Federal Ruling on Pipeline Permit

A federal judge is making a ruling on a local paper mill's permitting process.

Environmentalists hope this will stop the mill's plans to discharge wastewater into the Gulf.

A federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to take over Buckeye Paper Mill's permit to build a pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will no longer handle it.

Dan Simmons, Public Affairs Manager for Buckeye says, "The ruling was largely procedural in nature and did not address the merits of the environmental permit. In the coming weeks, we expect the judge to take a look at the merits of the case."

DEP had given Buckeye permission to build a 15-mile pipeline to discontinue discharging its wastewater into the Fenholloway River.

The discharge would go into the Gulf instead. Environmental groups, The Sierra Club and the Clean Water Network say the mill has been polluting the river for years and praise Judge Emmett Sullivan's decision.

Joy Towles Ezell, an environmentalist, says, "He scolded EPA and DEP for taking so long to clean up this river and for even mentioning a pipe. He further scolded them by saying that he didn't want to hear the word affluent anymore, that this stuff in this river was just nasty."

While The Sierra and the Clean Water Network view the judge's decision as a victory, Buckeye says it in no way see it as a defeat. The Department of Environmental Protection has until March 31 to file an answer to the ruling.