In my first Question of the Fall session I asked Minister of Forests, Hon. Katrine Conroy about the growing controversy surrounding the wood pellet industry.
Journalists in both the United Kingdom and here in Canada are investigating the claims of the British Columbia government and Drax, a large multinational corporation that controls about two-thirds of the wood pellet industry in our province. Evidence they have published is calling into question the claims that the industry is going further than just turning wood waste from the forestry industry into pellets, and instead are pelletizing whole trees and forests.
We are in a climate crisis! Our Minister of Forests continues to speak of our forests as if we obliged to cut them down, and defending an industry that is combusting carbon and masquerading it as a renewable, clean, green, source of energy.
What can be worse? Well, Drax continues to lobby our BC NDP government and they continue to hand out public subsidies for their so-called renewable energy operations.
ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
AND USE OF WOOD PELLETS
To the Minister of Forests, does she believe that in 2022, in a worsening climate crisis, burning wood pellets is clean, green energy?
Hon. K. Conroy:
I thank the member for this question, because there’s been quite a bit in the media about pellets lately, and I think it’s good to be able to have this discussion. I think pellets are a low-value product in our industry. I know that people are saying that pellets are creating more GHG, but in fact, they’re not. We are selling pellets to countries that are using pellets to lower their usage of coal.
So it’s a product that is used worldwide. It’s a product that is made from waste — waste in the forest. I think I need to make sure I say that because people are saying it is made of whole logs. It is not made of whole logs. If someone was going to sell a whole log to a pellet factory, they would be losing money, because logs that are going into saw…. Sawlogs are getting about $100 a cubic metre, whereas waste that is going into pellets averages about $25 a cubic metre. So nobody that is involved in the sawmill industry is going to be selling whole logs to go into pellets.
I know that’s probably the next question the member is going to ask, but I believe that the pellet industry is one that we need in this province. It is using up…. It’s reducing waste in the forest industry, which is an important thing, and it’s moving forward. We know that it is a part of the forest industry that is working.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
DRAX BIOMASS OPERATIONS IN B.C.
AND PRODUCTION OF WOOD PELLETS
Here are some facts. Drax is a massive company in the U.K. They’ve been quietly consolidating the wood pellet operations in British Columbia, controlling almost two-thirds of that industry.
To correct the minister, burning wood pellets is actually more carbon-intensive than burning coal. Drax regularly lobbies. This government is subsidized by both the U.K. and the B.C. government’s clean energy funds. They burn millions of tonnes of wood pellets from British Columbia in their energy plant in Yorkshire, England. Evidence turned up by investigative journalists in Canada and the U.K. shows that they have acquired tenure, that they are logging, grinding and burning B.C. old-growth forests.
Last year the former B.C. chief forester, Diane Nicholls, abruptly left her post next to the Minister of Forests to immediately take a job with this company, Drax, as their VP for corporate sustainability. The revolving door between the Ministry of Forests and the forest industry continues to turn in this province.
So I’m going to ask a very specific question of the Minister of Forests. Will the minister commit in this assembly and to the people of British Columbia that wood pellet companies are not using whole trees to turn into pellets?
Hon. K. Conroy:
Yeah, I can answer that.
Companies are not using whole trees that would be used as sawlogs. If they’re using a whole tree, it’s been burnt, it’s been damaged by beetle kill. It wouldn’t work as a sawlog. So yes, companies might use a whole tree for a pellet factory, but it’s a tree that wouldn’t be used in a sawmill.
I just wanted to refer to Diane Nicholls, a woman who had many successes throughout her tenure and did not leave abruptly. She did not leave abruptly. Not only was she B.C’s. first female chief forester; she was also the first woman in Canada. You know, her expertise and enthusiastic approach to what she did is going to be difficult to replace. She was instrumental in ushering in a new era of forest management in this province and also very successful in developing low-carbon economy programs for the forest industry. She did a lot of work.
I just want to clarify for the record in this Legislature. There is not old growth being cut down to utilize in Drax’s mills across this province. So I just want to make that clear and put that on the record and correct the member for what he misspoke.