Lafarge has launched an 11th-hour appeal to stop an independent hearing that will review Ontario’s decision to permit the cement company to burn tires at its eastern Ontario plant in Bath.
The proceedings were scheduled to begin Tuesday with a preliminary hearing to explore the scope of the issues, but the company will instead ask the Environmental Review Tribunal to stay the hearing.
A date hasn’t yet been set for the main hearing to argue the merits of the case.
``We’re deeply offended that Lafarge would undertake this last-minute manoeuvre to shut down the hearing,’’ said Rick Lindgren of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, one of the parties that had requested the hearing.
He said the parties for the hearing will argue that the proceeding should go ahead.
"If [the company] was interested in proceeding with judicial review, it was clearly incumbent on Lafarge to do it long before now," said Lindgren.
Lafarge’s application for judicial review comes after the company hired a new lawyer to take over the case.
Its new lawyer, Toronto-based David Crocker, said negotiations failed between the company’s legal team and the lawyers for the groups concerned about the plans to burn tires as fuel.
Both parties had been trying to reach an agreement on the proposed conditions for the permit to burn tyres given by the Ministry of the Environment.
"Lafarge was really hoping that the negotiations would resolve all of the issues; we were disappointed when they broke down,’ he said.
Crocker said that had an agreement been reached, the request for a hearing would have been withdrawn.
He also denied the application is merely a last-minute attempt to stop an independent hearing from taking a closer look at the issue of burning tires and other municipal waste as fuel in cement kilns.
Gaye McCurdy of the Environmental Review Tribunal, an impartial agency that reports directly to the minister of the environment, said it would be up to the member of the tribunal present at the preliminary hearing to decide whether the proceedings will be adjourned.
Last winter, concerned local residents, environmental groups and musicians from the Tragically Hip asked the tribunal for a hearing.
The agency agreed in April there was a basis to their health and environmental concerns about Lafarge’s proposal for burn tires, then ordered a hearing to determine whether the controversial plan should be stopped.
Lafarge has steadfastly maintained its technology is safe and burning the waste in its cement kiln poses no risk.