Posts Tagged ‘Federal Legislation’

As We See It: The Rollercoaster

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

By Danny Dructor, ALC Executive Vice-President

Many years ago, I remember a trip I made with my family to an amusement park where we enjoyed spending the day seeing the sights and riding the rides.  One of the biggest excitements came when I found out that I was tall enough to ride the rollercoaster, but what I did not realize then was that the rollercoaster “effect” would follow me throughout my adult life.

We have all experienced the rollercoaster effect; the ups and downs of the economy, the highs and lows of growing older, and the good times and bad times of the timber harvesting industry…sometimes up, sometimes down.

We are still on that rollercoaster.  While markets have shown some improvement over the past few months for the products and services that we provide, there is still the potential threat of more regulation that could stymie our growth.

For the past 18 months, the American Loggers Council has worked with other associations in an attempt to secure legislation that would permanently exempt using forest roads from the NPDES permitting system.  Many of our sponsors have jumped into the fray with us, including Caterpillar Forest Products and John Deere.  We have been in the trenches in Washington, DC, working together to try and put a common sense bill into place that would remove one more “worry” from our still recovering industry.

On June 18th, we got an unexpected surprise.  Members of the U.S. House of Representatives decided to attach the Silviculture Regulatory Exemption Act as an amendment to the House Version of the Farm Bill.  Immediately, a call to action was sent out requesting that everyone call their representatives and ask that they support the amendment in the Farm Bill.  Because of the great work put in by all, the amendment passed on the floor of the House on a voice vote on June 19th, with no one debating in opposition of the amendment.

But then came June 20th, when members of the House voted on final passage of the Farm Bill.  The Bill went down in smoke by a vote of 194 for and 234 against.

Unfortunately, larger considerations of the Farm Bill such as the Food Stamp (SNAP) program carried a lot more weight than our forest roads amendment, but the fact remains that the vast majority of the members of the House voted favorably on the language that was included in the amendment, understanding that the language in the amendment made sense.

Once again we have experienced the rollercoaster effect that comes with life, and once again, we find ourselves at the bottom of the hill slowing climbing our way back up.  I’m not so certain that the idea of riding roller coasters anymore is appealing, but you can rest assured that the American Loggers Council will do its part in securing legislation that is favorable towards the timber harvesting industry, even if the ride is not always as smooth as we would like.

The American Loggers Council is a non-profit 501(c)(6) corporation representing professional timber harvesters in 30 states across the US.  For more information, visit their web site at www.americanloggers.org or contact their office at 409-625-0206.

As We See It: Getting Active

Monday, January 7th, 2013

By Danny Dructor, Executive Vice-President

By the time that this editorial goes to press in February, a delegation of the American Loggers Council will have already made its way to Washington, DC to measure the mood of the members of the new Congress, or in better words, their willingness to try and accomplish things that will help to return this great nation to sound fiscal policy and to become a nation that leads in job creation and prosperity.

There is a lot of unfinished business, including the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the NPDES permitting requirement for logging roads, and designing a road map that will lead us to energy independence, including the use of woody biomass as a renewable energy resource.

There is still a lot of work needed to improve the offerings from the federal timber sale program that would benefit the logging industry and timber dependent communities.  There is not much reason to offer a biomass component in a timber sale if those markets do not exist, and even less need to tally firewood removals as a part of a viable timber sale program.

Regulatory uncertainty is still a major concern for our industry, and the administration has yet to release any indicators as to how many new regulations might be promulgated during the upcoming year, but you can be assured that we will be working closely with other organizations, federal agencies, legislators and their committees to ensure that the voice of the professional timber harvesters are once again heard and that our unique perspective on our industry is understood by all.

If you have yet to join up with your state and/or regional logging association, there is no better time than now to become active.  There is a lot of concern over the decline in logging capacity as we begin to see an uptick in housing markets, but access to credit and a sustainable workforce need to be addressed, as do the need for long term contracts to help stabilize businesses.

We are beginning to see a swing in the mindset of many of those entities that need the goods and services that we provide, and by being active in your association can help you stay better informed of the changes and opportunities that may be coming your way.

The American Loggers Council will continue to be the voice in 2013 for professional timber harvesters across the country, and your commitment and actions for this industry will help us to attain the level of recognition that you so justly deserve.  Please visit our web site at www.americanloggers.org to find out more about what this organization is doing to serve you and our industry.  You will be glad you did.

The American Loggers Council is a non-profit 501(c)(6) corporation representing professional timber harvesters in 30 states across the US.  For more information, visit their web site at www.americanloggers.org or contact their office at 409-625-0206.

Maine Issues Letter to Feds opting out of Health Insurance Exchanges

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Maine Issues Letter to Federal Health Officials Opting Out of Health Insurance Exchanges

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage today reiterated his recommendation that the State of Maine will not develop a state-based health insurance exchange as part of the implementation of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA also referred to as ACA).

Because the guidance issued in the August 13, 2012, request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is not legally binding, the State of Maine will not be submitting a Declaration Letter. Instead, Gov. LePage, in a letter to U.S. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, noted that the State of Maine has repeatedly stated that the law has severe legal problems, is bad policy, and overreaches into the lives and pocketbooks of fellow Americans.

“Maine will not build a state health insurance exchange as outlined by the ACA. We are not going to assist in implementation of this bill in its current form,” wrote Governor LePage. “The ACA is full of federal mandates; as such, even a state based health insurance exchange is actually controlled by the federal government. In the end, a state exchange puts the burden onto the states and the expense onto our taxpayers, without giving the state the authority and flexibility we must have to best meet the needs of the people of Maine.”

Governor LePage added that without knowing more details on the cost and nature of state-based exchanges, it is possible that our state could be placed in the untenable position of serving as the administrator of a new federal healthcare bureaucracy over which Maine has little control.

“Furthermore, many of the ACA regulations remain incomplete two and a half years after the bill passed. The legal status of portions of the bill remains unresolved, and there are too many unanswered questions. Complex technicalities make interpretation challenging, and unknown financial obligations—at a time when we face a fiscal crisis that we have yet to resolve—become extremely burdensome to businesses and families. Without such issues addressed, Maine cannot make a prudent and comprehensive decision in the best interests of our citizens.”

The Governor has also stated that the State of Maine will not expand Medicaid under the current structure that exists because it is not affordable.

Governor Paul LePage issued the rejection letter Thursday to arrive by Friday, Nov. 16, which is the deadline the federal government initially gave states to declare their intentions. On Thursday, HHS extended the deadline for states to make a decision on a state based exchange until Dec 14.

The full text of the letter is included below.

November 15, 2012

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

With the November 16 deadline for states to determine whether we will participate in the health care exchange program per the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) upon us, I am writing to make you aware of Maine’s decision. As you know, the State of Maine has had a number of concerns regarding the implementation of the ACA.

Because the guidance issued in the August 13, 2012 request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is not legally binding, the State of Maine will not be submitting a Declaration Letter. Instead, this letter serves as the state’s position regarding this issue.

Since the ACA was signed into law, the State of Maine, along with several other states, has repeated on a number of occasions and we continue to believe that the law has severe legal problems, is bad policy, and overreaches into the lives and pocketbooks of fellow Americans.

On November 14, 2012, I stated that our state would not build a state health insurance exchange as outlined by the ACA. We are not going to assist in implementation of this bill in its current form. The ACA is full of federal mandates; as such, even a state-based health insurance exchange is actually controlled by the federal government. In the end, a state exchange puts the burden onto the states and the expense onto our taxpayers without giving the state the authority and flexibility we must have to best meet the needs of the people of Maine.

Furthermore, many of the ACA regulations remain incomplete two and a half years after the bill passed. The legal status of portions of the bill remains unresolved, and there are too many unanswered questions. Complex technicalities make interpretation challenging, and unknown financial obligations—at a time when we face a fiscal crisis that we have yet to resolve—become extremely burdensome to businesses and families. Without such issues addressed, Maine cannot make a prudent and comprehensive decision in the best interest of our citizens.

We urge you to make public, as other states have requested, any contracts signed for the development of the federally facilitated Exchange. These documents would help states make informed decisions about the costs, timeframes, scope, operations and responsibilities of the federal exchange.

This law robs states of the ability to innovate and find cost-effective solutions that meet the needs of their citizens. We want meaningful reform, but the ACA masquerades as a free-market idea when in reality it is a stepping-stone to a single-payer system. Maine will not be complicit in the degradation of our nation’s premier health care system.

We need to address the real concerns of our health care system. I offer to work with your administration in finding workable, effective reforms and market solutions to the grave challenges we face.

Sincerely,

Paul R. LePage

Governor

cc:   The Honorable Olympia Snowe
The Honorable Susan Collins
The Honorable Michael Michaud
The Honorable Chellie Pingree
Commissioner Mary Mayhew
Commissioner Anne Head
Superintendent Eric Cioppa
Stefanie Nadeau

Obamacare’s Insurance Rule Is Upheld by Supreme Court

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling Thursday, upheld the individual insurance requirement at the heart of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The court on Thursday handed Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced the court’s judgment that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

Source: http://finance.yahoo.com

Update:  Link to the Court’s Ruling (PDF)

Loggers in Washington (DC)

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

By Miles Anderson

There is a feeling of comfort for people working in a natural resource industry that is derived from being outdoors and distant from the urban chaos that rules many of our lives today.  In spite of some of us being out of our comfort zone, the American Loggers Council (ALC) Board of Directors once again made its annual trip to Washington DC.  Although feeling slightly out of place on initial trips to the Hill, it soon became apparent that Congressional members and staff rarely get the unique opportunity to hear our concerns and passions expressed personally on our way of life and our livelihoods.

A trip to Washington, D.C. is as amazing and fulfilling as it is frustrating.  Building relationships with Representatives or their staff (which seems more productive at times) gets you involved with the process that impacts your daily life and ability to provide a livelihood for your family and employees.  Some we met with gave the appearance of being interested; while others are truly concerned with the direction we are headed.  Some even shared information that left you asking why, how, or can they be serious?

Miles Anderson

One staff member we met with spoke about Congress being very inactive, yet we have seen a lot of activity coming out of this administration, basically leaving discussion and openness out of due process.

One thing was very clear at our meetings this year at the Capitol — everything there is at a standstill.  Both sides of the aisle have agreed to disagree on pretty much everything, which is to be expected when control is split in an election year.  The positive is that we should not see a bunch of new legislation coming out that could add more layers or rules and regulations.   The lack of meaningful accomplishment seems to prevail in Washington.

There is still the issue of dealing with the quagmire of rules Congress has already handed down that should warrant both their and our attention.  Many had hoped the large class of freshman elected to Congress last year would create some positive change, but are finding that “change” is loosely defined these days.

I encourage everyone to contact their local representatives, state legislators and congressional representatives and use any other available venue to make your issues heard.  It is our duty as citizens to be a part of the process as pointed out by a fellow logger and passionate ALC Board member

Richard Schwab from Florida when he stated, “After all, we hire the representatives and if they are not doing their job we should fire them and hire someone who will.”   While some would applaud sending Congress home until after the election due to inaction, we would all be better off to re-read the constitution and consider how it has guided us to this point and start adhering to it.  A quick read of the United States Constitution would demonstrate how our founding fathers talked almost as much about impeachment as they did legislative duties.

The American Loggers Council delegation accomplished 30 Senate office visits and 73 House office visits over a two day period.  During the trip, the group also had small groups meet with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, DOT/FMSCA, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, the House Committee on Natural Resources and other Senate and House Committees important to our issues.   ALC members had State specific issues that they conveyed to their representatives while everyone at all meetings carried the national issues brought forward by the ALC.

One thing that became very clear from our meetings on the Hill was that Congress and the Administration have seemingly run out of options for funding rural parts of America dependent on and surrounded by a paralyzed Forest Service.  Schools and Communities in the West are about to lose their income from the general fund that was a replacement for revenue from timber sales lost to environmental policies, lawsuits and management decisions that shut down the Forest Service.  When the Forest Service’s ability to harvest timber and extract other resources ground to a halt, so was their ability to help fund those communities whose tax base contains large allotments of federal land ownership.

With appropriations for this year tied to a stalled Transportation Bill, I hope that schools and communities come together with the logging industry to move forward to promote a green, sustainable future that involves extracting resources and value from federal lands.  We hear a lot about job creation, bailouts, and green energy, and our industry has the resources to provide revenue by managing federal forest lands.  We are not asking Congress to give away money to our industry, just allow us to do our jobs. After all, isn’t this what the majority of citizens are asking for?  This is where we could see real change as rural resource providers, if we stand up together and are heard.

To clear up any misconceptions, if you are in the logging profession and are a member of one of the 30 state associations that make up the American Loggers Council, then you are a member of the ALC and should be proud of the efforts this group makes during the annual trip to Washington DC.  The issues that we carry on a continual basis and new ones as they come along can be seen prominently displayed on the ALC website and I strongly urge you to take a moment to see the newly revamped site at www.americanloggers.org.

I encourage all loggers across the nation to join your state logging association and become active in these and other issues.  Get to know the people that are out fighting these fights on your behalf and join with them.  Through the American Loggers Council, I have had the opportunity to meet loggers from all over the nation and better appreciate their determination, passion and the honor they put into supporting this industry and I hope that others trying to make a living in this industry do the same.

Myles Anderson with Anderson Logging Inc. is a 4th generation logger from Fort Bragg, CA. and is currently serving on the Executive Committee for the American Loggers Council.

The American Loggers Council is a non-profit 501(c)(6) corporation representing professional timber harvesters in 30 states across the US.  For more information, visit their web site at www.americanloggers.org or contact their office at 409-625-0206.

AGREEMENT REACHED TO ALLOW HEAVIEST TRUCKS ON ME’S INTERSTATE

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Senator Collins convinces House-Senate negotiators to approve plan to allow heavier trucks to use Maine’s federal interstates for at least 20 years

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, has successfully negotiated an agreement that would allow the heaviest trucks to travel on federal interstates in Maine for at least 20 years instead of forcing them off the highways and onto Maine’s secondary roads and downtown streets.

While the Senate originally approved Senator Collins’ provision to make this change permanent, the House never approved a similar provision.  As a member of the committee charged with working out the differences between the two bills, Senator Collins successfully negotiated this 20-year compromise agreement. Final votes in the House and Senate are expected next week.  The bill would then be sent to the President for his signature.

Senator Collins has led the effort to allow trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on Maine’s federal interstates –including I-95, 195, 295, and 395.  Senator Collins has worked closely with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), also a member of the Transportation Subcommittee, and this agreement for Maine is paired with a similar change for Vermont.

“We faced significant opposition to our plan to permanently allow the heaviest trucks to drive on our federal interstates in Maine and Vermont,” said Senator Collins.  “But moving these trucks from our downtown streets and onto the federal interstates where they belong has always been one of my top transportation priorities.  The agreement that I negotiated to allow the heaviest trucks on the highway for at least the next 20 years is a major accomplishment that will help shippers, truckers, and Maine’s job creators.  More important, it will improve safety for Mainers who live, work, and go to school along the secondary roads, and busy downtowns where these trucks are currently forced to travel.”

Senator Collins’ effort is supported by the Association of Police, the Maine State Police, the State Troopers Association, the Maine Department of Public Safety, the Chiefs of Police, the Maine Motor Transport Association, the Parent Teacher Association, and the Bangor School Department, who have all expressed the importance of safety in getting these heaviest trucks off our local roadways and onto the interstates where they belong.

Currently, the heaviest trucks in Maine are diverted onto secondary roadways that cut through our downtowns on narrow streets, creating a major safety concern.  In most of the surrounding New England states and nearby Canadian provinces, the heaviest trucks are free to use the interstates, but not in Maine and Vermont.  This puts Maine businesses at a distinct competitive disadvantage.  Heavy trucks already operate on some 22,500 miles of non-interstate roads in Maine, in addition to the approximately 167 miles of the Maine Turnpike.  But the nearly 260 miles of non-Turnpike interstates that are major economic corridors are off limits.

In 2009, a pilot project that Senator Collins wrote, was included in the 2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill.  This one-year pilot project allowed trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on Maine’s federal interstates.  According to the Maine Department of Transportation, during the one-year period covered by the pilot, the number of crashes involving trucks on Maine’s local roads was reduced by 72 compared to a five-year average.

Senate vote near on trucks bill

Friday, October 21st, 2011

By Jonathan Riskind jriskind@mainetoday.com

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

WASHINGTON – The Senate is on the verge of passing legislation that would allow trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to exit Maine’s side roads and use all Maine interstate highways.

The truck weight measure has been long sought by the Maine congressional delegation, state officials and many local residents worried about big rigs rumbling through intersections,  past homes and schools.

Currently, trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds can use only the Maine Turnpike.

Read full story on PortlandPressHerald.com

Quimby pitches National Park on Economic Grounds

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Roxanne Quimby sees a national park as a jobs creator, not an employment killer…

…peaking before more than 200 people at Stearns High School on Monday, the noted environmentalist…presented a vision of the Katahdin region transformed…“I am not interested in putting any manufacturing jobs under, but tourism has always been No. 2 or No. 1 depending on the survey as a jobs maker in the state of Maine,”

Opponents to the initiative…offered a handout illustrating some of their objections. Quimby, they said, has a history of denying sportsmen access to her land, has evicted all leaseholders from the 70,000 acres, and said there is no guarantee that she or the federal Department of the Interior would not expand her proposed park.

Read entire story on BangorDailyNews.com

Legislation Supports EPA Regulations for Forest Roads

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Forest owners say it will conserve jobs and the environment

WASHINGTON (July 14, 2011) – The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) voiced support for legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress to affirm the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of forestry as a nonpoint source under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The legislation corrects a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that struck down EPA’s Clean Water Act regulation for forest roads. The decision reversed an Oregon court’s ruling that stormwater control systems for forest roads do not need point source permits in addition to meeting existing CWA requirements. The EPA’s regulation defines forestry activities and roads as nonpoint sources that are regulated by states through Best Management Practices (BMPs) rather than through permits required for confined industrial sites.

David P. Tenny, President and CEO of NAFO, “For 35 years the EPA has contended that the most effective way to regulate forestry activities under the Clean Water Act is to treat them as nonpoint sources of water pollution. We agree –three decades of experience demonstrates that forestry is a minor contributor to water quality decline and is best covered by state regulations and guidelines. Today, Congress took the first steps to affirm EPA’s correct interpretation of the Clean Water Act.

“If the legislation isn’t enacted, the Ninth Circuit decision will add job-killing costs and invite litigation to rural areas hardest hit by the economic downturn without corresponding environmental benefit. Overlaying a CWA permit requirement onto forestry activities will push more private forests into non-forest uses with greater impacts on water quality. The resulting loss of jobs and forests undermines the goal of preserving working landscapes that support rural families, wildlife habitat, clean water and recreation opportunities across the country.

“We urge Congress and the Administration to work together to enact this legislation as soon as possible to restore regulatory stability preserve the jobs that keep private forests working for America.”

The legislation is being led by Senators Wyden (D-OR), Crapo (R-ID), Risch (R-ID), and Begich (D-AK) and Reps. Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3), Schrader (D-OR-5), Walden (R-OR-2), McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5), Pingree (D-ME-1), and Michaud (D-ME-2).  More information on this issue is available at www.nafoalliance.org/water.

###

NAFO is an organization of private forest owners committed to advancing federal policies that promote the economic and environmental values of privately-owned forests at the national level. NAFO membership encompasses more than 80 million acres of private forestland in 47 states. Private, working forests in the U.S. support 2.5 million jobs. View NAFO’s interactive map to see the economic impact of America’s working forests.

US sawmill owners ask for quicker enforcement of U.S.-Canada lumber agreement

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — It’s tough enough for American sawmills to compete when the lumber industry is depressed by the economy; it’s still tougher when foreign competition has the competitive edge because of government subsidies.

The United States and Canada signed a Softwood Lumber Agreement in 2006 that would level the playing field for sawmills in both countries, but that playing field is hardly level because the Canadian government continues to subsidize its forest industry.

Read entire story on BangorDailyNews.com


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