This hearing on OTR petition was not like the last one

What a difference 16 months makes! When a public hearing was held on the LePage administration’s petition to opt-out of the Ozone Transfer Region (OTR) on July 30, 2018, the room was packed and the testimony passionate. When the Mills administration’s revised petition went before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection Thursday, only six people testified — five, including four from MFPC, in support — just one against. And even the lone opponent, John Chandler, who represented the American Lung Association, said the revised petition was “more palatable” than the earlier version. 

Scott Beal, Ken Gallant and Scott Reed wait to testify in support of OTR petition.

MFPC’s response was low-key, but very supportive of the revised petition.  Brian Rayback of Pierce Atwood, represented the Council, and members Scott Beal of Woodland Pump, Ken Gallant of Verso, and Scott Reed of ND Paper, spelled out why their companies strongly support the revised petition.

“On behalf of the 400 men and women who call Woodland Pulp and St. Croix Tissue home,” Beal said, “we support this proposal and we certainly hope this board will do the same.”

The BEP Board listened attentively, but asked few questions. The deadline for comments is Dec. 23. Read entire revised petition. More information.

We’re also gearing up for the Jan. 8 start of the short session of Maine’s 129th Legislature. We have new bills (see right) that might affect our industry, but we only have their titles so far, no text. There are bills carried over to deal with, too, before adjournment April 15.

The whole debate about some of these issues was just postponed until this session, including Rep. John Martin’s bill LD 1150 An Act To Amend the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law To Encourage Public Access.

There will be a lot of workforce initiative bills supporting technical and community college programs, as well as a number of bills concerning tribal issues, such as water quality. 

There were a number of bills proposed for this session concerning glysophate, but only one approved by Legislative Council, which banned spraying around schools and playgrounds.

The landowners who were involved in the aerial application of glysophate have done a lot of work this summer. We had an audit done of aerial applications and took some ACF Committee members on tour to learn more.

That gives you a flavor of what’s coming our way in the Legislature.

On another front, I was named to Maine’s Climate Change Council, representing forest interests, and we’ve had a series of meetings so far. I’ve been assigned to the Natural and Working Lands group. We meet the first Friday of each month, so our next meeting (open to the public) is January 3, at the Deering Building, Room 101, 90 Blossom Lane, Augusta. Another industry representative on the Climate Change Council is Benedict Cracolici, Energy Manager for Sappi North America, who serves on the Transportation working group  as well as the overall Council.

This is going to be an interesting issue for us, at least from the point of view of lands, emissions and our mills. Eric Kingsley, Peter Triandafillou and Jason Brochu are working on a white paper to organize and circulate our thoughts and circulate, so that we can come up with a good, collective position on the whole issue of climate change.

There’s this tug between what it means to sequester wood – and in some people’s minds that means take wood off the market – versus a balanced approach that both grows wood and sequesters wood into wood products as well. The interesting thing is we’ve got a lot of mills that are coming up with alternatives to petroleum-based products in the packaging they’re creating. So in my mind we’re in position to paint a pretty good picture of where we fit in the green economy.

We need to make sure things stay voluntary and that there is balanced approach, not a regulatory approach to managing. We’re green. We’re the good guys.