ROWESVILLE — A lumber sawmill that could easily be the largest in the state has been proposed along the North Edisto River outside Orangeburg. At one point, the plant was estimated to be a $100 million investment.
The company, Klausner Holdings U.S.A., has applied for state air pollution permits that allow major operations.
The company also is actively pursuing or has won environmental permits in Florida and at least one other state in the region.
Klausner is a German company. A call to its Myrtle Beach office was shifted through to personnel.
“At this time there is nothing really to talk about, so you can call back later,” a woman said before hanging up.
So far, a local environmental advocate has not submitted formal comments on the air pollution permitting, and is weighing whether to do so.
“We have definitely been watching it,” said Ryan Black, energy and climate project manager for the Coastal Conservation League, who called it “an industrial-scale plant.” The Charleston-based league is focused on whether there is enough sustainable wood in the area to supply the plant, he said. “Emissions are not a huge concern.”
Klausner is asking for permits to allow the cutting of 700 million board feet of lumber per year, and producing byproducts such as bark, wood chips, sawdust and shavings that can be used for other products.
In comparison, the KapStone Paper and Packaging sawmill in Summerville cuts about 100 million board feet per year, said Gene Kodama, state forester.
Kodama formerly worked for MeadWestvaco Corp., which sold the Summerville cutting operation to KapStone.
Forestry companies normally ask for permits to produce far more than they plan, at least at first, so they can get through with the bulk of the permit process, he said.
Klausner asked the State Forestry Commission if the area around the plant could supply 1 million to 2 million tons of lumber a year, not nearly enough to produce 700 million board feet. The agency determined that it could.
In comparison, the KapStone pulp and paper products plant in North Charleston uses about 3 million tons per year, Kodama said.
The amount of board feet of lumber produced per ton of wood can vary widely, but generally is less than 1,000 feet per ton, according to industry sources.
Lumber mills don’t generate the air pollution that pulp plants do, Kodama said. The concern chiefly surrounds kilns where the wood is dried.
In Florida, Klausner’s paperwork specified opening two of a potential six blocks of kilns to begin operation.
Forestry is the largest manufacturing in the state, a $4 billion business, Kodama said.
Its products make up 30 percent of the exports from the state ports, primarily pulp, paper and packaging products, he said.
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