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

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Comic Con returns to Victoria with star-studded guest list

2020 Capital City Comic Con to host cosplay stars and at least 9,500 attendees

Vikes coach joining Team Canada at Pan Am Cross Country Cup

Two-time Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff named to coaching staff

The Music of Cream touring band more than a tribute act

Ginger Baker’s son Kofi, Clapton’s nephew Will joined by rock stalwarts for 50th anniversary tour

VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award

Leonard scored 30 points and hit eight 3-pointers to lead Team LeBron to a 157-155 victory

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

B.C. man released from quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Because Spencer Fehrenbacher has American citizenship, he was evacuated by the U.S.

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

Most Read