There are lots of interesting angles to the demise of the Samoa pulp mill, any one of which would've made a fine piece ("Dead at 45," Nov. 25). There's the story about how Louisiana-Pacific strip-mined the forests here and then left town, discarding its newly chlorine-free pulp mill as collateral damage. Or the corporate politics angle -- how power struggles and personal foibles inside LP contributed to the company selling its assets and leaving town.
There's the story about the aging physical plant unable to justify the continued investment needed to upgrade it when pulp and paper can be made cheaper elsewhere. There's the story about the series of grifters and hucksters who picked the carcass of the dying operation, stiffing local creditors in a series of bankruptcies while refusing to put any real money into the mill. There's the environmental angle -- the pall of stink that blanketed the poorer parts of Eureka for decades and the toxic legacy that remains. The environmental economics angle -- compliance in the age of NAFTA and WTO. The environmental politics angle -- how regional air and water regulators bent the law to the point of breaking it out of fear of being blamed for the aging plant's demise. And (unavoidably again) the grifters and hucksters who played on this fear in a community desperate for decent non-dope-growing jobs.
Each of these angles is a facet to the larger story of how similar Humboldt County is to a third world country in the way it is treated by resource extraction companies.
A serious piece exploring any or all of these angles would have made riveting reading, with well known local names to tell the tragic and sordid story -- from former Louisiana-Pacific Resource Manager Bobby Morris to former Louisiana-Pacific Environmental Compliance Czar Kirk Girard; from local air quality activists Andy Araneo and Patrick Etchyson to former North Coast Air District Executive Director Lawrence Odle. There is a wealth of documents available in local agency and court files.
The NCJ chose instead to provide a snapshot of a tombstone -- the rotting plant itself. Nothing wrong with a snap shot per se. It's nice to know you can see the bones of the USS Milwaukee from the roof of the boiler plant. But as the cover story?
William Verick, Eureka
I enjoyed Terrence McNally's piece (what little there was) on the death of the Samoa Pulp Mill. The mill was such an important part of the North Coast economy for so long that I wish Mr. McNally would have added more color to the economics of the mill -- past, present and future -- and what drove it to the edge of extinction.
An interview with Mr. Simpson on his failed efforts to recapitalize the mill would be very interesting. Two hundred jobs lost -- why?
Ted Mason, Willow Creek