No Environmental Impact Statement required for proposed Sappi projectA major expansion of the Sappi paper mill in Cloquet that could see 200 new jobs won’t require an Environmental Impact Study.
By: John Myers, Pine Journal
A major expansion of the Sappi paper mill in Cloquet that could see 200 new jobs won’t require an Environmental Impact Study.
The decision by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency allows the company to immediately pursue a revised air pollution permit for the project that could nearly triple production of coated paper at the mill.
The permit could be approved in as little as a month. But Sappi’s intentions still aren’t clear, and company officials have declined to talk about the expansion. Public documents from the MPCA, however, detail the company plans to build a paper-processing machine and natural gas boiler that would increase paper production from 340,000 tons to more than 1 million tons per year.
The expansion is expected to increase carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions into the air, but not to the level considered “significant” under federal regulations. The MPCA determined that the expansion “does not have the potential for significant environmental effects,” including on water quality and human health. The agency received only five comments on the expansion and none raised critical concerns.
The company has said it would produce no new pulp, which means no additional trees would be needed. Instead, it would stop selling excess pulp to other mills and use it in the expanded Cloquet mill, according to the MPCA.
The new paper machine, to be located at the mill’s current wood yard area, would require 100 to 200 additional workers where 760 work, according to company filings with the agency. Construction would take 18-24 months.
While the paper industry has seen a marked slowdown during the current global recession, MPCA officials have said that Sappi officials appear to be moving to obtain environmental permits planning for an uptick in the economy.
Toni Volkmeier, the MPCA’s air quality project manager, said Monday that the company’s air emissions permit application will be open for public comment through Sept. 8. Once the permit is issued, the company has 18 months to start construction or it must reapply for the permit, she said.
Amy Olson, manager of corporate communications for Sappi’s U.S. division, did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call Monday. In May, she said that Sappi “continually assesses strategic options for profitable growth” and that “a new paper machine that would enhance the Cloquet mill’s production capacity for high-quality and affordable coated paper products for the North American market” was only one of several options the company was considering.