Burn chamber of a pellet stove, a common winter heating method in northern B.C. Local users have had difficulty buying pellets this winter because of increased export demand from Japan. (Burns Lake Lakes District News)

B.C. logging costs can’t be increased now, forest industry says

Wood pellets in demand, but waste recovery isn’t economic

With continued steep border tariffs from the U.S. and new trade threats in Asia, B.C.’s Interior forest industry is grappling with new regulations on forest waste recovery that it says it can’t afford.

The NDP government moved ahead with its promised overhaul of Interior logging regulations at the start of the year, implementing what the forests ministry calls “alternative scaling methods to support cost-effective removal of logs designed to become a secondary product, such as pulp and paper, pellets and energy.”

As with new logging rules on the B.C. coast that have since been fine-tuned, the industry says its initial take on the Interior system is that it is not cost-effective.

It’s a “fundamental economic problem” for an industry that is already struggling with North America’s highest log costs, said Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries.

“If you’re talking about the coast, the harvest costs before stumpage are north of $100 a cubic metre,” Yurkovich said in an interview with Black Press. “You bring it out and you can get $40 or $50 for it. Companies cannot lose that quantum on a sustained basis and expect to continue to be companies.

“In the Interior, the costs are a little lower. I would say on average [harvest costs are] about $70 a cubic metre in the Interior. But still, when you bring that waste out you’re getting about $30 for it.”

The province did a consultation tour with the Interior industry on the issue last summer, promising a “what we heard” report would be released by the end of 2019. But with the ministry grappling with an overhaul of waste wood zones on the coast, where most logging stopped due to stumpage costs, waste regulations and a long strike by the United Steelworkers against Western Forest Products, the report and further regulation have been delayed indefinitely.

Already in force in the B.C. Interior is a new regulation that adds additional penalties for late reporting of wood waste. That’s another burden for an industry on its knees, says B.C. Liberal forest critic John Rustad.

“There’s a tremendous amount of additional reporting required for companies, in tabulating all the information and putting it into government,” Rustad said. “It was always there, but the time frame and stringency in terms of information is what has changed here.”

Rustad says everyone agrees that B.C. logging leaves too much usable wood on the ground, beyond what foresters say is necessary.

“Part of that is utilization standards were lax when we were trying to clear out as much of the pine beetle as they could,” Rustad said. “The bottom line is we shouldn’t be leaving the waste behind in the woods. We should be utilizing the whole log to the best of our ability, keeping in mind you have to leave some behind for the critters, the biodiversity on the landscape.”

Wood pellets, which can use almost any waste to manufacture, are in high demand in Japan, where most nuclear plants are still idle after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. Japanese buyers have increased their purchases of pellets to the point where they have cut off retail sales and local users can’t keep their pellet stoves running in a cold winter.

RELATED: Northern B.C. wood pellet shortage forces rationing

RELATED: B.C. eases wood waste, log export rules on coast

Japan has long been a strong export market for B.C. lumber, but that too is under threat. A large new wood pellet export terminal recently opened in Mississippi, as B.C.-based foreign companies have expanded into the southern U.S.

And a new report by the Canada West Foundation says a tentative trade deal between Japan and the U.S. effectively ends Canada’s advantage against its giant, and often hostile, southern neighbour.

“Canada’s advantage of the U.S. in Japan from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership lasted a whole 13 months,” the report says. “The U.S. will eventually expand its partial agreement with Japan and further erode one of the most significant advantages that the CPTPP gives Canada in Japan – tariff and non-tariff advantages over American exporters.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fernie Mountain Film Festival coming to the big screen

Amateur and professional films about all things mountain related will screen at this year’s festival

District of Elkford approves bylaw authorizing $8.3 million loan

The money will be used for repaving roads in the Abruzzi Heights and Balmer Knoll subdivisions

Community gathers to grieve, learn at suicide information night

The Elk Valley Suicide Task Force hosted the first ever suicide information evening this week

Castle Project to expand Teck Coal operations

The Castle Project would be an expansion at Teck’s Fording River Operations

Community Cash Awards make their return to the Elk Valley

The program supports the development of healthy and diverse communities

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

One dead in multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on northern B.C. highway

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

B.C. teacher gets 15-year ban after lying about having sex with just-graduated student

Teacher had been dishonest with the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

Pipeline talks got B.C. railway open, can work again: Horgan

Premier says protest excesses damage Wet’suwet’en case

Exclusive: Pamela Anderson talks plans for waterfront Ladysmith property after 12-day marriage

Anderson says she can pay her own bills. Peters denies making comments suggesting she can’t

Burger King breaks the mould with new advertising campaign

The company is known for irreverent ad campaigns

Most Read