PFI urges states to exempt pellet plant from business shutdowns

By Pellet Fuels Institute | March 25, 2020

On March 24, the Pellet Fuels Institute sent letters to the governors of wood pellet producing states urging them to align their essential businesses policies with those outlined by the Department of Homeland Security released on March 19. In that advisory the DHS classified wood products manufacturing as “essential critical infrastructure” and eligible to continue operations if states decide to restrict or close nonessential businesses in their efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We were pleased to see the DHS recognize the critical importance of the broader forest products industry but what isn’t clear is how close to these recommendations individual states will hew,” said Tim Portz, executive director for the PFI. “Year-round production is required to meet the seasonal heating demand and we wanted to make sure governors understood that.”

In March and April of 2019 nearly 300,000 tons of heating pellets were produced, nearly 15 percent of the year’s total volume. “For two years the sector has emerged from the heating season with very low inventory numbers,” said Portz. “Constraining production now would impact pellet availability for the 2020-21 heating season.”

The PFI will continue to work with its colleagues in the forest products industry to maintain the safe operation of wood pellet manufacturing sites to ensure the availability of this critical heating fuel this fall and winter. “Our members are already deploying measures to protect their employees,” said Portz. “Practicing social distancing at a wood pellet manufacturing site isn’t difficult but our members are going beyond that and moving to contact-free transactions for inbound and outbound trucks, increased cleaning protocols and control screen wipe down measures between shifts.”