Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

April 8, 2013

Black liquor involves more than environment

In Mathew Bieniek’s April 3 article titled “Luke’s ‘black liquor’ legislation flounders” (Page 1A) he gives a one-sided view of the issue that is before the Maryland General Assembly. There are many other elements to the issue than the opinion of some environmental groups.

 Black liquor is a byproduct of the paper making process that is used for fuel to generate electricity. It is a reliable base-load renewable energy source that is carbon neutral when managed properly and has been a part of the Maryland Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) since 2004 when enacted.

The legislation as amended referred to in the article did provide for a five-year period before the affect could impact the Luke Mill. From that point forward they would then be at the mercy of the legislature.

This adjustment did not satisfy the industry as revealed by their refusal to support the amended legislation, which is also opposed by the local delegation.

We can understand businesses not wanting to rely on the lack of legislative action in planning their future. We also understand that employees take no solace in being told that they are not losing their jobs today but they may go away in five years.

The arguments for removing black liquor from being considered a renewable energy source that we heard from the proponents of the legislation were all tilted toward benefiting wind power.

It is true that 91 percent of the certificates ended up out of state as quoted by the campaign director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

What wasn’t pointed out was the fact that 76 percent of the black liquor credits went to out of state companies while 99.7 percent of the wind power credits went to out of state companies with the majority being in Illinois and Indiana.

We in organized labor are not opposed to promoting and expanding wind power as a source of energy.

We do, however, believe there needs to be a balanced approach to promoting renewable energy where all sources are considered and we are not picking winners and losers in the marketplace.

Labor opposed the so-called black liquor legislation from the perspective of the effect it would have on our jobs in the industry and our jobs connected to the industry.

The Luke paper mill employs over 900 employees and affects over 3,500 employees when you consider the jobs directly and indirectly associated with the mill. The vast majority are high-paying, family-raising, middle class income jobs.

As you can imagine, the Luke paper mill has a major economic impact in Allegany County and our surrounding communities.

The industry is one of the few manufacturing industries remaining in this country and is in a very competitive global market. We do not want to see it go by the way of Kelly-Springfield, Celanese or Pittsburgh Plate Glass.

Larry Kasecamp, vice president

Western Maryland Central Labor Council AFL-CIO

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