The Pacific Lumber Company Bankruptcy Trial of 2007-2008 is over! We hope! It closed with an intense barrage of legalisms, citations of precedents and a large dose of the especially impenetrable jargon that is specific to bankruptcy law. Scheduled for two days, the event was brought to a conclusion after only one due to the effective management of Judge Richard Schmidt.
Notes on the Judge
This Judge has a dry wit that he never abuses. He brings exactly the right amount of levity to the courtroom and to make sure that it is not misunderstood as a lack of seriousness, he apologizes after almost every good joke. (This places a major limit on his future potential for professional comedy.)
He has a great respect for good attorneys. He reminds us often that this case is rich in good attorneys. His style, in fact, is to let the attorneys’ arguments run until he doesn’t understand what they’re saying and then he questions them in a straightforward fashion that’s always respectful. He will point out contradictions in their arguments on the spot, but he also seems to accept wisdom and right interpretation when he hears it.
He is a lawyers’ judge but is not afraid to cut short zealous arguments that fail to respond to correction. He more or less brushes off formal objections to witness’ testimony and lets them speak on the grounds that there’s no jury here that needs to understand, only him and he pretty much knows the law. He wants to hear what the witnesses have to say and trusts that he is not about to be deceived. He is, to all appearances, smart and decent and truly wants do the right thing for Humboldt County if the law will allow it
Some Reiterations and Additions to the Known Facts
Events in court during the last session had put the official stamp on a two-fold competition for confirmation. On May 1st PL and Maxxam swung behind one of the plans, MRC/Marathon’s and officially killed their own which for all intents and purposes were already dead. Also on May 1st, McMarathon upped their original offer to $530 million all cash. The note holders had consistently been disinterested in the prior offer that offered less cash and new notes.
The MRC/Marathon plan has many aspects that have made it attractive to both environmentalists and timber people alike in Humboldt County. Both the regulatory agencies and the politicians have spoken out clearly in support of this plan in an entirely unprecedented effort to influence the outcome of a bankruptcy proceeding.
The note holders’ plan calls for an auction, a far less popular alternative in Humboldt County. The ‘notes’ believe that only through free competitive bidding can the real value of the property be realized. They use as evidence in support of the effectiveness of an auction the number of parties that have expressed an interest in an auction.
One of those is the Harvard University endowment, the Harvard Management Corporation, a major timber investor. The manager of Harvard’s timber portfolio was in court on May 1st when they formally announced their interest and their partnership with Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). Red Emmerson, head of SPI was also present for the announcement which offered terms by which SPI hoped to take control of the Scotia mill.
The ‘notes’ had been using Harvard’s interest as part of their rationale for the ability of an auction to increase the level of their recovery. Word filtered out over the next week that when Harvard learned of the new, increased price offered for the land by McMarathon, they did the wise thing and stepped down. They’d supposedly done most of their due diligence investigations of the Scopac inventory and they had a fairly clear idea of what the land was worth to them.
The question of whether smart old Harvard and their advisor, Jim Rinehart were wise when it came to timber investing was answered in the affirmative. Whether the ‘notes’ were right about their surmise that an auction would produce a lot more money for them was at least partly answered in the negative.
There was another partnership of investors sniffing around. They’d jumped in through the phone respondents’ connection in court two weeks ago and made their interest known. They were ready, they said, to bid somewhere between $565 and $ 590 million, but, they slipped in, they were still waiting for the last $ 300 million of their funding to fall into place. That massive uncertainty elicited a small guffaw from the assembly listening to this on the courtroom’s speaker phone the next morning No certainty there.
This is important because the Judge is indicating a clear preference for the McMarathon plan if, and this is a big “if”, the confirmation of their plan can happen within the constraints of bankruptcy law. He said over and over that he’d prefer to do what the community wants—and the community as a whole seems to want McMarathon–but that he must do it within the law. What, one might interpret, is really at stake here is the danger that confirming the McMarathon plan might produce a vibrant appeal.
An appeal would be problematic all around. The odds against a successful appeal are quite low. Judges higher up in the Federal system overturn bankruptcy decisions maybe 10% of the time tops. Rarely does such a suit have sufficient merit to warrant issuing a temporary Stay that would keep a confirmed party from implementing their business plan on the property. The Judge is no doubt being cautious and looking at all available precedents and existing guidance that the statutes offer. Filing an appeal that produced a Stay in a relatively short time would throw the whole deal into a new depth of chaos which would be brutal to the working people in Humboldt. Did I say the ‘notes’ were tone deaf? Say what?
Meanwhile, never resting, the ‘notes’ managed between the 2nd of May, the last day of the previous session, and the 16th, to turn two tricks. Everyone knew they were working to develop a partnership with someone who could run the mill. They had stubbornly sustained the position that it wasn’t their problem even though everybody and their sister had told them it was–that the land itself would be worth considerably less without an operating sawmill in Scotia to process Scopac’s log. Other mills in the area could potentially pick up the slack if Scotia went down but there would be added transportation costs and generally a less friendly operating environment.
The powerful desire by the community itself to sustain mill jobs in Humboldt was another factor, but not one the “notes’ had seemed to be overly concerned with. This is where they first earned their reputation as being tone deaf. It took the Judge himself to beat on them a politely, always politely, about the importance of the mill in his deliberations before they went to work at it.
Even then, the best the ‘notes’ could produce in this area until this week was a lot of lip service. Finally, though, just before the startup of the closing session, they came up with a partner—the ever-mobile bargain seeker, SPI. Freed in a few short days of a Harvard entanglement, they’d come back in as a partner of the note holders with an offer of $ 40 to $ 45 million for the mill and a promise to sink another $ 30 million or so into moving their Samoa mill to Scotia and upgrading PL’s, giving them the capacity to handle both large and small logs.
Concomitant with that, they planned to close their Samoa facility and meld their work forces into one with 300 employees all at Scotia, producing, it seemed, a net loss of timber employment in the county. This could create a public relations problem for them were not McMarathon likely to produce, at least in the short run, a similar loss of jobs.
The Sierra Pacific consolidation would also potentially create problems for local producers. Options for the selling of their logs would be reduced to only two, SPI. It could result in a reduction of the price that these small producers received. Any negative economic impacts on these producers could play out in terms of conversion of more timberland.
Above and beyond its impact on the County, there are major problems with the SPI offer that renders it considerable less than perfect. A main one is that they will inherit with the mill an equity fund of $ 18+ million which reduces the offer in reality to as little as $ 25 million. A representatives of Marathon, who holds the PL notes and thus must approve the deal, says this would mean that after you subtract the established value of the cogeneration plant, the deal for the mill is worth about $ 7 million. Marathon, the major creditor for the mill, isn’t about to accept that and neither is PL, the owner of record
There are also problems with the 100% supply agreement SPI demands of whoever wins the timberlands in the auction. Not having access to more than one market for logs deprives a producer of the ability to establish fair market value. Speak of “chilling an auction”!
The ‘notes’ had a second announcement, They’d engaged Lehman Brothers, a well-heeled investment bank, to provide up to $ 20 million in DIP funding (Debtor in Possession) for Scopac, enough to keep the company operating for the six to 8 months that completing an auction would require. So at least on paper the ‘notes’ have responded to basic requirement that the judge has tacitly established. Any deal that doesn’t promise to maintain a ‘going concern’ at both Scotia and in the woods isn’t likely to get his support. Of course, were either the woods operation or the mill to fail before or during an auction, the value of the entire deal would be reduced so protecting the “going concerns” was simply good business. Why this had been hard for the ‘notes’ to grasp earlier in the process is hard to say.
The morning’s session on Thursday, May 16th, was dedicated to cleaning up details. One of them was the reopening of the evidentiary stage of the trial so that the note holders new proposal with SPI and Lehman Brothers’ participation could be formally admitted. Zack Clement had made the formal announcement of the new partnership for the ‘notes’ and Texas Todd Shields had actually called Red Emmerson (who was in court with his entourage again) and a representative of Lehman Borthers, to testify. There were no questions from McMarathon for either witness and they were allowed to step down.
Another contentious issue emerged in the morning that related to the formal acceptance by the court of the Maxxam-Palco motion to drop their plan and support MRC’s. (This had been formally announced to the court on May 1st.) The note holders claimed they were going to be disadvantaged if the Court approved the release of Maxxam from obligations to Palco. The Judge didn’t concur and the plan was accepted as had been expected.
During arguments concerning this issue, Todd Shield for the ‘notes’ called the Maxxam-PL deal with McMarathon a “collusive agreement” one of many crisp-sounding but vague legal phrases that were to be employed this last day especially by the ‘notes’ in their closing arguments. Their strategy seemed to weigh more heavily on legal arguments rather than on the question of the value of the land which, after all, was what they sought to increase in an auction. Nothing in this posture would lead one away from the assumption that they are preparing for an appeal down the line.
Avoidance of appeal or other post-confirmation legal action that would test his coming decision was clearly on Judge Schmidt’s mind in the afternoon when closing arguments were finally delivered. He repeatedly suggested his willingness to support the alternative desired by the community but it had to meet all requirements of the law.
That meant, at least, that the confirmed plan had to be “fair and equitable” to all parties. Given that approval of the McMarathon plan had to be a “cram down”–i.e. a plan confirmed against the desires of one major class of creditors–very careful attention had to be paid to legal procedure and precedent.
Attorneys for both sides were keenly aware of this. The arguments offered, as mentioned above, had to do both with value and with the law. Argument about value were central in most of the closing statements by the attorneys, especially those for McMarathon. The basic tactic employed by both sides relative to questions of value was first to discredit the opponent’s expert witnesses and their valuations and then to espouse one’s own.
New York attorney, Allen Brilliant, opened for McMarathon with a list of the many supporters of their plan. These include but are not limited to:
n The Unsecured Creditors Committee
n The trade creditors
n The Bank of America
n The Pension Guarantee Corporation
n The State of California regulatory agencies and Governor
n Federal regulatory agencies, especially US Fish and Wildlife
n The Joint Committee for the Scopac-Palco Estate
Brilliant went on to open the day’s discussion about value and how the $530 million McMarathon offer was not only substantial but might indeed be the best game in town. Many of the other players, he pointed out, had dropped back. Harvard was for the moment not a factor, all was quiet on the The Nature Conservancy consortium had not been heard from in a while and even the Beal deal seemed to be lapsing. The suggestion was that the McMarathon offer might be the best they were going to get. The note holders’ attorneys gave appearance, though, that they held firm to the position that there were buyers out there willing to pay a good deal more than the current offer.
Brilliant went on to note the deficiencies in the new SPI plan which to the unknowing might seem a very good deal but in essence, he claimed, was just bargain seeking. He also pointed out the discrepancy between one set of the note holders ’experts’ and another both from Houlihan Lokey, Chris De Mauro from Houlihan had originally testified to a considerably lower range of value than Managing Director, Greg Daniels, did months later.
David Neier for Marathon then pointed out that the Beal offer for $ 603 million was a gross offer while the McMarathon was a net. After you subtracted several hidden costs, especially the time value of money for the six to 8 month auction period. the Beal Deal was only worth $ 507 million. So MRC, according to these calculations, gave more distributable value to the ‘notes’ than other options. Of course, Neier reminded the Court, the McMarathon deal also paid off the unsecured creditors at least for 70% of their debt, a high percentage in bankruptcies and considerably more than the “notes’ had ndicated they would be willing to pay.
The note holders had two big guns working for them that day, Bill Greendyke, a soft spoken but eloquent lawyer from Fulbright’s Houston office and Isaac Pachulski, a principal in a Los Angeles law firm noted as one of the most powerful bankruptcy practitioners in America..
They were like fire and ice, Greendyke’s well-researched presentation, mostly on issues of the law, hid steel in its quiet delivery. He had the capacity to make heavily contradicted positions appear seamless and opposition to his own professional opinion seem understandable but at least a little foolish
Pachulski, equally scrupulous in his study of precedents, swung his sword with both hands. His grey beard and hair made him seem like he had been dragged out of retirement, but his delivery was that of a man at the top of his game, His oratorical zeal seemed to represent a deep conviction of the righteousness of his position. He spoke in clipped, passionate tones and with what seemed an encyclopedic knowledge of bankruptcy law. He was smart enough to be effective and annoying at the same time. Both lawyers had formidable approached; Greendyke soothingly urged while Pachulski browbeat and blasted off barrages of precedent and opinion.
All that being said, their positions were legalistic and highly technical. Value entered in only as an aspect of form and process. Terms such as “substantive consolidation”, “separateness”, “indubitable equivalent” “deficiency claim” and ”absolute priority rule” were flew around the courtroom. It was almost like the note holders’ argument were in a starkly revealing black and white while the McMarathon team based their hopes on living color with all its potential blemishes.
One thing Greendyke suggested was that by accepting the McMarathon plan, the ‘notes’ would be forgoing a so-called secured claim for more than $ 200 million. This would be a powerful argument if bankruptcy trials regularly returned 100% of debt. It would, in fact, obviate the original decision to end PL’s exclusivity, or maybe even the bankruptcy itself since the value of the firm would admittedly be at least equal to the debt.
Greendyke concluded his presentation by reminding the Court that “the world was watching” and that the Judge should ignore all the public pressure and vote for the note holders’ plan. It reminded us yet again of the curiosity of such a proceedings being carried out in such a public arena and how rare it was that such an enormous public predilection in support of one side was present in bankruptcy court. It all served to multiply the challenge the the Judge faced.
Together, the observations of the two note holders’ lawyer read something like a menu of legal issues upon which an appeal could be produced. Since Pachulski had appeared in this Court only recently, one might assume that he had been brought in specifically to prepare the legal ground for an appeal or at least to send a shot over the bow of the Judge warning him that his decision, if it went against the ‘notes’, should be extremely well-reasoned.
If nothing else, the sheer weight of money the notes were willing to throw into the lawyering of this project that must ultimately come from the asset they sought to control spoke voumes about their ambitions and intentions. fv
Kathleen Coleman for Scopac, now aligned with the note holders, was up next. She took something of a beating, always politely, from the Judge who seemed to find her thinking slightly mushy. He reminded the assembly that the note holders were taking a risk here as Allan Brilliant had suggested. Her client and its new allies, the ‘notes’, could end up not finsing a higher bidder. They might have to credit bid for what is essentially their own property. This would be in essence a foreclosure.
The Judge also made a clear point in response to Ms. Coleman’s arguments about the legality of confirming MRC/Marathon. He asked her straight out, “When can a court place a value on assets and cram down?” She had no compelling answer.
Then came the surprise of the day, for some, anyway. The next speaker for the MRC/Marathon plan was one who had been possible it’s most effective critic just two weeks ago—Shelby Jordan for PL, now aligned with McMarathon. This fast-talking, homey old Texas boy was a treat to listen to if you liked music of the spoken word and weren’t too fussy about its meaning.
Jordan and Texas Todd Shields of the Fulbright team have to share the Blue Ribbon for Best Regional Accents. With Shields, though, the drawl is so pronounced that one suspects a mild exaggeration for impact. Not with Shelby. His accent was as one with the cut of his suit, the sweep of his hair and the power of the boat in which you cannot fail to imagine him cruising happily through his weekends. He was the one active attorney on this case that actually lived in Corpus Christi. It will be a sweet irony to some if Jordan’s summation was a key in winning for Humboldt the alternative it seeks.
Indeed he turned out to be arguably McMarathon’s most eloquent defender. He slowed down the rapid but mellifluous flow of his words just enough to be very clear. He reminded the ‘notes’ that when they wanted the Judge to declare an end to “exclusivity” (the period during which only the plan of the debtor, PL/Scopac could be considered), they ridiculed PL/Scopac’s billion dollar plus real-estate dominated plan and claimed the land was worth no more than $ 430 million.
Jordan reiterated the position that the MRC plan takes no money from the note holder nor does it violate any of the rules. He claimed that “Pachulski doesn’t care what happens to Humboldt” at which point the Judge reminded him that “I (the Judge) cannot bend the rules”.
The next to the last attorney to present a closing argument was Paul Pascuzzi representing the agencies of the State of California. Earlier, Allen Tannenbaum, on the phone for the US Fish and Wildlige Agency, had said earlier that though they have some problems with all the plans, MRC’s presented the least problems for maintaining the HCP.)
Pascuzzi did not beat around the bush. He made clear several simple points. They, the Agencies, strongly support the MRC/Marathon plan and strongly disagree with the idea that the offer is too low.
The Agencies warned that considering the Headwaters litigation as black ink on the ‘note holders’ balance sheet is to misunderstand the situation. They believe that the litigation “is in its infancy”. They vigorously oppose the suit and feel that it is hard to determine that it is worth anything at all.
They agencies also feel that the ‘notes’ are guilsty of a failure of credibility in terms of being able to set up a working outfit in 60 to 90 days. “We don’t want an inexperienced company coming in there and making a mess,” he concluded. The message here is about the odds for Scopac/Palco surviving in tact through the next few months if an auction is confirmed. According to the State of California, they are not too good.
The very last attorney to argue was Evan Jones of Bank of America, the current PL liquidity provider. He provided the last note of humor to this 16+ month-long process. He said that B of A can’t get paid until a plan is confirmed. He said they are eager to get paid but that his experience in getting “taken out” in this trial so far has been about as good as it was in High School.
When the he Judge’s made final remarks, the room, was absolutely still even though people were fidgety after sitting through more than 6 straight hours of arguments. He asked “Have we not indeded had a market test (without the need of an auction)? His answer was in the affirmative. He said that he believed that the since exclusivity had been lifted for the past several months bidders had been given an ample opportunity to emerge.
At this point Pachulski leapt back into the fray, spitting and clawing like a cornered wolverine, demanding to know what the valid process for the establishment of value actually actually is implying that it had not yet taken place in this courtroom. His unstated lament thought lingered in the stale air of the court; “It’s just not fair.”
In the Hands of the Judge
Now it is in the hand of Judge Richard Schmidt. His path forward, precarious and exceedingly narrow, will require a great deal of practical wisdom. The baby could as easily perish from inaction as from whacking it in half. If the Judge confirms MRC, the local public’s favorite, there is a likelihood that the ‘notes’ will appeal based on a charge that there has been a collusive and unfair reduction in the value of their secured asset. The appeal could potentially shut down both Scopac and Palco. It could take 6 months or more to legally resolve. Both companies are within days of running out of the capital necessary to run the operations.
In order for them to keep running, either the ‘notes’ partnership, now with SPI and Lehman Brothers, must be put into place almost immediately or the McMarathon plan must be. Closing operations for any length of time would reduce the value of the whole business so either side would suffer losses.
Either decision is a “cram down’ . One or another major class of creditor will be forced to accept a deal in which their asset sells for a good deal less than they think it is worth.
In the case of Palco and its creditor, Marathon, it is difficult to see how they can be forced in the short run to turn over the asset of the mill and cogenera-tion plant to SPI for the price offered without a prolonged legal battle. There is a question of process as of yet unanswered as to whether the mill and plant are to be auctioned off separately from the Scopac lands or are expected to be handed willy-nilly to the entity chosen by Scopac? Or is the recipient of the mill to be determined by the winner of the auction?
There is a great deal of ambiguity here. One criteria at least for us in Humboldt, produces a painful contradiction to the Judge. If an auction results in a considerably higher price, the higher financing costs comes from the woods. It is unlikely, is seems, that other buyers will have access to cheaper capital than MRC enjoys or can develop in the short run as efficient a product distribution capacity. It is not hard, though, to imagine an overeager buyer ignoring their own due diligence and overbidding just to win. The history of American business is riddled with such dangerous optimism.
So an auction, if successful for the note holders, potentially heaps a greater burden on the already overburdened productive capacities of the land. Hirwitz’ original sin (see below) will be replicated which makes it unoriginal and even less forgivable. It is instructive to recall the Scopac and Palco are themselves already saddled with a total of almost $ 45 million in legal costs from this bankruptcy, also payable from the proceeds of selling logs and lumber in the future. Who could envy Judge Schmidt his tasl?
What’s Good for Business : An Epilogue
Observations on Place and Value
The Federal courthouse in Corpus Christi is a stately three story brick and plaster edifice with red-tiled hmip roofs in the mansard style. Built in 2000, it is serenely solid, tasteful and, at least on the surface, constructed with care using first-rate materials, perhaps not the norm for modern day government construction. The tarnished brass plate to the right of the main entrance has in raised letters an enlarged facsimile of then-President Willliam Clinton’s signature.
The building sits on its own city block at the edge of Corpus Christi’s rarely busy downtown. Just across Shoreline Drive from the courthouse, the protected waters of Corpus Christi Bay lap against a long rock-armored shore. Off across the water, a hazy semi-industrialized skyline indicates where the long narrow barriers of Mustang and Padre Islands separate the Bay from the Gulf of Mexico itself. Off to the east, the channel at Point Aransas allows boats of all sizes access past the barriers, to open waters.
This setting, both the man-made and natural, has a breadth that lends dignity to the business taking place within the courthouse no matter what inherent dignity that business actually might have.
Between the Courthouse and the closest of the two Omni Hotel towers, where most of the participants in the Pacific Lumber Company bankruptcy proceeding stay is a stretch of sidewalk that runs along an empty field across from the bay. Had they been able to see themselves from a distance, the 50 to 80 lawyers and consultants who daily perambulated across this no man’s land might have been forced to ingest a small portion of modesty, medicinal for those who are charged with such a dearly bought sense of mission. Dressed almost uniformly in black and trailing their wheeled briefcases like mother ducks leading their lone duckling, these men of the law and the supporting cast seemed to cling together, humbled by the relative vastness of the broad bay, the great stately bulk of the courthouse and the Omni tower thrusting into an endless sky.
Humility, though, is not the primary qualities that brought together this particular cast of characters for what most hope will be the last time. And it will not be modesty that will force them back into each other’s company if indeed that were to happen. It would be an oversimplification to say, though, that it was only the money. Indeed there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake here, but the value of Pacific Lumber Company has never been reducible to such a simple a measure as dollars. Nor for that matter is real quality always available to those who pay for it only in dollars.
We have arrived at last, as Judge Schmidt must in his deliberations, at questions of value. There is, of course, value, and then there is Value just as there is character and Character and place and Place.
As for the Place, it is an oddity that the debate to determine the fate of this last whole vestige of the greatest temperate rainforest in the world with its capacity to throw up trees of an almost incomprehensible magnitude, should be carried out not only so far away but in a place surrounded on three sides by a wide, flat and almost treeless plain. The only trees immediately visible were scattered coastal palms bending by ancient design to the breezes off the Gulf. These seem as alien to the giant redwoods in their deep shaded mountainous groves as any tree species can be.
This inevitably leads one to wonder why we could not take Scopac’s timber consultant, Don Reimers’ ideas for maximum ecosystem flexibility in service of cash flow, by planting improved redwood cultivars not in the Doug Fir canyons of Humdoldt’s Mattole Valley, but right out onto those flat Corpus Christi plains. Imagine the convenience Hurwitz could have gained by having not just the trial but the forest itself in south Texas. There are far fewer eco-radicals and protestors to worry abut down in down there, and it might have freed up his Humboldt real estate ambitions. The world’s steepest golf course, though, was always going to be a hard sell.
Like Judge Schmidt, I must beg tolerance for my cheap jokes. There is a serious point here that needs to be articulated and jokes can be a lubricant for the process. Charles Hurwitz came raging out of southeast Texas back in l985, a free market pistelero full of perversely exalting notions of avarice and with the basest of investment tools (high yield debt instruments i.e. junk bonds) in his holster.
Hurwitz joined with the leading financial hustlers of the age and snatched up this last and greatest jewel of a disappearing biome, also the mainstay of a whole local economy, and accelerated the process of extraction several-fold. He translated as much of its value into cash as was humanly possible and exported the cash to bank accounts in Texas and, one would imagine, offshore. From the perspective of today, not itself necessarily the most enlightened of times, the level of exploitation of place and people seems painfully anachronistic.
Maybe, though, that’s how business is done in Texas. Or maybe not. Maybe Andy Beal and the note holders are considerably more responsible than that. After all, they have been making what seems to be a real effort to find a way to keep mill and forest operations alive though one could suspect that such responsiveness has been at the point of a gun. Certainly one could argue that they have a right to be paid back as much of what they loaned PL as possible within the constraints of what’s there to repay them.
The problem is that the level of debt Hurwitz incurred in the name of Pacific Lumber Company and the cost of servicing that debt, were and are in excess of what the land can produce for long. Once creditors are contractually promised a certain return on their investment, the die is cast; someone is going to get hurt. So Hurwitz committed the original sin, the one from which we can recover only by continuing to beat up PL lands and our community– or someone losing some money. The sin of the note holders was that they failed to avail themselves of real knowledge of the nature of their investment both in terms of the dependability of the debtor and the nature of the asset which secured their investment.
It is easy for us in Humboldt to choose the losing of someone else’s money rather than suffering further losses to our land and community. It all depends on where you live and what you value, I guess. Preventing silt from coming off steep slopes damaged by bad logging and the consequent damage to rivers, salmon runs, farms and the economy is a difficult criteria to get people on the coastal plain of South Texas to care a lot about. Lack of a stable base of decent jobs in Humboldt and all the social ills that follow is hardly is high on the list of social ills in Corpus Christi. The losses are distant, but that doesn’t make them any less real.
There seems to be no recourse but to fall back on the laws for determining where things are at. Unfortunately, many of the things most at stake in this bankruptcy are not yet protected by law. They might find accommodation, though, under the simple rubric of “Good Business.” That means good for the investors and, if not outright good for the world which we all share, then at least not destructive to it. There’s a non partisan criteria we may be able to live with or may not in the long run be able to live without. Is that too much to ask?