By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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For its annual permit renewal in September, the mill applied for an extension of its inert classification, which the county agency denied Oct. 17.
The mill appealed the decision on Oct. 22, triggering Wednesday’s hearing to review the decision.
The meeting will run from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., breaking for a one-hour lunch at noon, and at the Masonic Lodge, 1338 Jefferson St. in Port Townsend.
The meeting is open to the public but no public testimony will be taken.
County Environmental Officer Pinky Feria Mingo said admittance to the hearing will be available on a first-come, first-served basis since the hall accommodates about 130 people.
Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Locke, who denied the permit extension, will conduct the hearing in much the same way as a court, Mingo said.
During the morning session, the respective arguments will be presented — first by the county as represented by Chief Civil Deputy David Alvarez.
Then mill representatives will follow.
Each side will have an opportunity for rebuttal, Mingo said.
The inert waste permit was first granted in 1989 and renewed several times since, an action that health officials now say was an error in judgment.
In his denial of the permit, Locke said he took the action because of concerns about the changing nature of waste generated by the mill during operation of an expanded biomass cogeneration plant.
The $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass plant is planned to be operative next year.
Locke said the granting of the original permit was in error because more is known about waste than when it was first granted.
The mill has based its appeal on the idea that its operations have not changed, so the permit process should also remain consistent.
“We seek to continue this status because the wastes we generate have not changed, the landfill hasn’t changed and the regulations haven’t changed,” said Port Townsend Paper President Roger Loney in a statement Oct. 25.
Port Townsend Paper’s appeal to the county, written by attorney Leslie Nellermoe, said the waste generated by the mill should continue the classification as inert because “Jefferson County and the Department of Ecology have been disingenuous at best or acted arbitrarily or capriciously at worst during the negotiations over this permit.”
Nellermoe added: “During the two years Port Townsend Paper Corp. has worked to resolve these issues, [both agencies] stated that the landfill would be regulated as an inert waste facility with certain additional requirements and this approach would address your express concerns.
“Now, after expending a significant amount of time, energy and money, your course unexpectedly changed without notice,” the appeal document tells the county.
The additional measures proposed by the paper company are to reinitiate groundwater testing and to provide financial assurances to cover the cost of closure if it were unable to cover costs. Neither is required for inert landfill permits.
At the hearing, Locke will act as judge, choosing to uphold or reverse his decision based on information gathered, Mingo said.
Locke could make his ruling on the spot, but Mingo said she expected that he would most likely take the new information under advisement and rule at a later time.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.