Thursday, November 5, 2009

SPI caught not reporting hazardous air emissions again

By Kyle Haines, THP Tracking Center
November 5, 2009

Yesterday (Nov 4th), SPI was caught not reporting a potentially life threatening release of hazardous materials to authorities right away. A truck driver hooked up the wrong tank at the Quincy co-generation plant and mixed 20-30 gallons of sodium hypochlorite, essentially bleach, with 200 gallons of hydrochloric acid, which caused a chemical reaction that gave off 30 pounds of chlorine gas and an undetermined amount of liquid sodium monoxide. Four workers were injured by the incident and according to the Plumas County News reporter authorities did not know of the hazardous release until people started showing up at the emergency room.

The fact that such an incident could occur at a company that owns over 21 facilities in 2 states and employs 4,400 people is not so unusual, but the pattern of late reporting and/or cover ups is. In 2004, California Attorney General Jerry Brown sued alleging that SPI’s sawmills and wood-fired boilers in Lincoln and Quincy were egregious air polluters. “On hundreds of days … SPI polluted the air with smog-forming oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon monoxide, and particulate matter far in excess of permit limits,”. As restitution, in 2007, Sierra Pacific agreed to pay the state $8.5 million in penalties and attorney fees and to plow millions more into upgrading its pollution-control equipment.

Putting the public at risk seems to be a re-occuring problem with SPI. The Quincy incident happened right next to an elementary school and residential area. Chlorine is one of the most dangerous industrial chemicals known to man which can kill all lifeforms within a half mile in just a matter of minutes from release. State law requires immediate notification and reporting to authorities, much faster than the hour long delay before SPI admitted a release had occurred.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Wally Herger/SPI Dog & Pony Show

By Kyle Haines, THP Tracking Center
May 21, 2009

Quincy, CA SPI Log Deck 2009

Since early 2009, Sierra Pacific Industries has become vocal in local newspapers and radio outlets blaming environmentalists for work reductions and closures at Northern California mills. They claim over 400 million board feet of timber is currently tied up in litigation and appeals. They also cite a lack of availability of logs on Forest Service lands as being the chief reason for closing a small log mill operation in Quincy, CA. And, on the heels of a large wildfire season last year across the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, they claim widespread logging would have stopped the fires.

To reinforce these claims, Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay, CA), Congressman Wally Herger (R-Chico, CA) and Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) stepped forward and organized a dog and pony show in Quincy, CA to blame environmentalists. McClintock told the crowd of 100 people "I want the people of Quincy and the surrounding areas to know that the current situation is simply not acceptable" and requires the "full attention of the national government". Congressman Rob Bishop claimed "Suing timber sales has become a cottage industry" and Rep Wally Herger promised to bring the issues before the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee in Washington, DC, and get a congressional hearing organized.

Despite all the song and dance, it is the market which is the real driver of mill closures and log supply. According to the most recent estimates from the Western Wood Products Association, "The poor economy and housing market are the chief reasons for the remarkable decline in lumber demand". WWPA predicts U.S. lumber demand will slide this year to just 28.9 billion board feet, down almost 30 percent from 2008 totals. Since reaching an all-time high of 64.3 billion board feet in 2005, U.S. demand for lumber has dropped by more than 55 percent - the steepest decline in the history of the industry.