By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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State Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, is sponsoring HB 1663, which would extend for another 11 years a state sales and use tax exemption for the purchase of hog fuel — ground wood waste that resembles thicker and less uniform landscaping wood chips — for the production of electricity, steam, heat or biofuel.
Tharinger said Friday his proposed legislation received supportive testimony from members of the wood and paper mill industry, including representatives of Nippon Paper Industries USA in Port Angeles and the Port Townsend Paper Corp., at a Wednesday meeting of the House Technology and Economic Development Committee meeting.
“Generally, I think [the reaction was] positive, and we should be able to move it along,” Tharinger said.
Tharinger said the rationale behind keeping the tax breaks, which have been in place since 2009 and are set to expire this June, is to continue to create incentives for the state’s pulp and paper mills’ to use of hog fuel to produce energy so they can stay competitive in the global market.
Roger Loney, president of Port Townsend Paper Corp., said at the hearing that recent upgrades to a boiler that burns hog fuel for energy at the Port Townsend mill has allowed the mill to reduce fuel oil consumption 20 percent over the past year, which Loney said is equal to 44,000 barrels of fuel oil.
“We’re dependent upon these fuels for running and operating the plant,” Loney said.
According to the Washington Forest Protection Association, a representative for which also testified in favor of the bill, Clallam and Jefferson counties support 1,580 direct jobs in the forest-related industries.
Port Townsend Paper Corp., for example, employees 300 people in Jefferson County, Loney said.
The Nippon Paper Industries mill in Port Angeles has 210 full-time employees, said Paul Perlwitz, the environmental manager for Nippon.
“We’re probably the legislative district that’s impacted most by this bill, said State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, who is co-sponsoring HB 1663.
“It definitely goes a long way toward protecting jobs in our district.”
Van De Wege and Tharinger, along with State Sen. and Hoquiam Democrat Jim Hargrove represent the 24th Legislative District, which comprises Jefferson and Clallam counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.
In other 24th Legislative District news, a bill sponsored by state Sen. Jim Hargrove that would allow the Washington State Parks Commission, state Department of Natural Resources, and state Department of Fish and Wildlife to mutually agree to sell discounted Discover Passes in certain circumstances passed the House Natural Resources and Parks Committee last Friday.
Hargrove said the proposed legislation is on its way to the House Rules Committee to be scheduled for a full House vote, most likely this week.
“It’s in Rules now, ready for floor action,” Hargrove said.
SB 5289 would, if passed, clarify that the Discover Pass is not needed to merely drive on State Parks, DNR or DFW roads that are not blocked by a gate and would allow these three state agencies to partner with private retailers and sell Discover Passes in bulk to increase their visibility and promote recreation on state lands.
Hargrove said the bundling idea, added during discussions on the bill in the House Natural Resources and Parks Committee meeting, should allow the state to make more money off the Discover Pass.
“I think we were just scratching the surface the way [the state] was selling Discover Passes before,” Hargrove said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.