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Plywood mills face expensive cleanup

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

STATEWIDE — In a ruling that could affect as many as 15 plywood mills in Oregon, a federal appeals court judge has rebuffed an attempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create a regulatory loophole in the air quality standards that govern the millions of pounds of hazardous chemicals that mills around the nation release each year.

Officials at Boise Cascade and Roseburg Forest Products — two of the companies that have mills in Oregon that will be affected — say it will cost unknown millions to retrofit their facilities to meet those air quality standards.

“It’s millions of dollars. That’s as far as I’ll go. It’s a big ticket,” says Boise Cascade communications manager Karen Punch.

Meeting those standards will reduce, for example, the 2.8 million pounds of hazardous chemicals — including more than 900,000 pounds of the carcinogen formaldehyde — that the mills released in Oregon in 2005, according the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Ostensibly, the companies are required to make the changes by Oct. 1, a pre-existing deadline. But since that will be impossible for most to meet, says Uri Papish, deputy air quality administrator with the DEQ, some companies will probably be eligible for an extension, a designation he expects will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

— Abraham Hyatt

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