Driscoll said.

“I would like to understand why the permit was denied and get both sides working together for a solution.”

Locke, who also is Clallam County health officer, on Thursday said the permit denial was due to concerns about the changing nature of the waste generated by the mill if it begins operation of a new cogeneration plant.

The $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass-plant expansion project is planned at Port Townsend Paper.

Additionally, the original granting of an inert permit was not appropriate, a situation the county is now attempting to correct, he said.

“With the benefit of hindsight, the granting of the permit was an error,” Locke said.

“We know a lot more about this waste now than when we first granted the [2004] permit, and we are now revisiting the issue.”

Locke said the county first approached the mill one year ago to request a change in the permit application but has been unable to come to an agreement.

Driscoll acknowledged that he would have no say as a congressman in the permit matter but cited big-picture concerns.

“I want to make sure that Jefferson County is a place where there is continued investment by the forest-products industry,” he said.

“It's important that we have a certain degree of certainty and clarity in these regulations because having a thriving forest-products industry is critical to our district.”

Wednesday's was Driscoll's third visit to the mill as a candidate.

He said he would like to talk to Jefferson County officials about why the permit was denied but said it was unlikely he would do so before the Nov. 6 election.

“If I'm elected, I would absolutely work to get people together, although I wouldn't necessarily broker a solution,” he said.

“I think the mill is a good corporate citizen and is doing its best to work within environmental regulations and comply with the spirit of the law,”

Kilmer, Driscoll's opponent, was unavailable for comment.

Responding to an email, Port Townsend Paper Corp. President Roger Loney wrote that he had given Driscoll “an update to the situation and told him we are evaluating our path forward.”

Earlier this week, Loney wrote that the mill was surprised and very disappointed at the county's decision.

“This is clearly inconsistent with the approach that was laid out in the work that has been done with the county and the [state] Department of Ecology over the past year,” he wrote.



Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 25. 2012 7:18PM
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