USW wants paper mill “black liquor” to remain in Maryland's biofuels list

(SeeNews) - Mar 6, 2013 - The United Steelworkers Union (USW) is urging the Maryland government to refuse proposed legislation that is to exclude the “black liquor” byproduct of paper making operations as a biofuel under state rules.

The plea of USW, which represents workers from the metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil, energy, government and service sectors, refers to Maryland House Bill 1102 and Senate Bill 684. According to the USW, the proposed changes to regulations would threaten paper sector jobs and result in the use of more carbon-intensive fuels.

Greg Harvey, who is working at the NewPage paper mill in Luke, explains that at present mills receive renewable-energy credits for using that residual product as fuel. In turn they sell these credits to local utilities who are obliged to source a portion of their power from renewables. If these bills pass the use of carbon-neutral biofuel such a the black liquor would become less attractive than coal. “If the fuel credit is taken away, it will change the economics of fuel use at our mill,” Harvey claims.

Black liquor includes bark and unused wood chips leftover from the pulping process. According to the USW, that biomass fuel is carbon-neutral as the trees that are planted for every tree going to the mill absorb more carbon dioxide than the mill emits using that biofuel.

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