AUGUSTA – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine issued a statement of support today for the workers and communities affected by the announcement that Madison Paper Industries (MPI) will shut down by May, eliminating more than 200 mill worker’s jobs and affecting hundreds of loggers throughout Maine.
The PLC also renewed its call to the LePage administration and state legislators to take action to sustain the Maine logging industry before it is too late.
MPI announced Monday it will close the supercalendered paper mill, laying off approximately 214 employees. The company said some employees will stay on past May to maintain buildings and operate a 27-megawatt hydropower generation facility that the company plans to sell.
“Maine’s forest products industry needs direct action by the state’s elected officials if it is to survive,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran, said. “For Maine loggers, the closure of Madison Paper means the loss of the last major buyer of spruce-fir pulp in the state. Now is the time for our elected officials to support legislation to help loggers and the industry.”
Maine Governor Paul LePage and the Maine Legislature are currently discussing two bills that would provide relief to Maine’s embattled logging industry, without which the forest products industry cannot function.
The first is 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. The bill is designed to provide relief to industries including professional loggers by exempting them from sales tax on fuel – including off-road diesel – used in commercial wood harvesting. The bill is expected to go to a floor vote as early as this week.
The second is a bill now being drafted to support the state’s faltering biomass electric industry, which is suffering from low-priced competition from natural gas and from expiring renewable energy credit agreements with neighboring states. The industry has seen two biomass plants owned by Covanta Energy close this year, causing job losses and retractions for logging companies in the northern half of Maine.
The Madison Paper announcement is only the latest bad news for the forest products industry in Maine affecting loggers.
“While this latest news is another challenge for Maine’s logging industry, the PLC and loggers across the state will do all we can to help and to make the best of a tough situation,” Doran said. “Workers at the affected mill have our support and sympathy, and we stand with them and our business partners in the pulp and paper industry.”
Maine’s loggers are a vital part of the state’s forest products sector, which is worth an estimated $8 billion annually.
The PLC of Maine was formed in 1995 to give independent logging contractors and sole proprietors a voice in a rapidly changing forest industry. A Board of Directors made up entirely of loggers makes the PLC the only logging organization in Maine run by loggers for loggers. The mission of the PLC is to promote logging as a profession, advocate for logging professionals, cultivate responsible forest management, and sustain a strong forest products industry. PLC members are responsible for 75 percent of the timber that is harvested from Maine’s forests annually. Its member companies employ nearly 2,500 workers.
Learn more about the PLC at www.maineloggers.com.