TUE AM News: Chemical recovery boiler bill supported by paper companies, labor groups; Evers announces $25 million in ARPA funds for transit

— Supporters of a bill to limit the frequency of inspections on certain paper mill machinery say the change would provide regulatory certainty to the industry as well as environmental benefits. 

A similar bill cleared the Assembly and a Senate committee last session before stalling in the Senate as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Wisconsin Paper Council President Scott Suder explained in a recent interview. This time around, he says the legislation has even broader support. 

Under current state law, inspections of chemical recovery boilers are required every 12 months with the possibility of a six-month extension, he said. These boilers combust a fuel derived from wood chips to use the thermal energy in the paper production process, while also recovering sodium that is then reused. Under the bill, periodic inspections of insured boilers would be spaced 24 months apart. 

“It sounds like a rather small change, but it is very important,” Suder told WisBusiness.com. 

He said paper facilities often aren’t notified if the extension is granted until about a month before the initial one-year deadline, and that can cause “some real logistical problems.” Suder noted the inspections are a costly process as they require much of the plant to be shut down for several days. 

He added that shutting down and restarting plant operations causes emissions to increase, arguing that reducing the frequency of these inspections would benefit the environment. And he said temperature changes caused by the boiler being cooled down for inspection stress the machine’s structural integrity, weakening the boiler. 

“A longer time period between inspections actually leads to a higher safety value for the boilers,” Suder said. 

Wisconsin has eight chemical recovery boilers that are owned by four companies, he said. Ahlstrom-Munksjo has two in Kaukauna and one in Mosinee, while Domtar has one boiler in Nekoosa. Packaging Corporation of America has one boiler in Tomahawk, and Verso Corporation has three in Wisconsin Rapids. 

All four of these companies are supporting the legislation along with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group and a number of unions including United Steelworkers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and others. These groups signed onto a memo recently sent to the Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee, which held a public hearing on the bill last week. 

The legislation was introduced in the Assembly and Senate by Sen. Pat Testin, R-Stevens Point, and Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah. It also has the support of several Democratic lawmakers. Suder says the Paper Council is working with the bill’s authors to get a hearing in an Assembly committee and is hopeful the bill will be taken up soon on the Senate floor. 

He sees the bill as “common sense reform” given that other states with large paper industries including Michigan and Maine have adopted a 24-month timeframe for boiler inspections. 

See the bill text here: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2021/related/proposals/sb466 

See the memo sent to the Senate committee: https://www.wisbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/SB-466.Coalition-Memo-to-Senate-Labor-Committee.8-24-21.Final_.pdf 

— During a Milwaukee news conference, Gov. Tony Evers announced he will use $25 million in ARPA Funds to boost transit funding for the state’s two largest communities.

The funding comes on the heels of the GOP-controlled Legislature cutting state money for transit in Milwaukee County and Madison by $41.3 million. Republicans argued the cut was more than offset by federal money the cities were in line to receive from various COVID-19 packages.

But Evers said the cut was short-sighted and made it harder for people to get to work and school. Evers said his administration “did as much as we could” to backfill the cut.

The state is set to receive $2.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act over the next two years, split into equal payments. Evers can dole out the money as he sees fit without legislative oversight.

“The line is very, very long and we’re trying to do the best we can to get the money out the door in really appropriate places,” Evers said.

Milwaukee County will receive $19.7 million of the money Evers announced yesterday, while Madison will get $5.2 million.

See more on the announcement at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/2021/mon-pm-update-evers-calls-gop-concerns-over-afghan-refugee-vetting-dog-whistle-crap/ 

— Wisconsin’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases continues to climb, reaching 1,692 cases per day. 

That’s the highest the average has been since Jan. 20, the state Department of Health Services site shows. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is also on the rise, with 911 patients hospitalized with the virus and 293 in the ICU. That’s according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard. 

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 deaths has seen a slight increase in the past several weeks, though not as dramatic as the spike in case numbers. The seven-day average for confirmed virus deaths has held at seven deaths per day since Aug. 23, the DHS site shows. A total of 7,584 people in the state have died from the virus. 

As of yesterday, 54.6 percent of the state’s population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 51.3 percent have completed the vaccine series. At the national level, 61.7 percent of the U.S. population have gotten at least one dose, and 52.4 percent are fully vaccinated. 

See the latest case numbers here: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/cases.htm 

See the WHA dashboard here: https://www.wha.org/Covid-19Update 

— Farmers in Wisconsin were dealing with “very mixed weather” and high temperatures over the past week, the latest crop report from the USDA shows. 

While some parts of the state are still “suffering from drought,” others saw heavy rains last week with some areas reporting over 5 inches of rainfall. The report shows some crops were damaged in areas with the most severe weather. 

Still, crop growth for corn and soybeans is continuing ahead of the five-year average, while harvesting of oats and alfalfa hay is also proceeding faster than the average. 

See the full report: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/2021/WI-Crop-Progress-08-30-21.pdf 

— The Wisconsin Technology Council is now accepting applications for companies to pitch at the upcoming Early Stage Symposium on Nov. 3-4. 

The annual event is planned for an in-person format at the Monona Terrace in Madison, where participating companies will have the chance to pitch to a live audience and meet with potential investors. 

This year’s event will feature the Tech Council Investor Networks track, which gives entrepreneurs five minutes to pitch their companies, as well as the shorter Elevator Pitch Olympics. The deadline to apply online is 5 p.m. on Sept. 24. 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/wisconsin-technology-council-calling-all-companies-apply-for-three-chances-to-pitch-at-early-stage-symposium-3/ 

See more event details: https://wisconsintechnologycouncil.com/early-stage-symposium/ 


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– Milwaukee, Madison to get $25M in federal funds for public transit



<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

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