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Forest Industry Associations Council discusses issues from COVID 19 to carbon neutrality

July 22, 2020 – The goal of the virtual meeting of the Forest Industry Associations Council (FIAC) was to update FIAC members on issues impacting the forest products industry, which was certainly accomplished. For about two hours, including representatives from both state and national industry organizations exchanged information on repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, discussed issues from carbon neutrality to interstate weight limits.

New York’s Legislature passed a bill prohibiting use of the herbicide glysophate on state land, including parks, certain campgrounds, and state colleges and universities as of Dec. 31, 2021.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not said whether he will sign the legislation.

Since forest products was declared an essential national industry, most states reported their facilities were operating, but markets have been curtailed and everyone is struggling. Some secondary manufacturers that did close down are slowly reopening. Many also were concerned about measures being taken in their state legislatures and worried about budget shortfalls. For example, New York’s Legislature passed a bill prohibiting use of the herbicide glysophate on state land, including parks, certain campgrounds, and state colleges and universities as of Dec. 31, 2021.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not said whether he will sign the legislation. 

Below are some of the issues that other state organizations mentioned.

In North Carolina, the hardwood industry has been hit hard by trade issues with China. In the state Legislature, the business community was concerned about some workers compensation bills that made it easier to bring forth a claim that was COVID-related.

In West Virginia, the state’s Legislature increased weight limits on state roads to 94,000 pounds. There are concerns about markets for hardwoods and low-grade wood. 

In Minnesota and Wisconsin, in addition to the COVID-19 effects, the closures of two Verso mills are upsetting the market balances. The region is concerned about how to provide relief for loggers.

In California, home construction in the San Francisco Bay area was curtailed because of the virus. After six weeks construction resumed and the closed mills reopened.

ISSUE UPDATES:

LOGGER RELIEF BILL  (H.R. 7690 and S.4233): On, July 21, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine introduced legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Angus King, that would provide relief to logging businesses. On July 20, the House bill, cosponsored by Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, was introduced. The legislation, which as not yet been printed, requests funding “To establish a payment program for unexpected loss of markets and revenues to timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and for other purposes. Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC) has been working hard on this effort. Read Mainebiz story.

TRANSPORTATION:

  • The national effort continues to obtain authorization to haul 95,000 pounds of raw forest products, including sawlogs, pulp, wood, chips, biomass, on the interstate. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, who supports the effort, agreed to offer a floor amendment,  but it was blocked in the Rules Committee by Chair James McGovern (D-MA),  who adamantly opposed all weight-related bills.
  • Currently there is a ticking clock to September 30, when the current highway bill authorizations expire. The House passed a very broad $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that included their reauthorization of the highway bill. This was all encompassed into the Moving Forward Act, but it’s highly unlikely this bill is going to become law. 
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its new hours of service regulations to help provide greater flexibility for drivers in terms of time on the road. It expands the short-haul exemption to 150 air miles and allows a 14-hour work shift to take place, as part of the exception. Also it expands the driving window during adverse driving conditions by additional two hours.   

CARBON NEUTRALITY: Unfortunately the EPA proposed rule that would finally declare a combustion of biomass, to be carbon neutral and therefore not subject to Clean Air Act permits for emissions has stalled again because the federal Justice Department (DOJ) continues to raise issues

WATERS OF THE USA: Last April’s new Waters of the United States regulation excludes ephemeral streams, excludes most man-made  ditches and continues to the wastewater treatment system exemptions.  There are 13 lawsuits, which are being monitored, challenging this ruling in several courts.

IMMIGRATION:  President Donald Trump’s June 22 proclamation suspended the issuance of all new H2B  two visas, and that will last until the end of this year. The proclamation does allow for exemptions from the ban. This action could affect future tree planting and pre-commercial thinning operations in Maine.

PFAS (perfluorinated chemicals): In 2019, AFPA, there were around 88 PFAS-related bills in the state legislatures the majority related to residuals and water. (NOTE: In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills appointed a Maine PFAS Task Force in 2019, which issued a report in January 2020. One recommendation resulted in LD 2160, An Act Relating to the Statute of Limitations for Injuries or Harm Resulting from Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. On July 28, 2020, Maine’s Judiciary Committee heard several hours of testimony on LD 2160, An Act Relating to the Statute of Limitations for Injuries or Harm Resulting from Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. Read Press Herald story.)

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When: Thu August 13 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
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For the safety of MFPC's members and staff, the Council decided not to hold an in-person annual meeting this year. The MFPC Board of Directors will hold a virtual meeting at 9 a.m., Monday, Sept. 21.
When: Mon September 21 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
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