U.S. softwood claims against B.C. are vague, relying on “innuendo”: Canada

Posted by Rumin Mann
February 28th, 2011

The federal government has filed it’s response to American charges that British Columbia is violating the softwood lumber agreement, blaming the increase in lower grade timber coming from B.C. Interior forests on the mountain pine beetle.

The Americans have made vague, unproven claims that the province has meddled in timber pricing, accounting for more salvage timber being processed in B.C. sawmills, the federal government states in its response to the London Court of International Arbitration, dated Feb. 17.

The Americans filed their complaint that the amount of salvage timber, called Grade 4, has increased beyond reasonable limits on Jan. 17. The London Court has the final word on who’s right and the stakes for B.C. mills are very high. Although the Americans do not name a dollar figure for the relief they are seeking, analysts suggest it could be as high as $400 million.

Canada’s 16-page response is simple but to the point: It’s not any action on the part of the province; it’s the mountain pine beetle that has resulted in more Grade 4 timber being harvested. The complete document can be foundĀ  here.

The province charges only 25 cents a cubic metre for that Grade 4 wood. Sawmills have been able to get some lumber out of the Grade 4 logs, and many companies have made upgrades to their equipment in order to accommodate the dry and cracked logs.

The Americans say that selling the wood for 25 cents constitutes a violation of the agreement, as lumber is being produced from the logs. They allege that the province permits companies to heat sample logs in dry kilns during the winter months. The heating is to reveal existing cracks as the logs are heated only to a temperature equal to a warm summer day, Canada says. The Americans say it produces cracks.

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