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NEIL YOUNG on "The Island"


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[color:"green"] Anyone else going to this show? If so, maybe a bunch of us can hang out afterward...

Big names headline small town benefit concert

CH News

Monday, July 05, 2004


Randy Bachman called up his friends Neil Young and the Barenaked Ladies for help pulling together a fundraising concert for a Cowichan Valley community group resisting a proposal by the local pulp mill that they believe will add to air pollution.

Some big names in Canada's music scene are heading to a tiny Vancouver Island town to help raise money for a community group that's gearing up for an environmental battle with the local mill.

Neil Young, The Barenaked Ladies and Randy Bachman are headlining the unlikely concert, which will be held in Duncan this fall. The show will benefit the Crofton Airshed Citizens Group's efforts to focus attention on toxic emissions from Norske Canada's Crofton pulp mill.

Bachman, a Saltspring Island resident, became engaged in the issue late last year when Norske submitted a proposal to burn what the company calls alternative fuels - including coal, tires, and creosote-laden railway ties - in order to reduce fuel costs. At a packed public meeting, Crofton residents railed against the proposal, and aired concerns about the existing pollution from the mill. It was then that Bachman decided to become personally involved.

"I called some friends of mine, went to visit Neil Young, called Barenaked Ladies. They said, 'We're there!'" Bachman says. "I think it's probably going to be the biggest concert ever on Vancouver Island. Just to get Neil Young alone on the Island is really great!"

Within hours of the concert announcement, the Cowichan Centre received a flood of ticket inquiries. Tickets for the September 17 concert go on sale Friday and will cost up to $200. Proceeds will support an independent study of the health and environmental impacts of the mill.

Cowichan Theatre Manager Tracy Hamilton says the 2,500-seat venue will deter scalpers by placing a cap on the number of tickets each person may purchase.

The Crofton Airshed Citizens Group says mills such as the one in their town are "B.C.'s dirty secret." Federal government data shows the province is the largest source of toxic emissions such as dioxins and furans in the country.

In a news release, the Citizens Group says data from Canada's National Pollution Release Inventory shows that approximately 24 million cubic metres of exhaust gases leave the Crofton mill every day, carrying a tonne of fine particulate matter, a tonne of volatile organic compounds, two tonnes of hydrochloric acid, three and a half tonnes of sulphur dioxide, one and a half tonnes of methanol, dioxins and furans, chlorine dioxide, formaldehyde, PCBs and hexavalent chromium.

"The current emissions are significant and dangerous," says Michael Ableman of the Citizens Group. "To switch fuels is really switching poisons that are coming out of the stacks."

Norske Canada spokesperson Don McKendrick says the company is trying to be respectful of community feeling.

While many people are quick to criticize the mill's activities, others in Crofton are supportive of Norske Canada's efforts to reach out to the community. They say the mill is trying to find a balance between protecting the environment and running a viable business.

"We had a lot of people gather in the community centre there in Crofton, voicing their objection to the concept of burning alternative fuels. And at that point in time I saw it quite clearly, we didn't do a good enough job of informing the community," McKendrick says.

The company had heard concerns before, but the public meeting was the first time that so many people stepped forward at once.

Norske Canada commissioned its own independent analysis of health risks associated with the mill, and is now looking for feedback from the commnity.

"We've come to an understanding. We've used too much science, and not enough listening in engaging the community," McKendrick says. "We need to listen better, be respectful of the feelings of the people in the community, and give them the facts as to what we are doing and what we propose to do."

The company will establish a peer group to evaluate the study of risks and liaise with the mill to keep everyone informed.

"We're all for the same thing. We're after clean air for the community and the neighbours we live and work with. And if they want to do a concert for clean air, we certainly have no objection," McKendrick says.

© CH News 2004

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