Ruling may not affect plants

A federal appeals court has invalidated an environmental agency's effort to relax emission standards for some plywood plants, a decision a local plant official says should not have a big impact on his company.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia also decided Tuesday that the plants, which had been told they had until October 2008 to install emissions control devices, must have them in place by this October.

The ruling could affect as many as 23 Oregon plants, including several in the Rogue Valley.

Russell Strader, Boise Cascade's wood products environmental manager, said the company's Medford plywood operation already has the mandated equipment, while its White City plant was scheduled to have the emissions control devices in place next year.

"Most of our mills have installed the necessary equipment and a couple of others are on a timeline," Strader said. "Everybody is still evaluating the effects of the ruling."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established emissions limits in 2004 and then revised them in 2005. The revision would have allowed lower-polluting plants to follow an alternate procedure if they could prove they posed a low risk to surrounding populations.

The Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project filed suit in federal court, saying the EPA exemption would allow plants to violate established standards. The court's ruling affects plants producing plywood, veneer, particleboard and other composite wood products.

"We're talking millions of dollars," Strader said. "But for the most part that's already budgeted. Overall, this won't have that much effect on our company; we will comply, no ifs, ands or buts."

He said an Elgin plant has controls in place and another in La Grande has half of the necessary controls in place.

"Most of our smaller volume mills that do the peeling and sawing don't have drying and pressing operations," Strader said.

It's those drying and pressing procedures that release formaldehyde, methanol, acrolein, acetaldehyde and other hazardous chemicals into the air. Department of Environmental Quality figures show 2.8 million pounds of such pollutants were released in 2005, including nearly 928,000 pounds of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

"As of what we know now, there is no anticipation this will disrupt what we're doing," Strader said. "Based on current projections this won't have an effect on operations."

He said much of the installation can be done during normal shutdowns and scheduled maintenance times.

Panel Products President Jack McLaughlin, said he wouldn't know the impact on his company until next week.

A spokesman for Timber Products could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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