As the U.S. economy continues to struggle with high unemployment rates, now more than ever Maine needs manufacturing and, in turn, manufacturing needs Maine.
Maine’s pulp and paper sector provides 7,500 jobs and accounts for approximately 15 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the state, and Sappi Fine Paper North America’s Somerset Mill and its 840 employees are an important part of that sector. For manufacturing companies such as ours to have a viable future, we need to invest in our assets and implement reasonable and achievable environmental reforms.
Sappi works to protect our natural resources, not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is fundamental to the future of our planet and our business. Our commitment starts at the beginning of our supply chain with raw materials — all of the wood that we procure to make our pulp and paper comes from sustainably managed forests.
Since 2008, our Somerset Mill in Skowhegan has been certified by the three most recognized sustainable forestry certification programs: the Forest Stewardship Council, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Programme for the Endorsement of Certification.
Additionally, the energy that we use to power many of our manufacturing operations also comes from renewable resources. With more than 85 percent renewable energy, Sappi has the lowest carbon footprint in the industry, surpassing an industry average of 66 percent. Between 2007 and 2010, we were able to reduce our emissions by 40 percent, thereby significantly outpacing legislative targets concerning climate change.
Recently, our Somerset Mill became certified as a Green-e Energy organization with the Center for Resource Solutions. The Green-e certification attests that 100 percent of the electricity used to manufacture select products at the mill is made with certified renewable energy that we generate on site. This certification was made possible by a $49 million capital project we completed last year to upgrade the Somerset Mill’s recovery cycle equipment. The project enabled us to use more “black” liquor that is produced from our pulping operation and further reduce our fossil fuel usage.
We also strive to reduce our impact on the environment through attention to the transportation that we use to deliver our products. For more than two years, Sappi has been a certified EPA SmartWaySM Transport Partner, utilizing freight delivery services that are designed to increase energy efficiency while significantly reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution.
Improving our energy efficiency and reducing our fossil fuel usage not only lowers our greenhouse gas emissions and benefits the environment, but it also helps reduce our costs — a benefit that is critical to any business in today’s economy.
We are proud that despite challenging economic conditions, we continue to invest in our infrastructure in order to bring greater environmental and economic benefits to our business. We support legislation that calls for environmental protection and sets realistic goals for companies to achieve them.
We commend Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Rep. Mike Michaud for their support of manufacturing interests in Maine. At the same time, we are concerned that despite their efforts, certain regulatory efforts such as the EPA’s proposed Boiler MACT and Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials rules could result in job losses and divert important capital from other improvement projects for the paper industry in Maine and elsewhere.
The exceptionally high costs for compliance standards outlined by the proposed regulations could create conditions where using renewable biomass fuels would become so expensive that Sappi and other companies would have to revert to using more fossil fuels, which goes directly against the goals of improving the environment and operating sustainably.
We understand that operating sustainably and protecting our environment is a responsibility in which everyone — individuals and companies alike — must do their part. Sappi Fine Paper North America has a rich history of providing jobs in Maine dating back to 1854, and we look forward to many years to come. Yet, our ability to remain globally competitive and provide good paying jobs for our employees is contingent on regulations that balance both costs and benefits while keeping U.S. manufacturing globally competitive.
We need to continue making investments in our assets, which can bring environmental and economic returns to Sappi, Maine, and the communities where we live and work.
Mark Gardner is president and CEO of Sappi Fine Paper North America. He joined Sappi in 1981, and his experience includes serving as the vice president of manufacturing and vice president of supply chain. He also has worked at the Westbrook and Somerset mills.