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Commentary & Opinion

Bill Owens: In Support Of Ticonderoga Mill

The Ticonderoga Mill of International Paper recently invested $13 million to enable the use of compressed natural gas (“CNG”).  The project has been completed and is in operation as of June 1, 2015.  There had been discussions for several years about bringing natural gas to the Mill through a pipeline under Lake Champlain from Vermont which was not brought to fruition for a number of reasons. 

The Mill leadership, with support from headquarters, began to investigate the use of compressed natural gas as an alternative, demonstrating pragmatic adaptability to changed circumstances.  The result was the construction of a compressed natural gas unloading station and delivery system at the Mill.  Replacing fuel oil with cleaner burning natural gas is significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  This is consistent with the Mill’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint through fuel mix enhancements and energy efficiency improvements. Currently renewable energy sources account for nearly 54% of its energy needs.

The Mill employs 612 people with a payroll of $41 million, the vast majority of whom are members of the United Steel Workers, purchases $189 million in goods and services in the local area, including over $49 million in wood and fiber, pays $1.6 million in property and school taxes, and made contributions of over $330,000 to area schools and non-profit organizations. It is clear that the economic impact of this facility is enormous, so any steps taken to ensure its viability are important. 

The Mill, in addition to investing $13 million in the CNG facilities, also invested another $30 million dollars in capital improvements to upgrade the Mills operations. 

The Mill’s products are shipped throughout the United States with some exporting to Canada.  These products are primarily high-end printing, technical and fine papers, including some you might recognize such as Hammermill which has been made in America for more than 100 years.

The Mill is strategically located, both in terms of access to a bountiful supply of northern hardwood and softwood, but equally important to major northeastern markets.  As we know, many of our Canadian neighbors come down to set up businesses in our region because of the market access equivalent to all of Canada.  We are, in fact, a 8-10 hour truck drive from 25-30 million people.

The utilization of compressed natural gas along with other renewable resources, as well as fuel oil, gives the Mill a mix of energy producing resources that will enhance its economic viability, continue its important employment history in the region, continue its positive impact on the lives of those who live in Ticonderoga, as well as those living in the Adirondack forest, as it supports a robust logging industry which creates both economic and environmental benefits.

This is not to say that the Mill has not been without controversy as during the week of July 6, there were some demonstrations opposing the use of compressed natural gas.  From my perspective, we have a business that is making its best efforts to be environmentally friendly at many levels, and the failure to see the necessity for the continued utilization of fossil fuels until such time as we can reach the point of using solely renewable energy sources, is in my view, both shortsighted and harmful to the community as a whole.  Many of us would like to see renewable energy used in every instance, that is simply not practical, and that reality must be recognized.

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 23rd, a Strategic Advisor at Dentons out of its Washington DC office, and a partner in the firm of Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher & Trombley, PLLC, in Plattsburgh New York.  Mr. Owens is available to consult on U.S./Canadian trade, as well as to provide legal advice and assistance.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY WAMC’S COMMENTATORS ARE SOLELY THOSE OF THE AUTHORS AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF WAMC OR ITS MANAGEMENT…

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