Monday, August 16, 2010

Open Forum on Taxpayer Subsidies for Burning Black Liquor

This Sunday there was article in the Mobile (Alabama) Press-Register that continued to illuminate the real world implications of the confusing and troubling story of the paper industry's second big windfall in the past year from taxpayers for continuing to burning its black liquor waste. (Article from Mobile also has a good summary of how we got here, in addition to the interest new case studies)

The conservation community, acting in defense of taxpayers, recycled pulp and paper manufacturers plus their mill employees, and common sense, strongly disagrees with the IRS's recent overruling of the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) determination that black liquor does NOT qualify for this second tax incentive, the Cellulosic Biofuel Producer Tax Credit. As the Clear Air Act authorizes EPA to handle registration of biofuel producers and to determine if different fuels should qualify, 27 leading conservation groups sent a letter to the EPA late in 2009, and received correspondence in return clarifying the issue. From the EPA's correspondence.....
"The $1.01 cellulosic biofuel producer credit is a tax credit put in place by the 2008 Farm Bill and administered by the Internal Revenue Service. The act's language requires that among other things, in order to qualify as cellulosic biofuel, the fuel must meet "the registration requirements for fuels and fuel additives established by the Environmental Protection Agency under section 211 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C 7545)." These registration requirements are applicable only to motor vehicle gasoline, motor vehicle diesel fuel, and additives for these fuels. Our understanding of black liquor is that it is a byproduct of the paper milling process with the consistency of molasses."
Its clear from the people who know, black liquor doesn't meet registration requirement for a "cellulosic biofuel producer" under the Code.

The article from Mobile helps us start to get more real world information on how each pulp producer will handle the surprise ruling by the IRS, and the new opportunity to cash in on burning their black liquor.

If you are familiar with this issue, you know that some companies will have plenty to keep their accountants busy, because they claimed .50/gallon for all of 2009 already. Some got started adding diesel fuel to the mix late, so they have early 2009 black liquor burning they can claim the 1.01/gallon tax credit outright for that volume. Without the diesel mix, they couldn't fit through the tax loophole. As the article shows, some of the companies, like International Paper, whose consultants had the impressive imagination to find and negotiate their way through this loophole, got a head start and got a cool $2 billion, won't be returning the cash to take advantage of this tax

The Joint Committee on Taxation is currently studying how much this new twist will cost taxpayers, and to be accurate, they would have to take each company's considerations into account. For example, they can not say this will cost taxpayers $2 billion dollars additional for IP, since it is valued at twice as much a gallon for 2009

However, the leadership of the US Senate Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus and Senator Charles Grassley, would be acting irrationally and irresponsibly not to close this loophole, and to repeat the mistake they made in 2009 by sitting on their hands as the US Treasury bled $8 billion dollars.

What do you think? Post your comments below in this open forum on the black liquor issue.

Friday, August 06, 2010 Names the Most Anti-Environmental Consulting Firms

The online publication,, has published an interesting article that reveals that companies that work cooperatively with NGOs to identify environmental and social risks in their supply chain are more successful than companies that do not.
From the article:
Major office-supply retailers move a lot of paper and have had to deal deliberately with challenges by RAN [Rainforest Action Network] and other NGOs over their sourcing practices. OfficeMax Inc, on one hand, has resisted RAN's demands about its foresting practices in Canada and ignored activist protests at its stores, though the Naperville, Ill., company has initiated its own sustainability efforts.
But after displaying similar resistance, archrival Staples largely aceded to work with NGOs nearly a decade ago. And, sure enough, Staples ranked No. 20 last year on Newsweek magazine's environmental ranking of America's 500 largest corporations, while OfficeMax didn't show up.
They also expose the names of some of the most anti-justice and anti-environmental corporate consulting firms who shake down corporate clients by selling them advice on how to fight back against the scientific evidence and consumer outrage brought to their stores by NGOs, through greenwashing, stonewalling, and sowing confusion among the public. Here's a chart from their article:

(click on image to see full view)

Read the full article at

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Rainforest Action Network Gets New Executive Director, Its First Woman Leader

Rainforest Action Network (RAN), a member of Environmental Paper Network's Steering Committee and one of the nation’s leading environmental action organizations, has named Rebecca Tarbotton as its executive director. As the first woman to head the organization, Tarbotton joins an exclusive club of women leaders in the environmental sector. Among its multifaceted and effective work, RAN has been a leader in movement to protect old-growth forests from being turned in disposable paper products. They are currently aggressively challenging pulp and paper companies in Indonesia that are converting carbon-rich peatlands and rainforests to plantations and driving species such as the Sumatran tiger and the orangutan to extinction.

“From West Virginia communities resisting mountaintop removal mining to Indigenous groups in Sumatra trying to keep their rainforests standing, people around the globe are seeing the impacts of unchecked corporate power on their environment,” said Tarbotton. “For the past 25 years, RAN has convinced some of America’s largest corporations to value people not just profits. I’m honored to continue this legacy of fearless action as we work to protect rainforests, keep fossil fuels in the ground, and stop climate change.”.

For more, including a video message from RAN's new Executive Director, visit