Green toilet paper plant closed due to lack of stimulus funds 

Freshwater Tissue would have created nearly 3,000 green jobs for economically devastated Northern California

by Impact Wire Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Humboldt County, CA- Freshwater Tissue, California’s last pulp mill and the only chlorine-free/dioxin-free mill in the United States plans to permanently close. The current owners of the Samoa, CA pulp mill were unable to obtain federal stimulus funds to convert the Samoa mill into an integrated tissue plant. The plant would have served as an exemplary model of responsible and environmentally sound American manufacturing.

In spite of the Samoa mill’s status as the only chlorine-free/dioxin-free pulp mill in the United States, the mill has struggled since the mid 1990’s to compete with foreign competition. When the new owners acquired the Samoa mill in February of 2009, their vision was to make the mill competitive by manufacturing consumer-ready, eco-friendly, chlorine-free toilet tissue. The vision included consuming by-products of the Redwood forest, such as tanoak trees, which are a valueless, disease-stricken hardwood tree species that at present is an extreme fire hazard to the Redwood region. The company’s vision had broad support from environmental advocacy groups, educators, foresters, community leaders and labor unions. Unfortunately, the banking industry collapsed, and both federal and state lawmakers, including Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA), were unable to help fund a shovel ready, job creating, and renewable stimulus project. As a result, 425 direct and 2,500 indirect green jobs have been lost permanently for California’s North Coast region.

Rick Hind, Legislative Director of Greenpeace said of the closure, “It’s outrageous that the federal government, which just offered $55 million for experimental ‘clean coal’ technologies, could not find a penny for a proven chlorine-free pulp mill and the green jobs it would support.”

Labor union leaders have also expressed their profound disappointment. Greg Pallesen, Vice President of The Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers remarked that, “The closure of the Samoa, California mill is a prime example of failed U.S. financial and trade policies, which continue to be the main cause of massive job losses in the U.S. At the same time as the “green” Samoa manufacturing site is closed forever, large polluting mills in China and elsewhere are being brought online in order to supply U.S. consumers. The end result destroys working families here at home while increasing pollution worldwide. Shame on our politicians who do nothing but talk about “green” job creation. This facility is closed forever, and the families and communities in Northern California will suffer for years to come.”

Gregg Gold, Sierra Chapter President, spoke on behalf of the North Group and Redwood chapters representing over 10,000 members. “Of local importance is the fact that the Samoa mill would have provided a viable market for Tanoak trees, which the timber industry treats as an undesirable weed. At present, Tanoak trees are eradicated by spraying them with chemicals to halt their growth or kill them. This process tends to make Tanoak quite flammable, which endangers the entire forest including the Redwoods where Tanoak is most prevalent. In sum, we believe Mr. Simpson’s vision had the potential to transform an entire industry, and are sorry to see his vision disappear.”

“I left Samoa in 1996 after eliminating the use of chlorine at the pulp mill,” said Bob Simpson, President of Freshwater Tissue Company. “I returned to Samoa in 2009 with a vision of converting the Nation’s only chlorine-free pulp mill into an integrated tissue mill, and providing sustainable jobs for a green economy. In a normal economic climate, such a plant would have easily found funding by green tech investors. The current financial crisis made this nearly impossible so we turned to President Obama’s green stimulus plan for support. We had hoped that our Federal and State lawmakers would help us obtain Federal stimulus funding which was designed precisely for green manufacturing projects that are sustainable and create living-wage American jobs. I am extremely disappointed and saddened by the lack of support we received from our Congressional representatives. Humboldt County needed these jobs and America needed this green technology.”

For more information, photos of the mill, or to schedule an interview with Bob Simpson, please contact Dale Didion at 202-544-5430 or ddidion@didiongroup.com . www.freshwaterpulp.com

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