Missoulian: Tester says Smurfit-bound wood could become energy source for state

Wood that would have gone to Frenchtown’s Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. pulp mill might instead become a new energy resource for Montana, according to U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

Shortly after he testified about his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act before the Senate Public Lands and Forests subcommittee on Thursday, Tester said his proposed legislation could be adapted to find new uses for nonsawmill timber.

“The Smurfit thing is a big loss, no mistake,” Tester said. “In my bill, there’s a component for biomass, so we can turn those chips into electricity. And there’s still hope there’s something that comes in to take the place of Smurfit, like a biomass or bio-char plant. There’s some opportunities out there.”

Tester’s legislation includes money for a wood-fired power plant to be developed in Seeley Lake. But it also directs the U.S. Forest Service to do “landscape level stewardship projects” on thousands of acres of national forests annually for a decade.

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