207-688-8195 Professional Logging Contractors of Maine

PLC issues statement praising Senate action on biomass energy

AUGUSTA – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine issued a statement today praising a vote by the U.S. Senate Tuesday night to accept an amendment to a comprehensive energy bill directing federal agencies to recognize the carbon neutrality of forest biomass-derived energy. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) offered the amendment – which passed by a voice vote – with “tri-partisan” co-sponsorship from Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota). The PLC applauded their leadership in securing this critical provision in the Senate’s energy bill (S 2012), the Energy Policy Modernization Act. “Biomass has been recognized by the President as a clean, renewable fuel,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran, said. “With the leadership of Senator Collins and Senator King, this amendment will ensure consistency as well as the further recognition of the President’s goals and biomass’ place in our energy mix. As Maine’s biomass market is in a state of flux, this action by Maine’s Senate leadership is vital for Maine’s loggers and healthy forests across the country.” If the bill passes both the Senate and the House with the provision it would clear up uncertainties in the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) position on how the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan treats forest-derived biomass in bio-energy generation, and support the key role forests can play in helping to meet our nation’s energy needs.  Specifically, Senator Collins’ amendment would require the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to jointly ensure that federal policy relating to forest bioenergy is consistent across all departments and agencies and that the full benefits of...

LD 1481 fuel sales tax exemption bill tabled

The Maine Legislature’s Taxation Committee voted unanimously Feb. 3 to table action on LD 1481, An Act To Protect Maine’s Natural Resources Jobs by Exempting from Sales Tax Petroleum Products Used in Commercial Farming, Fishing and Forestry, for three weeks. Maine Sen. Paul Davis, R-District 4, the bill’s sponsor, requested the delay in order to continue ongoing discussions with the LePage Administration about how to fund the tax cut. The bill is designed to provide relief to industries including professional loggers by exempting them from sales tax on fuel – including off-road diesel – and petroleum products used in commercial wood harvesting. The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC) made strong arguments Jan. 20 before the Taxation Committee in support of the bill, with testimony provided by PLC Members who urged the committee to support it to aid the hard-pressed Maine forest products industry, particularly loggers, who have been hit with a series of losses including paper mill and biomass mill closures that are cutting into their markets and imperiling their future. PLC Executive Director Dana Doran explained to committee members that recent lower fuel prices at the pump do not necessarily translate to significant savings for loggers, nor do they provide any assurances for the future; increased petroleum prices have added exponential cost to operating equipment, tires, parts, lubricants and anything manufactured with petroleum, and none of these commodities lowers their prices when pump prices decrease. In addition, decreased markets in the past six months have led to lower prices being paid to logging contractors so the decrease in fuel has not led to increases in profit as many...

PLC issues statement in wake of Verso Bankruptcy announcement

AUGUSTA – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine issued a statement today calling Verso’s announcement that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy status a positive move if it allows the company to continue operations and emerge stronger from the process. Verso Corporation announced on January 26 that the company and its subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The company stated Verso’s board of directors authorized the filing of the Chapter 11 cases to facilitate a debt restructuring necessary to strengthen the company’s balance sheet and position Verso for long-term success, and said this Chapter 11 petition filing will have virtually no impact on the day-to-day operations of the company. “While bankruptcy is not a word you like to hear in connection with a company as important to the Maine forest products economy as Verso, Maine loggers are encouraged that the company will continue to operate its remaining Maine mill as it seeks to restructure its finances,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran, said. “Verso is a valued partner for Maine loggers and we are hopeful that this process ends with a stronger company and our partnership can continue to grow.” Verso operates a mill in Jay, Maine that buys wood fiber from Maine loggers for coated paper production. The mill has reduced operations in the past year but remains vital to the Maine logging industry, which has suffered with the loss of a number of paper mills in recent years, including Verso’s Bucksport mill which was shut down in...

PLC Members testify in support of fuel sales tax exemption bill

The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC) made strong arguments Jan. 20 before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee in support of a bill that would eliminate Maine sales tax on petroleum products – including off-road diesel fuel – used in commercial wood harvesting. Presented by Maine Sen. Paul Davis, R-District 4, LD 1481, An Act To Protect Maine’s Natural Resources Jobs by Exempting from Sales Tax Petroleum Products Used in Commercial Farming, Fishing and Forestry, is designed to provide relief to industries including professional loggers by exempting them from sales tax on fuel and petroleum products. Such an exemption already exists for the commercial fishing industry, and proponents of LD 1481 urged the committee to support the bill to aid the hard-pressed Maine forest products industry, particularly loggers, who have been hit with a series of losses including paper mill and biomass mill closures that are cutting into their markets and imperiling their future. “Any break we can give this group will go a long way toward ensuring that this historic and important industry is able to survive,” Sen. Davis said in his introduction of the bill. PLC Board Members including Chuck Ames, Duane Jordan, Bob Linkletter, and Brian Souers testified in support of the bill, and the committee also received written testimony from Thomas Douglass, owner of Thomas Logging and Forestry in Guilford. PLC Executive Director Dana Doran explained to committee members that recent lower fuel prices at the pump do not necessarily translate to significant savings for loggers, nor do they provide any assurances for the future. “While diesel has decreased in price at the pump over the...

PLC issues statement on Maine biomass industry and Covanta Energy shutdown

AUGUSTA – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine issued a statement today urging the LePage administration and legislative leaders to take action to sustain Maine biomass electricity production in the wake of news that Covanta Energy plans to shut down its two Maine biomass plants, affecting more than 2,500 jobs in the state’s logging industry. Covanta operates two of the six large stand-alone biomass electricity plants in Maine, and plans to shut down both in March due to lower fossil fuel prices that have weakened demand for biomass energy. The announcement of the impending closings of Covanta’s Jonesboro and West Enfield plants is a huge blow to the logging industry in Maine, which has sold woody biomass waste from logging operations to the plants for years. With the announcement by Covanta, only four large biomass electricity plants, all owned by ReEnergy LLC, will remain in operation in the state. “This announcement should serve as a wake up call to both the LePage administration and Maine legislators about the dangers of inaction when it comes to formulating energy policies that will benefit our state’s economy, environment, and future,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran, said. “This is a perfect example of an area where common sense needs to be applied to policy to consider the true cost of our energy, not just the price per kilowatt hour.” The shutdown of the two Covanta plants will have an immediate and direct effect on a large percentage of Maine loggers. Job losses as a result of the closures will be devastating for some logging companies and the effects will be worse coming...

Northeast Pellets decreases production to avoid closure

Press release, Northeast Pellets Dec. 28 2015 Northeast Pellets Decreases Production To Avoid Closure ASHLAND, ME – Northeast Pellets, LLC of Ashland, Maine has announced it will be decreasing pellet production effective immediately due to unseasonably warm weather and a shift in business climate.  “It is with a sad heart this Holiday Season, that I announce an indefinite curtailment of our operations effective immediately,” said Matthew Bell, President of Northeast Pellets, LLC.  “I was optimistic that we could endure the impact of low oil pricing, warmer than expected weather and an extremely competitive Canadian exchange rate.” Bell said that retail bag sales have been down due to the unseasonably warm weather; however, the real blow to his business came when one of the mill’s largest local customers announced it would begin sourcing their bulk pellets from a Canadian supplier to fuel boilers for a large northern University account, which equates to about 15% of the mill’s annual production volume.  This outsourcing left the mill owner with little to no option, but to reduce his operations to avoid a complete closure. “Since the beginning of our pellet operations, we have invested great time and effort as well as financial resources to promote the conversion of the region’s energy source to wood pellet fuel,” said Bell.  “We partnered with many interests in the area to create this transition and aid local businesses, but now find our operations at risk in this difficult market.” Over the past 12-16 months, Bell said they have invested nearly half a million dollars into increasing the mill’s capacity and efficiency, as well as their bulk storage...

A Working Forest, not a National Monument or Park, will help Maine loggers

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Maine Sunday Telegram Dec. 27 By Dana Doran The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine is deeply concerned that the campaign to create a national park in northern Maine has changed course a bit in the last few months and there is now an effort underway to convince President Obama to designate a national monument there rather than a national park. After careful consideration, the PLC has decided it is time to voice its opposition to this. Over the past few years, Elliotsville Plantation Inc. (EPI), has made clear a desire to donate a portion of its land in the Katahdin Region of Maine to the federal government for the purpose of establishing a national park and a national recreation area, which would require an act of Congress. We understand the President of EPI’s board, Mr. Lucas St. Clair, has been in discussions with the Department of the Interior to bypass Congress to seek a national monument designation for the land as an avenue that would eventually accomplish their ultimate goal. This concerns us and the loggers we represent for a number of reasons. The PLC is a trade association that represents logging contractors in Maine. Our membership employs nearly 2,500 people and is responsible for about 75% of Maine’s annual timber harvest. As such, we must weigh all the ramifications of a national monument designation on the logging industry – an industry which has a long and proud tradition throughout Maine as well as the region in question. We are extremely concerned that unilateral action to designate a national monument...

-Truck weight limit for I-95 Maine raised permanently

In November 2011, Senator Susan Collins, then Ranking Member on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, included a 20-year pilot program in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 appropriations bill that raised the federal truck weight limits on Maine’s Interstate highways from 80,000 lbs. to 100,000 lbs. through 2031. Under the previous law, trucks weighing as much as 100,000 lbs. were only permitted to travel on Interstate 95 from the border of Maine with New Hampshire, to Augusta, Maine.  From there, trucks weighing more than 80,000 lbs. were forced off Interstate 95, which proceeds north to Houlton, a distance of over 200 miles driving through more than 270 intersections, 30 traffic lights, 86 crosswalks, and nine school crossings. As a result, these heavy trucks were forced onto smaller, secondary roads that pass through our local downtowns and communities. Raising the federal weight limit in Maine has prevented heavy trucks traveling on local roads from putting Maine citizens and motorists needlessly at risk. Senator Collins, who is now Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, successfully included a provision in the transportation division of the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill that makes the truck weight limit provision permanent law. This bill has now been signed into...

-Public Lands surplus timber harvest revenue could support logger education, progress made on bidding requirements for public land harvests

Public Lands surplus timber harvest revenue could support logger education, progress made on bidding requirements for public land harvests The special Public Lands Commission organized by the legislature to consider Governor Paul LePage’s plan to fund energy upgrades for low-income Mainers with revenue from increased timber harvesting on public land voted Nov. 30 to reject the Governor’s demands, but the lengthy process has yielded two significant victories for the PLC and for loggers in Maine. The first of these was a decision to recommend to the Legislature that some surplus Public Lands funds be diverted to support education programs for future loggers. That decision could lead to financial support for equipment purchases for high school logger training programs and potentially benefit the new community college Mechanized Logging Operations Training Program as well. The decision followed a ruling by Maine’s Attorney General that Public Lands timber harvest revenues could be used to support education. The second win for the PLC concerned bidding eligibility for Public Lands timber harvests. Previously the process was open to land managers, mills, and others who would then generally subcontract the work out. The Commission has recommended requirements now stipulate that bids be limited to professional logging contractors, ensuring harvests are conducted professionally and lowering overall costs.  The Commission has directed the Bureau of Public Lands to work with the PLC to revise these eligibility requirements. The Public Lands Commission staff will finalize the recommendations and Commission members have until December 5 to confirm their initial vote in favor of those recommendations, cast at the end of the meeting. Those recommendations will then go to the...

-As We See It-January 2015-Healthy Forests, Healthy Families and Healthy Communities

As We See It: Healthy Forests, Healthy Families and Healthy Communities When the general public hears the term “forest products industry” most folks immediately think of the manufacturers, sawmills, and corporate landowners. When the folks at F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co. of Columbia Falls, Montana hear the term forest products industry, we envision a three leg stool with each leg carrying an equal but different role, opportunity, and set of challenges.  The three legs of that stool in our mind are the forest landowner, the logging-trucking infrastructure and the manufacturing facilities. We all want the goal of healthy forests because it is where we live, raise our families, recreate, as well as make our living.  We need all three legs of this stool to have the opportunity to be financially and operationally healthy to achieve those goals. F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber is a 103 year old family company that owns forest lands, a sawmill, a wood-fired power plant, and is a logging contractor.  We are very fortunate to have a unique perspective, because we get to experience all three of the legs! The importance of the relationships between those three legs is critical to Stoltze and over the years, we have developed a working philosophy that centers on mutual respect of the three primary components of this industry. As land managers and contractors, we are given a simple, but powerful directive from the Stoltze Family “Treat the land as if it were your own”.  In those simple words lies the opportunity for pride in ownership and the responsibility of accountability for our actions. Fostering the relationship between...