The U.S. export of industrial wood pellets to meet renewable energy goals in the European Union is not a threat to the sustainability of U.S. Southern forests, according to a new report by independent forest analysts and economists using U.S. government and marketplace data. The report was commissioned by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) and the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA).
“This report puts to rest concerns that wood pellet export markets pose threats to the sustainability of U.S. Southern forests or the viability of other forest products manufacturers,” said Carlton Owen, President and CEO, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. “Markets are vital to keeping working forests as forests. At the Endowment we are committed to retaining our nation’s rich forest cover for the full range of ecological benefits they provide from clean water to recreational opportunities while at the same time supporting family-wage jobs that communities so desperately need. Whether those jobs are from traditional lumber and paper products or from renewable energy options such as those provided by wood pellets, each is vitally important to America’s heavily challenged rural communities.”
The report reveals that industrial pellet exports represent a very small part of forest harvests in the U.S. South and will continue to do so into the future. NAFO issued a news release and a blog to promote the positive findings.
Carbon Neutrality of biomass
NAFO continues to engage Congressional champions to secure legislative language establishing the carbon neutrality of biomass energy. The House and Senate included identical language in their respective EPA funding bills earlier this year, which has greatly simplified deliberations on the provisions during negotiations on the omnibus spending package. NAFO members and allies remain fully engaged with Congress and remain optimistic of a successful outcome in the coming days.
Outreach on EPA Clean Power Plan
NAFO is responding to state efforts to develop implementation plans under the EPA Clean Power Plan (CPP). Many state air agencies have begun stakeholder outreach with public hearings or listening sessions. NAFO is engaging state partners to raise the use of biomass as a qualifying source of renewable energy meeting EPA requirements. NAFO is also preparing comments on EPA’s Federal Implementation Plan, due January 21, that will serve as a template for states in the development of State Implementation Plans.
NAFO is preparing comments to respond to the EPA’s request for information on forest roads published in the Federal Register November 10. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit approved the schedule by which EPA will comply with the court’s 2003 decision on the treatment of forest roads in the Stormwater Phase 2 program. The schedule requires EPA to issue a decision whether to adopt regulations under the program for forest roads by May 26, 2016. Comments are due January 11, 2016, although EPA will likely grant NAFO’s request for a 30-day extension.
The regulation defining “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) issued by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers last June remains subject to a confusing web of lawsuits at both the federal district court and court of appeals levels. The lead court of appeals, the Sixth Circuit, enjoined the rule nationwide while it considers whether jurisdiction properly lies in the courts of appeals or federal district courts. Challenges are currently pending in twelve district courts around the country. The Sixth Circuit is hearing arguments on this issue today.
Northern Long Eared Bat
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted intervention as defendants to NAFO and eight other forestry groups in the Center for Biological Diversity’s challenge to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) interim 4(d) rule for the northern long-eared bat. The court has now suspended the briefing schedule to allow FWS to issue the final rule, which is expected in December.
NAFO, along with six local, state and national organizations, joined an amicus brief urging the US Supreme Court to accept the petition filed by agriculture and home building groups for review of a July decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The lower court’s decision affirmed EPA’s “total maximum daily load” or “TMDL” for the Chesapeake Bay, upholding EPA’s broad interpretation of the Clean Water Act that dramatically alters the carefully crafted balance of federal versus state and local power established by Congress under the law. Left unchallenged, the court’s decision would set a bad precedent that allows EPA to exercise similar authority over watersheds nationwide, placing the regulatory burden on states.
NAFO joined the H-2B coalition in signing letters to the House and Senate urging support of the Strengthen Employment And Seasonal Opportunities Now Act (SEASON), H.R. 3918 and S. 2225. SEASON would streamline the H-2B application process and provide needed certainty for seasonal employers while enhancing protections for American and H-2B workers.
NAFO joined a letter to House and Senate leadership supporting reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 at the current level of $900 million for seven years and urging permanent status for the conservation easement enhanced tax deduction. Congress continues to deliberate on LWCF reauthorization as part of the omnibus spending bill negotiations.
NAFO’s eighth annual meeting in Sacramento began with a Sierra Pacific Industries-hosted tour of its Lincoln sawmill and Shasta Forests Timberlands, LLC/Red River Forests, LLC-hosted lunch at Lincoln City Hall. CEO roundtable discussions explored the impacts of federal carbon emissions policies on private forest owners and how local forest owners respond to federal policies.
The NAFO Board of Directors elected the following individuals to its 2015 Executive Committee: Dick Molpus, Molpus Woodlands, Chair; Craig Blair, Resource Management Service, LLC, Vice Chair; Toby Luther, Lone Rock Timber Company, Secretary-Treasurer; Eva Greger, GMO Renewable Resources, Immediate Past Chair; Mark Emmerson, Sierra Pacific Industries; Doyle Simons, Weyerhaeuser; and Peter Stein, The Lyme Timber Company. NAFO thanks Ms. Greger for her service as Chair and Mike Case of The Westervelt Company for his service on the Executive Committee.