In a previous article, I said the use of rail ties versus logging residual material for the Atlantic Pacific Corporation (APC) was about profits.
I want to clarify that I am not against a company making a profit but I think it is important to look at all facets of an operation to see how profit margins are arrived at and the long-term impacts on the community.
What is the rush?
I think we need a detailed comparison of the pros and cons of using railroad ties versus using local logging residues.
This comparison must include the number of local jobs gained or lost resulting from both approaches as well as the impact on our environment.
With the anticipated short fall of lumber production and mill waste, I was optimistic that the logging residue would become competitive and make up for any losses in mill waste.
This is why I am disappointed with the decision to use creosoted rail road ties instead without an explanation of why APC is going that route.
My assumption is the use of rail ties is more profitable because the cost of trucking logging residue is more expensive than the rail transportation of rail ties.
Unfortunately, that means a loss of local trucking jobs.
It also means a greater green house gas production for the town and surrounding community. i.e. the logging waste will still be burned and we will also be importing and burning rail ties.
My other assumption is that the processing (chipping, drying and grinding) would have similar costs using either fibre source but with more health risks from the creosoted ties.
Retaining jobs and protecting the environment takes planning and long-term commitments. A power plant in Charlottetown PEI provides a good model to follow.
This private biomass heat and electrical power plant was established in the 1980’s using mill waste from a local lumber mill.
The high cost of importing oil forced the town to install 17 kilometres of pipes to deliver the heat from the power plant to businesses and homes.
Since the mill closed in 2007, the small company has been meeting the fibre needs by chipping a variety of industry wood waste.
In 2008 when there was a reduction in the lumber production and reduced mill waste in the Interior of B.C. the wood fibre was supplemented by processing the logging cull piles. This was not as profitable for the companies but they wanted to maintain production and fulfill their commitments to customers and they did get some experience and cost information associated with this approach.
Unfortunately, millions of heat units have been wasted by the APC plant since it was constructed and millions more have been lost by burning cull piles. That translates into a lot of heating fuel that could have been saved for future generations.
Hopefully the promises of infrastructure investments by the new Liberal federal government will translate into some biomass plants like the one in Charlottetown.
There are a number of rural communities throughout the province who could benefit from this investment.
Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.