Sen. Angus King Hosts Energy & Natural Resources Field Hearing at Robbins Lumber

Published: Oct. 6, 2017 at 4:40 PM EDT
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Senator Angus King chaired an official Senate Energy and Natural Resources field hearing in Searsmont on Friday.

He heard from forest products industry leaders at Robbins Lumber about how to stabilize energy costs and maximize every piece of Maine's natural resource.

Senator King began his visit to Robbins Lumber in Searsmont with a tour of the facility.

This fifth-generation sawmill has experienced the highs and lows of the forest products industry, and is constructing a combined heat and power, or CHP, facility that will generate electricity and steam heat from wood waste produced in local logging operations and sawmills.

"The construction of this plant will have many benefits to Robbins Lumber Inc, the logging community, the landowners, and the surrounding community - all of which can be replicated throughout the state," said Alden Robbins, Vice President of Robbins Lumber Inc.

After several mill closures in recent years, the industry is looking to provide solutions to increasing markets for forest product residuals.

"Combined heat power systems represent an important opportunity for manufacturers. They can provide reliable, flexible, cost-effective energy efficient power to a variety of industrial, commercial, and institutional energy consumers in our communities," said Mark Johnson, Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office for the Department of Energy.

It's a way to maximize every piece of the lumber, essentially finding the value in low-value wood. It's an emerging market Maine could get into competitively as mill closures have been happening all over the country.

"This is a nationwide, indeed a worldwide phenomenon. But the important thing for us is that we lost a billion dollars worth of economic activity in Maine. Forest products are still the most significant part - it's about 8-billion dollars a year in terms of our state economy, which is roughly about 17%," said Sen. King, (I).

"This crisis has gone all the way to the tree stump impacting more than 400 logging contractors in Maine and at least 500 jobs in logging and trucking. To put this in perspective, over just the last three years, we're talking about the loss of 121,000 undelivered truck loads of wood or 30% of the total amount of fiber consumed by Maine mills prior to," said Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine.

The Department of Energy is looking to support Maine's forest industry with assessments of existing operations to install CHP technology to generate onsite power that will save money and create jobs.