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June 21, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Forest Restoration Products

  |   Video
  • Pascal Berlioux, the president and CEO of Arizona Forest Restoration Products, talks about his company’s business model that he says makes it profitable for companies to remove small diameter trees that clog Arizona’s forests creating a severe fire danger.
  • Pascal Berlioux - President and CEO,Arizona Forest Restoration Products
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: forest, enviornment,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Most forestry experts agree that Arizona's forests are in need of thinning. For proof, they point to increasing numbers of massive and damaging wildfires across the state. But removing small diameter trees that clog the forest and fuel the fires has never been economically attractive to private industry. A Flagstaff company believes it has a solution and a profitable one, at that. Here to explain is Pascal Berlioux, president and CEO of Arizona Forest Restoration Products. Good to have you.

Pascal Berlioux: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: What kind of industry are we talking about here?

Pascal Berlioux: Essentially we are talking about an industry that must be capable of adding enough economic value to the small diameter trees to essentially make restorative thinning pay for itself. Now, the problem with restoration in the Southwest and Northern Arizona specifically, is that obviously what needs to come out of the forest is not the big trees. Whatever remaining old growth and large trees we have left are not, as we all know, what causes the problem in a forest. What causes the problem in a forest is essentially the thousands of small diameter trees. We're talking about trees five to 12 inches in diameter, typically much too small tor used in traditional sawmilling. The idea here is to move toward what is typically called engineered wood product. Essentially shredding the trees, glueing the strands and pressing it back into a board what everybody knows as OSB.

Ted Simons: Before we get to the products now, let's go back to actually harvesting these trees. What are the challenges? Why is it so difficult? Is it because there isn't a market yet? If you got roads in there to the old growth, you've got roads that can go to the smaller diameter trees, too.

Pascal Berlioux: Yes, that's true. The difficulty, which essentially has been the most important one, is to view the problem that we have to face not from the perspective of commercial logging -- because this is not what we are looking at -- it is to view the problem from the perspective of ecosystem restoration. The idea here is not to go and make money on the wood. The idea is to design an economic engine which has the capability to implement collaboratively defined restoration.

Ted Simons: So you’re talking about an economic engine, then, that means jobs and lots of them.

Pascal Berlioux: Absolutely. We have required -- we have asked the northern Arizona University school of business to do an economic impact study on our project. They have confirmed that we are going to give jobs to about 600 people. And we are going to inject about $150 million annually in the Northern Arizona economy.

Ted Simons: Are these proven technologies for getting these small diameter trees out of there and into a market? Obviously technology changes fast and furious. Is there is a proven market for that? Are there proven technologies to get these things to the proven market?

Pascal Berlioux: I think that's a very good point and it actually is a point that's discussed on a regular basis. There is a lot of appeal in emerging technologies such as cellusic ethanol, wood gassification, technologies like that. The problems we are facing with this technology, typically they have not yet made it out of the lab, and they are not available on the industrial scale. What we propose to do, OSB is essentially and technology which is about 20 years old. It's nothing really brilliant or really new, it just works. It makes money and it serves an existing market which has the capability to absorb the product.

Ted Simons: Talk about the dynamic between what you're talking about, kind of an old proven technology. And you can go too quickly on something like this, can't you?

Pascal Berlioux: Yes. Essentially what it takes right now to get to OSB production is essentially building a plant. In our case that is the simple path. Just before that you need to essentially receive contracts from the Forest Service in order to guarantee access to the wood for the period necessary to essentially pay back the loans that you’re going to have to you incur to build the plant.

Ted Simons: The idea of this particular industry not only paying for itself, but showing a profit to whoever is involved, how far away are we from something like that, A? And B, is this particular industry capable of a million acres or something along those lines of thinning?

Pascal Berlioux: So answering the second question first, if you don't mind. Can this industry support a million acres, clearly yes. But of course this is a question that needs to be put in a time period. What we are looking at right now is essentially thinning 30,000 acres per year, over a period of 20 years. So that essentially would give you something like 600,000 acres. To get to the million acres, and I think it is a point very important to America and Arizona right now, the industry that we propose is not the only solution. We are looking at proposing a new appropriate-scale industry, not instead but in addition to the well developed businesses in the White Mountains which have done an extraordinary job over the last couple years in essentially pioneering this concept-of-thinning, and essentially operating under the White Mountains contract.

Ted Simons: Last question: If there is a patch of land the Forest Service says that is a tinderbox. If a fire comes through here, that town that, that area is going to burn. We need someone to go thin this out. Can you go do that? Or does topography make a difference? You can’t thin out everything,correct?

Pascal Berlioux: There are places usually you cannot go, steep slope over 40%, some riparian area where you do not want to go on. So there are limitations. This is where the concept of strategically placing the treatment comes into full value. You don't need to thin a million acres to protect a million acres, you can do it by thinning strategically patches of land within that area.

Ted Simons: Be strategic and let it happen?

Pascal Berlioux: And keep the hope.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us tonight, we appreciate it.

Pascal Berlioux: My pleasure.

Clean Car Program

  |   Video
  • Clean air advocates respond to proposed changes to rules that govern vehicle emissions in Arizona.
  • Jennifer Bonnett - Arizona Public Health Association
  • Stacey Mortensen - American Lung Association
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: car, emissions,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality held a public meeting today on proposed changes to rules that govern vehicle emissions. Arizona follows California's more stringent clean car rules. But DEQ is recommending it follow federal rules, instead. Here to talk about the implications of the move are Jennifer Bonnett, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, and Stacy Mortensen, director of the American Lung Association. DEQ was invited to join us but they couldn't provide a participant. The clean cars program, described it for us.

Jennifer Bonnett: In 2008, Arizona decided to follow the more stringent California rules in an attempt to create better air quality in Arizona. It looks at a little more strict rules. The federal guidelines are a little bit less.

Stacy Mortensen: I would say they are a little less stringent on what vehicles can be put on the road in the first place. It certainly involves new vehicle models and certain controls they need to have in place. The federal policy is just like we said, just a little less stringent.

Jennifer Bonnett: It also includes a certain percentage of zero emission vehicles that are supposed to be part of the fleet which the federal government does not have.

Ted Simons: And Arizona was not alone in joining these standards, correct?

Jennifer Bonnett: There are 13 other states that are in these standards.

Ted Simons: How binding are the standards? What are we really talking about here?

Stacy Mortensen: The federal standards?

Ted Simons: The California standards.

Stacy Mortensen: It's important to continue to follow the California standards because it is the most stringent. And Arizona right now struggles with air quality so much that, to go backwards on this to the federal standards that require less, it's just the wrong thing to do at this time.

Ted Simons: You see it as the wrong thing to do. DEQ says it's the right thing to do. What did you hear at the hearing today?

Stacy Mortensen: We heard at the hearing today primarily an economic impact. We heard a little bit about the legislature and a new rule that went into place about new rules going forward. But this is not a new rule. As Jennifer mentioned, this was put into place in 2008. We certainly have strong concerns when it comes to dealing with public health. The American Lung Association's state of the air report shows the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area as the 19th most ozone polluted city in the country. We have great concerns about that.

Ted Simons: But DEQ says it's not worth it. Sounds like the cost doesn't justify what's being done here. Talk to us about that.

Jennifer Bonnett: DEQ says it's a negative legitimate I believe difference. According to the numbers in 2009, their own numbers, along with the ZEV we're looking at a 3% to 5% reduction by 2025, which we think is quite significant. Especially when we are suffering in our air quality and we have to take every tool that we can to reduce that amount.

Ted Simons: When the clean car program was started in 2008, and the national level was maybe here and clean car was here, has that gap narrowed over the years?

Jennifer Bonnett: It has narrowed, but California is still more stringent. Maricopa County and several counties throughout the state continue to struggle with staying within proper air quality levels. So this, along with many other tools, need to be put together to try to reduce that.

Ted Simons: I'm trying to figure out what DEQ is thinking here. Sounds like they are saying that it's neglibible, and the gap is closed so far, why worry about the costs when you’re getting pretty much as the federal standard? That pretty much what you're hearing?

Stacy Mortensen: That's what we heard, that would be accurate.

Ted Simons: Why would that be wrong?

Stacy Mortensen: That's wrong because the percentages used today in the hearing were significantly lower than a report we've seen out of DEQ before. So that's one thing. But the other thing that they were -- that really, the issue on the table for the hearing today was repealing this rule. And if it's negligible, why go backwards? Why not stay with something that is stringent and has a better impact?

Ted Simons: If it makes a difference.

Jennifer BOnnett: And I’d like to add, that we were not provided with any evidence showing their economic analysis that this is cost savings going to the federal rules. They did not look at all these issues that we were bringing forward. And the cost of treating asthma and other health-related issues is quite significant.

Ted Simons: Is there any kind of state statute that prohibits the state from more stringent standards, than federal standards, along these lines? Anything?

Stacy Mortensen: None that we could find or are aware of. Even the federal standard says that everyone should be at the federal standard or higher.

Ted Simons: Right.

Stacy Mortensen: So itgives you plenty of room to be at their level or this California level. Again, with the way that Arizona struggles, there's no reason we shouldn't be a leader in this in the country.

Ted Simons: Talk about how this kind of paves the way for alternative energy vehicles, how this kind of pushes the process.

Jennifer Bonnett: By having a certain percentage of zero emission vehicles required on the road, you kind of build that incentive to advertise, to promote. And there's been a lot of -- DEQ will say the cost of infrastructure is insurmountable. There is a local company that received a $100 million grant from the federal government to start to build the infrastructure. That's private money, federal money and private companies. It's quite interesting. Again, no economic analysis from DEQ showing where this cost was.

Ted Simons: We had those folks on the program a couple of times when they first got up and going. Also, in terms of progress with transmission issues and air-conditioning, I think if you have this particular goal, that pushes the process along, correct? Kind of cleaning up these particular aspects of vehicles?

Stacy Mortensen: Absolutely, absolutely. It gives folks here the opportunity to be exposed to these cleaner fuel vehicles and be able to explore those. There was a compelling gentleman at the hearing today who talked about an electric vehicle his family owns that gets 50-mile to the gallon and is just kind of a regular gasoline vehicle they have that gets 19. He said he's saving significant money by having access to this electric vehicle.

Ted Simons: Your point is that that may not even be occurring without the standards, this sort of goal?

Jennifer Bonnett: Exactly. To be looking at this repeal now when at the end of July EPA is going to come down with new regulations, it seems short-sighted and unwise to take a tool away that we might have to need and start over again.

Ted Simons: What do we know, what are we expecting from EPA here?

Stacy Mortensen: They are -- what we're hearing that is there will be tighter controls on how much ozone can be emitted. Again, we're already struggling and putting plans together around the state, because we're not attaining current standards. So to have to meet even tighter standards is going to be a significant challenge for Arizona.

Jennifer Bonnett: Currently the standards are at 75 parts per billion. The EPA is looking at the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion. If it goes to 60 parts per billion, the entire state will be out of attainment.

Ted Simons: Last question, and it's a political question so go as far as you want on the question. Sounds like the Governor is not a big fan of the clean car program, especially because it was instituted by a previous administration. Are the politics such -- it's going to be very difficult to get past that.

Stacy Mortensen: We're not sure where this hearing will go from today. There were a lot of comments about significant benefits that will come from keeping this program intact. Again, primarily great health benefits for Arizonans. There are cost savings available so there are significant arguments. Where it will end up, we don't know.

Jennifer Bonnett: Another thing I would add from the hearing that was quite impressive was the economic impact for Arizonans. When we pay for fuel that money goes out of the state when. We have electric cars, that's money saved in your pocket and spent in Arizona, it creates jobs in Arizona, as well.

Ted Simons: Thank you both so much for joining us tonight.

Jennifer Bonnett: Thank you.

Stacy Mortensen: Thank you.

Colorado River Water Supply

  |   Video
  • Central Arizona Project General Manager David Modeer talks about the Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study, a collaborative effort between the federal government and seven western states to assess the adequacy of Colorado River water now and in the future.
  • David Modeer - Gemeral Manager,Central Arizona Project General Manager
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: water, colorado river,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A multiyear study is underway to determine future supply and demand needs for Colorado River water. Here to tell us more is David Modeer, general manager of the Central Arizona Project. Thanks for joining us. Let’s just get to basics here. What are you looking at, and what so far are you finding?

David Modeer: We're looking at two different areas with the Colorado. One is to quantify, what is the current and future demands on the need for Colorado River water among the seven basin states. The second phase will be knowing what the demands are and what the potential supply in the river is in the future. What can we do to provide a sustainable supply or to augment the supply.

Ted Simons: And we mentioned it's a multiyear, multi-subject kind of a study.

David Modeer: This is the first phase, trying to quantify what are the demands on the river, municipal, agricultural, and industrial, today and into the future.

Ted Simons: What's the study showing so far?

Ted Simons: There's going to be increasing demands on the river. We've known for oh while that the supply on the river was less than ever anticipated to be when it was allocated in the 1920's. It's important to know your needs before you start determining what you can do to make certain those supplies stay consistent for the needs into the future.

Ted Simons: How do you figure out the variables? How do you slow down the moving target? How do you slow that target down?

Ted Simons: It is a moving target because you're looking at all aspects of water use. You're looking at growth in population. You're looking at the potential efficiencies that can be gained by increased levels of conservation. You have to make some estimation of what's going happen in order to quantify that supply. There is a bit of science involved, not just straight empirical measurements involved in getting to this point.

Ted Simons: I would assume climate change is part of that science?

David Modeer: Yes, climate change is part of that. The climate impact studies are not complete yet. The difficulty is we do have global climate change models but we have not been very good at down-scaling to a specific watershed like the Colorado River. What is the impact on supply? You may have natural periods of drought that could be layered on climate change. Those all play part in what is the supply, and how can that limited supply meet the demands in the future.

Ted Simons: You mentioned drought, obviously a big factor here in west. What can you tell us so far regarding a drought frequency or duration?

David Modeer: If you look back in history over the past 1500 years or so, you will see substantial periods of drought. We're talking periods of 40 years or so. Which will have a serious impact. We've been almost 13 years of drought now to this point in time this. Interspersed with a few wet years, this has been a very great year along the Colorado but the drought is not over. We know through tree ring studies and other scientific tests, the drought consist last for a long time and be of variable intensity.

Ted Simons: This seems to be like it would be a big variable when you have massive wildfires in certain areas of northern Arizona, where you're going to wind up with mudslides, flooding. The water that's supposed to go to X is now going to Y and it's not the best of water. How does that play into what you're looking at?

David Modeer: Forest fires have a significant impact on watersheds. Fires in Arizona don't impact the Colorado River watershed because they are not in that Pacific watershed. There have been fires on the upper Colorado with the same impact. You don't get any infiltration into the earth in first years after a fire because you pretty much almost fry the ground, so that the water is not able to penetrate into the soil. So your impacts are longer lasting, but you don't increase the water in the watershed and lessen the amount of supply that happens over a period of time when you do get rains.

Ted Simons: Sounds similar to snowpack and the concern that slow pack, which does allow water to seep in, may be replaced by rain, which doesn't necessarily go in.

David Modeer: Particularly a year like this on the Colorado, it's going to 16 be continuing to feed water into the watershed and the ground for months on end. Rain, if it's heavy and replacing snow that would normally happen, you get tremendous runoff in a very short period of time that creates flooding and is sometimes in certain watersheds very difficult to retain that supply.

Ted Simons: Ok, so you're looking at supply and demand, and possible imbalances here for the next 50 years or so. As far as the research, who's doing the research? And how is the research being done?

David Modeer: A number of universities are doing the research, and also NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Universities at Arizona, Universities in Colorado and consultants who are experts in analyzing the uses of water and analyzing the impacts of drought and climate change on it. So there's a very broad group of scientists and University types that are taking a look at the various aspects of demand and supply.

Ted Simons: Bottom line: What do we take of this particular snapshot?

David Modeer: Well, I think what we can take out of this is what we've known, that is the demand is outstripping the current supply along the Colorado and it'll probably get greater, that gap, in the future. Getting precise numbers as to what it may look like in the future is very important for us to be able to make decision on what we do to try to augment that shortage. Do we do things like desalination? Do we begin the transfer of agricultural water to urban usage? Increase the levels of conservation through other specific programs? There are a number of alternatives out there. To know which ones are the most economical to pursue, you need to know the supply and demand numbers in the future.

Ted Simons: Once we get a better indication of the numbers, which the study is doing, what's being looked at next?

David Modeer: Next is what is the most opportune way to augment the shortage. The difference between the demand and the supply on the river. The seven basin states together begin looking at things, including storing additional water as the it becomes available in the reservoirs, not using as much when you've got extra water, looking at desalination projects, whether it be brackish groundwater, which is plentiful in Arizona, locally and in the Yuma area. Looking at California and states that are near the ocean, looking at desal nation to offset demands on the river. And certainly lifestyle changes in which we use less water in the future.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

David Modeer: It's a pleasure, thank you.