Manufacturing Savvy

Green News I Don't Like to Report

Freshwater Tissue, based in Samoa, Calif., and this state's last pulp mill will shut its doors. What does this have to with green manufacturing? Well the plant is the only chlorine-free/dioxin-free mill in the U.S.

And why is it closing? The mill has been struggling since 1990, according to the company. But they had hoped to secure stimulus funds in order to convert the Samoa mill into an integrated tissue plant. The plant would have "served as an exemplary model of responsible and environmentally sound American manufacturing," the company proclaimed.

Here is the story of this mill. When the new owners acquired the Samoa mill in February of 2009, their vision was to make the mill competitive by manufacturing consumer-ready, eco-friendly, chlorine-free toilet tissue. The vision included consuming by-products of the Redwood forest, such as tanoak trees, which are a valueless, disease-stricken hardwood tree species that at present is an extreme fire hazard to the Redwood region.

The said they had support from environmental advocacy groups, educators, foresters, community leaders and labor unions. But then came the crash of the banking industry and even federal and state lawmakers, including Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA), were unable to help fund a shovel ready, job creating, and renewable stimulus project.

As a result, 425 direct and 2,500 indirect green jobs have been lost permanently for California`s North Coast region.

Naturally Greenpeace was furious. "It`s outrageous that the federal government, which just offered $55 million for experimental `clean coal` technologies, could not find a penny for a proven chlorine-free pulp mill and the green jobs it would support," said Rick Hind, Legislative Director of Greenpeace.

Unions were equally dismayed. "The closure of the Samoa, California mill is a prime example of failed U.S. financial and trade policies, which continue to be the main cause of massive job losses in the U.S. At the same time as the "green" Samoa manufacturing site is closed forever, large polluting mills in China and elsewhere are being brought online in order to supply U.S. consumers. The end result destroys working families here at home while increasing pollution worldwide. Shame on our politicians who do nothing but talk about "green" job creation. This facility is closed forever, and the families and communities in
Northern California will suffer for years to come," said Greg Pallesen, Vice President of The Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers.

And Sierra Chapter President, Gregg Gold, had a few words of his own. Speaking on behalf of the North Group and Redwood chapters representing over 10,000 members he said that the Samoa mill would have provided a viable market for Tanoak trees, which the timber industry treats as an undesirable weed. At present, Tanoak trees are eradicated by spraying them with chemicals to halt their growth or ill them. This process tends to make Tanoak quite flammable, which endangers the entire forest including the Redwoods where Tanoak is most prevalent."

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