Omya drops Danby quarry plan
John Dillon

MONTPELIER, VT (2004-10-01)

(Host) One of Vermont's most hard-fought environmental battles is over. The Omya Corporation has decided to abandon a controversial plan to develop a large quarry in Danby. The company says it will expand in other states instead.

VPR's John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Omya is a Swiss-based company with operations around the world. In Vermont, Omya uses its vast marble deposits in the central part of the state to produce calcium carbonate ore. The mineral is used as a raw material in dozens of industrial products, including paint, paper and plastics.

Omya had wanted to extract the ore from a scenic hillside in Danby. But local residents fought the proposal. They said the mining operation would overwhelm the small valley, cause too much truck traffic on mountain roads and would damage underground water supplies. Jim Reddy heads Omya's North American operations. He says the company has now given up on the Danby project.

(Reddy) "It's not in our plans. We decided on our other alternate locations to supply our growth from. So we simply closed the project officially."

(Host) Reddy said it's tough to open a new quarry in Vermont's regulatory environment.

(Reddy) "Vermont is a very challenged state from a permitting standpoint, in the laws and regulations in this state. And other locations are much more amenable to looking for jobs and growth."

(Dillon) According to Reddy, the company has expanded operations in Alabama and Arizona instead of Vermont. He said those sites will now get the benefits of new jobs and investment.

(Reddy) "We were producing food and pharmaceutical products in Vermont for over 60 years. We built a new plant in Arizona. They were very happy to have us come. We made our last shipment from Vermont in December of 2003 and we've now moved all our food and pharmaceutical products out of Vermont into Arizona."

(Host) Omya still has a large presence in Vermont. It operates quarries in Middlebury, Pittsford and Wallingford and processes the ore at a large plant in Pittsford.

Annette Smith is director of Vermonters for Clean Environment, a grass-roots group. She said the members plan to celebrate their victory. But she dismisses Reddy's charge that Vermont is not open for business.

(Smith) "The project as proposed was never well thought out. The transportation issues are enormous and there is no solution. The water issues are insurmountable. If they had done what they wanted to do here, it would have depleted the aquifer and the water supplies of the residents and the businesses that locate here. This doesn't have anything to do with whether or not Vermont is business friendly. This was a very poorly planned proposal. It should never have been put out."

(Dillon) This week, Reddy told the select boards in Danby, Tinmouth and Wallingford of his decision. He said he could not put an exact figure on how many jobs would have been created by the Danby project. Meanwhile, opponents of the project hope the company will sell the development rights for they quarry, so they'll know the proposal is truly off the table.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.