Representatives from Catalyst Paper Corporation, City of Powell River and the federal government attended an announcement of funding from the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program on Monday, March 14. Catalyst recently received $13.3 million from the program, which it is investing in an electrical upgrade at the Powell River division.
The project involves the installation of a steam condenser on a generator, as well as new waste-wood handling equipment, a sand recycling system and upgrades to Power Boiler 19. The company earned credits from the program through the production of black liquor at its Crofton pulp operation in 2009.
MP John Weston, who represents the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding, said the announcement was about local priorities, cooperation, efficient use of energy, and the environment. “It’s also about jobs,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that we’re standing here in the union hall to make this announcement.”
The project will help Catalyst decrease its environmental footprint and generate renewable energy with biomass material that would have gone to waste, Weston said.
Weston talked about the way the community works together and how that spirit of cooperation achieves results. “This pattern of collaboration, communication and finding common ground we’ve seen time and time again,” he said. “It’s very exciting and I hope that we will all keep it up because there are many things we have to do.”
Brian Baarda, Catalyst’s chief financial officer, said the investment will mean the division will generate 14 to 18 megawatts of green energy. “We’ll end up using some biomass waste that’s available, all of which will help this facility out,” he said.
Baarda also said the company chose to invest the money in Powell River because the environment in the community is conducive to on-going investment. “We’ve had a working relationship with our local unions which has allowed for, what I call, creative solutions to what has been a very tough environment over the last several years,” he said. Baarda also commended Mayor Stewart Alsgard and councillors for “all the work they’ve done.”
Mike Verdiel, president of Local 76 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers’ Union of Canada, said he thought the investment was good for the community because, while more jobs wouldn’t be created, the jobs in the mill would be secured. He also thought it was beneficial because local businesses would be able to obtain more work. “We’re already seeing some of that happening,” he said. “If we can lower our costs, we can be here for the longer term and that’s certainly our objective.”
Verdiel said he has been in the mill for over 30 years and in the last 20, there has been talk about when No. 9 paper machine was going to go down. “There’s no discussion about when No. 9’s going to go down now,” he said. “Obviously at some point it will, but product-wise, we’re sold out until the end of the year. We’re in pretty good shape around nine.”
Rick Maksymetz, general manager of the Powell River division, expressed his appreciation to the federal government. “We will make good use of this money, to improve the viability of this operation, as well as the environmental and energy efficiency,” he said.
Representatives from Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nation could not attend the announcement due to a funeral in the community.