The SC Forestry Association monitors bills of interest to the membership which are pending in the SC General Assembly, US Congress, and federal and state regulatory agencies. Up-to-the-minute information and the full text of all bills are available at www.scstatehouse.net.
Forest Products Fairness Act of 2013: The Forest Products Fairness Act of 2013 (S. 463 and H.R. 979) requires that lumber and paper products be included in the Bio Preferred and Voluntary Labeling programs, so as to qualify for the US Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Bio-based Markets Program, also known as Bio-Preferred. The legislation makes a technical revision to the definition of “biobased” materials to specifically include all forest products. Congressman Tom Rice (R-SC) has co-sponsored this legislation.
The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2013: Truck weight limits have been frozen at 80,000 pounds on the National Highway System for 20 years. The American Forest and Paper Association had congressional supporters re-introduce H.R. 612, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, that would allow states to increase truck gross vehicle weight on Interstates to 97,000 lbs when utilizing a sixth axle.
Forest Roads Permits: Despite the US Supreme Court reversal of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling requiring permits for forest roads, there is more litigation. The Northwest Environmental Defense Center is asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a District Court ruling in Oregon that defines forest roads as nonpoint sources under the Clean Water Act.
Congress can end the uncertainty over permits for forest roads and avoid another legal quagmire by passing legislation upholding EPA’s 37 year policy that forest roads are nonpoint sources of pollution under the Clean Water Act.
According to the National Alliance of Forest Owners, the forest road “nonpoint source” legislation is being drafted and should be introduced in May 2013.
Timber Tax: The National Alliance of Forest Owners, SCFA, and 50 other organizations signed a letter in support of maintaining the current timber tax provisions that was delivered to the US House Ways and Means Committee on April 15. This letter was delivered to the Senate Finance Committee on April 24.
Boiler MACT: The Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (Boiler MACT) Rule is the outcome of a long regulatory process, influenced by various court orders, that sets emissions limits for industrial boilers. EPA released the “new” final rule on Dec. 21, 2012 and published it in the Federal Register on Jan. 31, 2013. The “new” final rule, addresses some of industry’s concerns about biomass consumed as fuels, compliance deadlines, and emissions limits. The new rule is estimated to reduce compliance costs for the forest industry from about $9 billion to $2.6 billion. According to American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) the Boiler MACT Rule is in the litigation phase. AF&PA will defend EPA’s improvements to the Boiler MACT Rule when challenged in court.
Farm Bill: SCFA co-signed a letter with the American Forest Foundation, American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), Forest Landowners Association, Forest Resources Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and other state forestry associations asking Congressional Leaders to support the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill’s conservation, forestry, and energy programs give forestland owners the tools they need to manage healthy and sustainable forests, keep their forests intact amidst growing threats and challenges, and successfully market forest products. SCFA’s priorities for the Farm Bill include:
• Strong provisions for forests in Conservation Programs;
• Strengthened forestry outreach, education, research, and inventory programs;
• Tools to combat forest-related invasive species; and
• Improved forest market opportunities, including ensuring all forest products are
included in the USDA Biobased Markets Program
AF&PA expects that the Forest Products Fairness Act of 2013 will be attached to the Farm Bill in the House of Representatives. It is expected that the House Agriculture Committee will take up the Farm Bill in May. SCFA is advocating for a 5 year Farm Bill.
H-2B Wage Rule: On April 1, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Florida that the US Dept. of Labor lacks authority to issue regulations governing the H-2B guestworker program. This decision upholds the lower court’s preliminary injunction (in Bayou Lawn and Landscape Services v. Solis). The Court of Appeals found that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction and affirmed the District Court’s interpretation of the law. The preliminary injunction remains in effect through the determination of the case.
Appeals Court Rules No Permits Required for Poles: The Ecological Rights Foundation (ERF) appealed an earlier court ruling that found that Clean Water Act (CWA) permits are not required for storm water runoff from pentachlorophenol-treated utility poles in or near waters of the US. On April 3, the US Court of Appeals issued its final ruling, affirming the earlier court’s dismissal of the ERF suit. Utility poles are neither “point source discharges” nor “associated with an industrial activity”, and therefore not subject to CWA permits. The Treated Wood Council believes this ruling supports the use of all treated wood structures in or near waterways without CWA permits.
Congressional Staff Tour: Cam Crawford, SCFA President, participated in the SC Congressional Staff Tour co-sponsored by the SC Dept. of Agriculture, SC Forestry Commission, SC Tree Farm Committee, and Clemson University. Crawford spoke to congressional aides about Federal issues in the 2013 SCFA Program of Work and other industry related legislation including Boiler MACT, Forest Roads Permits, Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, H-2B Wage Rule, Forest Products Fairness Act, Farm Bill, Estate Tax, and protecting current timber tax laws.
Infrastructure Funding (Bridges and Roads): A special Senate Finance Transportation subcommittee, appointed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman, met several times and took testimony on various infrastructure plans currently under consideration in the Senate. The subcommittee is chaired by Senator Ray Cleary. Others serving on the subcommittee are Senators Tom Alexander, Paul Campbell, Darrell Jackson, Joel Lourie, and Yancey McGill.
The Senate Finance Committee adopted a plan that would invest more than $2 billion over five years in road and bridge repairs, highways, and resurfacing needs. The plan uses a combination of funding options including: issuing general obligation and revenue bonds, transferring the vehicle sales tax on automobiles to the Highway Fund, indexing the state’s motor fuel user fee, raising various vehicle related fees and providing for additional local option sales taxes for infrastructure purposes.
The bill is pending on the Senate calendar.
The South Carolina House of Representatives provided funding in the amount of $100 million for roads and bridges earlier this year.
Truck Weight Increase: Other states in the Southeast region have higher gross vehicle weight (GVW) tolerances than South Carolina’s gross vehicle weight (GVW) tolerance of 84,272 pounds for unprocessed forest products. In June 2012, the North Carolina General Assembly increased the GVW tolerance for unprocessed forest products to 90,000 pounds. Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee have an 88,000 pound GVW tolerance for unprocessed forest products.
On April 16 Senator Danny Verdin introduced Senate Bill 627 and on April 17 Rep. Joe Daning introduced House Bill 3980 to allow DOT to issue permits authorizing logging trucks to haul unprocessed forest products up to 90,000 lbs on state roads.
LEED Discrimination Legislation: The US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system has a bias in forest certification standards. LEED only recognizes Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood by providing a credit point in the LEED rating system while failing to provide a credit point for the highly respected certification systems of the American Tree Farm System and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. SCFA endorses the equal recognition of all three certification systems in state building construction projects.
On April 18, Senator Katrina Shealy introduced Senate Bill 635 and Rep. Nelson Hardwick introduced House Bill 3984 to prevent state agencies from seeking a credit point for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood products in state building construction.
A Fish, Game & Forestry subcommittee met on May 1 and voted 5-0 in support of S. 635. The legislation had the support of Fish, Game & Forestry Committee Chairman Chip Campsen, Senator Katrina Shealy, the bill’s sponsor; Senator Greg Gregory, Senator Kevin Johnson, and Senator Ronnie Cromer. SCFA President Cam Crawford and State Forester Gene Kodama testified in support of S. 635.
On May 8, Senator Campsen polled S. 635 out of the Fish, Game & Forestry Committee by a 17-0 vote and placed it on the Senate calendar. On May 9, the Senate voted in support of S. 635 by a vote of 41-0. Next, the bill must be considered by the House of Representatives before heading to the governor for her signature.
SCFA supports and advocates for the budget requests of the SC Forestry Commission and Clemson University’s Public Service Activities.
Have a question about legislation being monitored by SCFA?
Contact SCFA President Cam Crawford at email@example.com or 803/798-4170.
Other items of interest
2011 Concurrent Resolution Celebrating SC Tree Farm
H.3776 to celebrate Sixty-five years of Tree Farming in the Palmetto State and Salute the South Carolina Tree Farm Program. Was adopted by the General Assembly March 2, 2011.
Right To Practice Forestry
(H3651, R.109, A48) was signed into law by the Governor on June 2, 2009. The bill limits authority of counties and cities to restrict or regulate certain forestry practices, and provides terms and conditions of certain permitted regulations. As long as the landowner practices forestry, no permit is required to harvest timber. However, when the forest changes to non-forest use, there is a one year waiting period (if final harvest is conducted in accordance with local tree ordinance) and up to five years (if not) before the area can be developed.
Right To Practice Forestry