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Protecting communities health must remain a priority

As published in the Bellingham Herald on 12 April, 2001

Dear Editor:

Georgia-Pacific West Inc. made some energy-related decisions that damaged its ability to operate profitably. G-P's solution was to operate the mill on diesel generators. G-P requested a permit from the state Department of Ecology to operate the generators.

DOE issued the permit as required. G-P's emissions violated the air-quality standards, and G-P decided to shut down voluntarily the generators before DOE told G-P to shut them down or face a cease-and-desist order. G-P did not inform the mayor of this decision. The mayor conducted his own investigation and had the city seek an injunction to shut down the generators. The city has withdrawn the request for an injunction.

G-P, Doe and the city all had a legal and moral obligation to ensure that the air-quality standards be enforced and that the health of the residents of Bellingham be protected.

In this situation, the law worked.

In all endeavors, the point of diminishing returns is reached. Pollution harms our communities' health. Manufacturing companies produce pollution, high-paying jobs and economic benefits to the city residents. The economic loss of the shutdown will be about $100 million a year for the county. The products produced by these companies are a necessary part of our lives. Protecting our communities' health must remain a high priority.

However, we need to address the problems associated with the manufacture of the products necessary for our community at the local level and stop exporting our pollution and the associated economic benefits to other states and countries.

Sheila L Richardson

This letter was written in response to the closure of my former employer's place of business.

I worked for Georgia Pacific West from 1969 until June 30 of 2000 when I retired. The energy crises raised the cost of electricity so high that the company tried to generate it's own electricity by operating diesel generators.

The emissions from the generators violated the air quality standards. The environmental community said the generators posed a health risk. GP had to shut down the generators voluntarily or be shut down under a cease and desist order from Ecology.

GP shut down voluntarily. Without an economical source of electricity GP announced that the pulp and chemical portion of the mill would be permanently shut down. The Tissue Department is still operating but may be shut down soon due to the cost of electricity.

This will put 420 co-workers out of work. Most will find low paying jobs if they find jobs at all.


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