NY biomass plant first to achieve FSC standards certification

By Lisa Gibson
Curran Renewable Energy LLC in Massena, N.Y., is the first biomass mill in the nation to receive Forest Stewardship Council chain-of-custody certification from the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program.

Chain-of-custody certification guarantees that wood used in Curran Renewable Energy's pellets comes from certified, responsibly managed forestlands and is tracked throughout the supply chain from the forest to the consumer. Consumers can look for the FSC label on wood products to know they are supporting forest management that protects biodiversity.

"There should be value to all of us in responsibly managing forests," said Dave Bubser, SmartWood U.S. regional manager.

Curran Renewable Energy's certified wood pellets are produced from FSC-certified forests in New York State. Seaway Timber Harvesting Inc., which shares a president and CEO with Curran Renewable Energy, harvests the wood used in the pellets, according to the Rainforest Alliance. Seaway has been in the forestry industry for 19 years. The certification won't change how either business operates, but it recognizes good policies and practices already in place, according to Patrick Curran, president and CEO of both. "We're going to pull more value out of the product and pass it along to the customer," he said. Curran hopes other businesses will follow his lead and realize the importance of good forest
management. "The foresters all want best forest management practices in place," he said.

Northwest Forest Consultants assisted Curran Renewable Energy with its responsibilities in the lengthy certification process. FSC certification ensures that forestry operations meet a set of environmental, social and economic criteria covering compliance with laws and international treaties, land-use and indigenous peoples' rights, community relations, biodiversity conservation and maintenance of high-conservation value forests, among other criteria. Curran Renewable Energy specifies that it will provide adequate training to staff in several different positions, initially and when needed thereafter, and will maintain records that demonstrate compliance. The company also addresses the different types of material inputs and supplier identification and ensures it will not use any wood species known to be on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species list, among numerous other specifications.

Certification is a stakeholder-driven process, according to Bubser. "The FSC oversees and puts their stamp on it at the end of the day," he said. Companies are asked to develop their own systems and programs and are evaluated, but they all must meet the comprehensive FSC standards, he added.

SmartWood works with more than 1,000 companies for certification, but this is the first biomass plant in the nation to achieve it, Bubser said. "Having somebody take a leadership role in the biomass industry is noteworthy," he said, adding that it should prompt others to do the same.