Environmentalists Target Sugarcane Burning

Dan Florida, General, Industry News Release, Sugar

From: The News Service of Florida

News Service of Florida
Pointing to smoke that comes from burning sugarcane, the Sierra Club on Thursday asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to object to a state air-emissions permit for United States Sugar Corp. The state Department of Environmental Protection in September renewed the permit for U.S. Sugar’s Clewiston facilities. But the Sierra Club, represented by the environmental law firm Earthjustice, said in Thursday’s petition that the permit failed to properly take into account pollution from burning sugarcane in surrounding fields. Fire is used to burn away leafy portions around sugarcane stalks, which are filled with water and don’t burn. The burns make it easier for harvest machines to cut down and collect the stalks. The petition seeking the EPA’s involvement cites the federal Clean Air Act and said U.S. Sugar’s application for a permit was incomplete because it “lacked any mention of its sugarcane field burning operations. … EPA must therefore object to the issuance of the permit and require DEP (the state Department of Environmental Protection) to obtain from U.S. Sugar information about its pre-harvest burning of sugarcane.” Sugar growers had anticipated a challenge and held a conference call with reporters in September to defend the burning of sugarcane fields. “We believe that this attack is simply another of their (environmental groups’) efforts to put the sugar farming industry out of business in Florida,” Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar, said during the September call. “And we’re prepared to defend this action as we have defended every other attack that they have made on our business.”