JUDGE RULES TIRE-BURNING REQUIRES EIR : ENVIRONMENTALISTS FIGHT MOJAVE PLANT'S FUEL PLAN.
A state appellate court sided with environmentalists seeking to force a Mojave cement plant to complete an environmental impact report before burning tires as a supplemental fuel.
The Appellate Court for the 5th District upheld a Bakersfield Superior Court judge's ruling that Kern County officials erred in granting a tire-burning permit to the California Portland Cement Co. plant nine miles west of Mojave.
The company and Kern County Air Pollution Control District had appealed the December 1995 ruling by Judge Roger Randall.
``We're delighted,'' said Stormy Williams, a member of Southern Kern Residents Against Pollution - one of the environmental groups seeking the EIR. ``We didn't feel Kern County included the public enough in the decision to burn tires.''
Calls to the company were not returned. The attorney representing Kern County could not be reached for comment.
The legal battle centers on a June 1994 decision by the Kern County APCD to allow the company to use old tires as up to 3.6 percent of its fuel supply. The plant now runs on coal.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of SKRAP, Tehachapi Residents Against Pollution, Desert Citizens Against Pollution and Citizens for a Better Environment. The lawsuit charged the permit violated the California Environmental Quality Act because no environmental impact was prepared.
The citizens groups believe tire-burning operations pose a health threat through increased emissions of toxic chemicals such as dioxin and heavy metals such as lead.
Cement industry officials said air emissions by plants that burn tires are comparable to what the plants had produced in the past.
There are at least 17 cement kilns in the United States that use tires as fuel, officials said. Cement plants consider tires an ideal fuel source in part because a scrap tire has 15,000 British thermal units per pound compared to 12,000 British thermal units for each pound of coal.
County officials had argued that determining whether a project requires an environmental impact report depends on whether the decision to approve it is a discretionary one or an administrative one.
A discretionary decision requires a judgment on a project's effects. An administrative decision needs only a determination whether the proposed operation meets existing regulations.
For example, a zoning change to allow a business in a residential area is a discretionary decision. Issuance of a building permit to construct a store in a business zone is an administrative decision.
County officials had argued that the tire-burning project did not require an environmental impact report because it complies with Air Pollution Control District regulations.
Randall ruled that the project required both administrative and discretionary actions and is subject to the California Environmental Quality Act.