Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mainstream Media Finally Covers Black Liquor Loophole and Taxpayer Rip Off

For more than a year the Environmental Paper Network has been working to dig into the facts, the politics, and the cost of what is the year's biggest untold stories of taxpayer rip-off and an important lesson for lawmakers in unintended consequences that should inform current debates about energy subsidies and the pitfalls of corporate welfare in general.  We've been telling the world this story, and looking and encouraging the mainstream media to catch up.

Today, Washington Post journalist, Steven Mufson, has a dead-on piece entitled, "Paper industry pushed further into the black by ‘black liquor’ tax credits."

The Washington Post piece introduces the issue by saying,

The heart of the issue is the tax treatment of a substance called “black liquor,” a byproduct of the wood-pulping process at paper mills. The companies have burned black liquor to generate power since the 1930s. 
It was not the intent of Congress to reward that behavior, but the industry and its accountants persuaded the Internal Revenue Service to allow black liquor to count as an alternative fuel in 2009. Under that program, the paper industry received more federal money than almost any industry outside the auto sector.
Wow.

The spokesman for the American Forest & Paper Association, Chuck Fuqua, says in the piece, “Companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to use the credits if it is advantageous for them,”

But, the thing is, they didn't just innocently, "use the credits if..."  It was consultants for a paper company that first found the loophole.  Then they pushed.  They lobbied.  They persuaded Senate allies to weigh and protect their bailout.  They cried they were being, "singled out" if the loophole was closed.  Those that know the facts of the case also know how dubious and obscure the IRS memos were that surprised everyone and trumped the EPA's unequivocal and contrary interpretation and sealed the deal for them to receive millions dollars more free money this year.

Some of us might find Mr. Fuqua's spin slightly hard to swallow.  It doesn't help that many of us remember Chuck Fuqua from his tour in the Bush Administration's Commerce Department and as one of the stars of a December 2007 Congressional Committee Report titled, Political Interference with Climate Change Science Under the Bush Administration.

But this is a serious issue that matters for people's pocketbooks and our environment right now.  That's why we've been working so hard to tell this story for so long.  It has already cost taxpayers billions and billions of dollars, padding corporate profits while achieving no public benefit.  It caused waste and overproduction of virgin tree fiber paper by companies seeking to cash in on free government money tied to volume, even when demand for the product is dropping.  It created an unfair environment for businesses to compete in a free market, subsidizing virgin tree fiber production while doing nothing whatsoever to support recycled paper manufacturing.  This risked closures and job loss at recycled mills, and disruptions through the whole recycling system, a major employer, and key to our national security and climate change management.

This story needed to be told, and we hope you will read the full article and share your comments below.

Monday, April 25, 2011

50 Organizations Declare Solidarity with Italian NGO, Terra! After Conviction

More than 50 environmental organizations - European, international and Indonesian - sign statement in support of the NGO Terra!, targeted by the Italian paper company Cartiere Pigna.

Last January, the environmental organization Terra! was convicted by an Italian court for exposing links between the Italian paper manufacturer Cartiere Pigna and the deforestation of Indonesian rainforests carried out by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). The destruction of Indonesian rainforests has become one of the major causes of greenhouse gas emissions globally and is threatening the continued existence of Sumatran tigers, rhinos and elephants, among many other species. APP has also been implicated in numerous human rights abuses and corruption. Today, on Earth Day, more than 50 NGOs declare their solidarity with Terra! in a joint statement. Terra! is a Steering Group member of the European Environmental Paper Network.

Instead of admitting the truth and demonstrating corporate accountability and cleaning up its production, Cartiere Pigna sought charges against Terra! in a suit for damages to its corporate reputation. In court Terra! proved both that Pigna is a customer of APP, submitting the details of trade invoices - and that Pigna's products contain fibres coming from tropical deforestation (mixed tropical hardwood) and from plantations related to deforestation (acacia), according to paper fibre tests carried out by the independent fibre testing company IPS Testing. Despite this, Terra! was convicted for damaging Pigna's brand name, and was sentenced to pay EUR 20,000 plus expenses, thereby putting the association at risk of closure.

Terra! will of course appeal. Meanwhile it has received solidarity from more than 50 environmental groups: "The law should prosecute those companies involved in environmental crimes against the Indonesian rainforests and against the global climate, instead of convicting those pointing out the problem”, says the statement. “This is a blatant abuse of the right to free speech and an attempt to prevent environmental campaigning, and we express our full solidarity with Terra!"

Among the signatures are groups such as Greenpeace International, Friends of the Earth International, Rainforest Action Network, Forest Ethics and many others.

"Campaigns against large corporations can be risky - especially for smaller NGOs this can be associated with substantial financial risks”, says Daniel Hausknost, coordinator of the European Environmental Paper Network (EEPN), an umbrella organization representing 53 environmental organizations across Europe, which promoted the call for solidarity for Terra! “The Terra! activists have done a great job and now they need our support. We regard Pigna's attack on Terra! to be an attack on all of us working for a sustainable environment. The environmental movement must continue to refuse any gagging orders by the industry", he concluded.

The solidarity statement has been signed by: Aktivis Sosial, ARA, Both Ends, CAPPA, Chlorine Free Products Association, Climate for Ideas, Dogwood Alliance, FERN, Euroepan Enviromental Paper Network, Forest Peoples Programme, ForestEthics, Forum Environment and Development, Forum ├ľkologie & Papier, Friends of the Earth Europe, Friends of the Earth International, Friends of the Siberian Forests, GLOBAL 2000/Friends of the Earth Austria, Green Press Initiative, Greenpace International, Initiative 2000 plus, Jaringan Kerja Pemetaan Partisipatif (JKPP), Kabut Foundation, Kaliptra Sumatera, Legambiente, Les Amis de la Terre, Luonto Liitto, , Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), New York Climate Action Group, Ole Siosiomaga Society, Orangutan Information Centre, Pro Natura/Friends of the Earth Switzerland, Pro REGENWALD, Protect the Forest, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Foundation UK, Rainforest Relief, Rettet den Regenwald e. V. , Robin Wood, Salva la Selva, Satunama, Sawit Watch, Scale Up, Stiftung Artenschutz, Sumatran Orangutan Society, TELAPAK, The Finnish Nature League, Timberwatch Coalition, Transnational Institute, Umweltbildung, Urgewald, WALHI - Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Wartawan, World Rainforest Movement, Yayasan Setara Jambi, Yayasan Wahana Bumi Hijau.


For further information contact: 
Daniel Hausknoat, co-ordinator, European Environmental Paper Network (EEPN)
+44-1782-769853

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kids to KFC: “Be an environmental leader for change”

On March 3rd, four elementary school children from the Charlotte, North Carolina area made the 350 mile journey to Louisville, Kentucky to deliver over 6,000 hand-drawn postcards to corporate executives at KFC.  They collected the postcards from youth across North Carolina urging KFC to be a leader for environmental change by using more recycled paper and no longer buying paper that comes from endangered forests on the North Carolina coast. 
Today, Dogwood Alliance released a video documenting these inspiring children’s journey.  The video tells the story in their words about why forests and wildlife should not be harmed to make fast food packaging and how KFC can be a leader for environmental change for their generation.  You can watch the video here, or below.
“I had a second grade project to be an environmental activist,” said 10 year old Cole, the child who inspired this work.  “I found that the forests in NC are being cut down and animals are being endangered and so I did [work to get] McDonald’s to change and they switched to 100% post-consumer recycled bags.  Now I am doing KFC.”


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Paper Calculator Relaunched in Time for Earth Day Focus on Green Choices


Today, version 3.0 of the Paper Calculator was launched and ownership and management was transferred to the Environmental Paper Network (EPN) from its original developer and host, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).  The Paper Calculator is the most trusted, independent tool available to paper purchasers to measure and report the environmental benefits and savings of choosing environmentally superior paper.

The tool is built on the original life-cycle research of the Paper Task Force, which included EDF, the US EPA, McDonald’s and others.  The Paper Calculator receives ongoing expert guidance and life cycle data from environmental consulting firm, Franklin Associates, a division of ERG. 
The Paper Calculator is available online at www.papercalculator.org.
“For many years, Environmental Defense Fund provided the Paper Calculator to enable companies to quantify the benefits of choosing environmentally preferable paper,” said Victoria Mills, Managing Director, Corporate Partnerships at EDF. “We are confident that under the management of Environmental Paper Network, the Paper Calculator will remain a credible and valued tool for businesses wishing to reduce the environmental impacts of their paper use.” 
Regular users of the Paper Calculator may notice a few subtle changes in the new version, but its operation, methodology and appearance remain essentially the same. Franklin Associates has created a new technical support document that explains the data, methodology and references underlying the Paper Calculator. 
The Environmental Paper Network is proud to provide this important tool for calculating the impacts and benefits of paper choices and to ensure the Paper Calculator’s continued integrity and value to the many paper purchasers who use it. The Paper Calculator is a critical tool because anyone can measure and report the environmental savings and benefits of certain papers, compare different papers to each other, and do so knowing they are getting straightforward information from an unbiased source.

Please help spread the word and let others know about the Paper Calculator and the benefits of choosing environmental papers. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter and by email. Use the new graphics below on your website or blog to advertise the link to www.papercalculator.org. Right-click on the images to save them to your desktop. And please share your stories with us of how the Paper Calculator has helped you, your organization or your company achieve your "green" goals.





Monday, April 04, 2011

U.S. EPA Advertises Key Hearing on Climate Pollution With Only One Day Notice

The Obama Administration seeks a three-year deferral for permitting greenhouse gas pollution from bioenergy and other biogenic sources.

The Obama Adminstration distributed details to the public only one day in advance of a key public hearing Tuesday on its proposed three-year loophole in regulating climate pollution from bioenergy under the Clean Air Act.  The topic of the hearing to be held in Washington, D.C. is the Administration’s proposal to delay the EPA’s responsibility to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from bioenergy and other biogenic sources.  The Environmental Paper Network previously issued a statement raising concerns about the long-term forest and climate impacts of a three-year deferral, and the importance of a science-driven process to navigate the special interests and the politically charged debate.

The delay threatens to set off an unsustainable sprint to build forests-to-energy facilities across the southern United States and elsewhere that will be grandfathered into the final rule.  It will further entrench the scientifically unfounded myth that using forests for biomass energy and forest products is carbon-neutral.  The delay will divert limited and much needed government funding and subsidies for renewable energy to be diverted from true renewable energy sources like wind and solar.  And it will undermine our nation’s recycling infrastructure by failing to account for the full emissions of producing virgin forest fiber products, such as paper. 

When: April 5, 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT

What: A public hearing on the EPA’s proposed rule that would defer, for a period of three years, greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting requirements for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from biomass-fired and other biogenic sources.  EPA is also making available a guidance document, Guidance for Determining Best Available Control Technology for Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Bioenergy Production, to assist facilities and permitting authorities with permitting decisions until the Proposed Rule is finalized, which would clarify that biomass-fired sources can be considered Best Available Technology.

Where:  The hearing will be held at, Environmental Protection Agency, 1310 L St., NW, Room 152-154, Washington, DC 20005   

More information and to register to listen to the hearing via phone: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/deferralruleregister/deferral-rule-register.html

Live highlights from the public hearing via Twitter on @whatsnyourpapr and @dogwoodalliance starting at 2:30 Eastern on April 5, 2011.

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Media Contacts:  Joshua Martin, Environmental Paper Network, 828-242-4238
                                    Scot Quaranda, Dogwood Alliance, 828-251-2525 x18


The Environmental Paper Network accelerates environmental transformation in the paper industry through collaboration and the coordination of a strong and diverse coalition of non-governmental organizations in order to protect forests, climate, water and communities.  Learn more athttp://www.environmentalpaper.org.