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Management Side
Environmental war
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There has long been controversy between the industry and a wide range of individuals and organizations that consider the pulp and paper industry a serious polluter. When I first worked in the industry in the 1960s, there is no doubt that most mills did indeed pollute the surrounding air and water, frequently blatantly and seriously. Since the early 1960's there has been steady improvement. Today only a very few mills have a significant impact on the surrounding air and water. Even these bad actors have much less negative effect than in earlier years.

Mills today face far fewer environmental controversies than in the past, mostly because their performance is vastly improved, but public protest against forestry operations has still grown steadily.

In an attempt to resolve the forestry issues, virtually all forestry operators in Canada entered into an agreement in 2010 with seven major environmental non-governmental advocacy organizations (ENGOs) that are active in the field of forestry.

Known as the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) the key principles were:

1) The ENGOs would terminate some campaigns seeking to persuade certain corporate customers to boycott certain paper products, and;

2) The forest companies would cease harvesting in about 25% of the public forest lands currently licensed to them, while detailed forest management plans acceptable to the ENGO's and local inhabitants were established.


There is lots more information at http://cbfa-efbc.ca/agreement/

Less than three years later, Greenpeace Canada withdrew from the agreement, asserting that Resolute Forest Products Ltd. (formerly Abitibi-Bowater) and some associated companies were logging in areas prohibited by the agreement.

Most of the other ENGO's are still working with the industry, and seem to be working out the inevitable conflicts between the parties quite well.

Greenpeace's withdrawal, and associated public statements, led to a lawsuit for defamation by Resolute against Greenpeace in May 2013, in Ontario Superior Court. In June this year, Resolute brought an action in a Georgia federal court against Greenpeace and its associates under the US RICO anti-racketeering legislation.

If you read the complaints submitted to both courts by Resolute, Greenpeace seems to be a terrible organization. On the other hand, the legal defenses submitted by Greenpeace make Resolute appear awful. This mutual defamation is, of course, quite normal in civil litigation, and in the short term, it only exacerbates the dispute. In the long term, the courts will decide who is right.

The complaint is posted at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2016/05/complaint.pdf and the defense at http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/Global/canada/report/2014/08/Statement-of-Defence.pdf

Even if Resolute wins in court, many members of the public will see the issue as a sign that big companies can bully environmental activists, so both Resolute and the industry as whole will suffer. The litigation will probably benefit Greenpeace, since it will be used as a fund raiser.

My own first-hand experiences meeting with Greenpeace staff on an issue in Ontario and another issue in Uruguay were very frustrating, due to dishonest public statements by Greenpeace.

In Ontario reason prevailed because the industry and government people concerned stuck to the facts and were open with the public. There was no recourse to the courts.

In Uruguay, reason eventually prevailed, but only after the dispute over the Fray Bentos kraft mill was escalated to the International Court in The Hague (because the mill was located on a frontier river). The legal costs to the participants were published as being over US$30 million. The real costs were probably at least double that, since a massive amount of work by government and mill staff was not included in the accounting.

Recent investigative reporting by the CBC's French language wing found that Greenpeace had been less than honest in publicity on the issues under dispute in the litigation mentioned above.

In my opinion, Resolute will win in court, but only after considerable expense and negative publicity.

The bottom line is that the courts are a poor way to resolve environmental issues. Despite the litigation, the CBFA seems to help minimize conflicts. Only time will tell how successful or otherwise it may be.


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