Pruitt Comments on Federal Green Wood Purchasing

 

Just as I had written in some comments below, that I thought that the Trump administration will have bigger fish to fry than those from our own little policy streamlet, I ran across this from Greenwire via SAF. It’s so easy to be wrong.. Here’s the link.

 

President Trump’s nominee to head U.S. EPA, Scott Pruitt, said he’s “very concerned” about an agency policy — now under review — that has excluded much of the country’s lumber from purchase.

EPA’s preferred green program accepts only lumber certified through the Forest Stewardship Council and not two other programs — the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and American Tree Farm System.

After industry complaints, the agency said in December that it would take a closer look at the policy and removed references to the restriction from its website.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative said 95 percent of lumber produced in the United States doesn’t qualify under the rules EPA has been following.

In answering questions at his confirmation hearing from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Pruitt said he shared the senator’s concerns about keeping out such a large segment of the industry.

In addition, Pruitt said, he was concerned about how EPA initially implemented the policy through agency recommendations in 2015 without seeking public comment.

Wicker, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and a handful of other lawmakers have complained to EPA about the policy (E&E Daily, April 5).

“We’ve had a lot of activity on both sides of the aisle challenging this,” Wicker said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s discrimination against domestic wood.”

While the decision rests with EPA, it affects purchasing across the federal government, noted Nadine Block, chief operating officer and senior vice president for public affairs at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

“The differences are few and far between,” Block said. And while EPA has cited Department of Energy policies in citing the recommendation, those policies were “outdated” and the response didn’t satisfy the industry, she said.

 

FWIW,  the EPA policy never made a lot of sense to me. How can one agency (say EPA, with fewer experts no practitioners, and possibly no public involvement) determine that another agency’s management practices (say the FS, determined by many experts, with many practitioners and with public involvement) aren’t good enough to be purchased by the feds?

15 Comments

  1. I once talked with a visiting forester from Australia. She thought it very odd that we had an agency, the EPA, that was both a scientific research organization AND a regulatory agency; she thought it too much like one side was in bed with the other side.

  2. Well, almost every agency has its own research arm, DOE, FS, INT, EPA, which sometimes study the same thing without coordination with each other (and also overlap with NIH and NSF). Not that I don’t think agencies should be able to do their own research (because otherwise the results tend to not be related to their problems) but I do think they should be forced to coordinate, so they don’t duplicate unnecessarily and waste money that could be spent on researching other topics (or on other things entirely)..

    • What about the tremendous resource costs required to coordinate?

      One place that I see a greater lost opportunity are research efforts that illustrate that they have no comprehension of the research and operational trials that have already established the particular aspect of the science decades before the internet.

      • (1) So my solution would be (horrors!) to select a Lead Agency and give them the budget.. say NIH for health, FS for forests, Energy for energy and so on. Then that group wouldn’t have to do much more coordination than they already do for their own research. They might even develop logical interdisciplinary, cohesive research programs like “Wind Energy Impacts, a Coordinated Approach.” Right now we have random scientists at random agencies doing random things. Imagine if the Manhattan project had been done that way..

        (2) I agree and that is more generally true than just in science., but also in my studies of religion. One thing universities could do is have a panel of “old farts” (academics and practitioners) who review draft thesis proposals and suggest older literature that is relevant. And we could post old faves (that seem to be still relevant) here.

        • Sharon

          #1 Sounds reasonable.

          #2 Don’t think that will float unless the data is on-line. I don’t believe that the up and coming researchers are going to take the time to dig for pre-internet data going back to the ’40s and earlier especially since all of the author’s are dead and “old farts” have forgotten who wrote what they read and have no idea where to go to look for a physical copy since they got rid of their personal moldy stack of printed references. I doubt that the Library of Congress has much of that type of stuff especially not graduate studies and articles published in periodicals. But, I don’t know that for sure.

          • I was thinking of the 70s-80’s not even back that far! But I think journals (like SAF) are all scanned and still available through their own site. And you can search them electronically, which is good.

    • Roy, that’s a great question! We’ve talked about it on the blog before and you can search on those, but my answer is that there are environmental groups that don’t want the FS cutting and selling timber. So they have pressured FSC to not certify the FS. Now at the FS end, there’s an issue because the FS would have to manage to FSC requirements rather than those developed through public comment. Plus the taxpayers would pay for the certification, and thereby be subsidizing the timber sales (some would say “even more”). The Pinchot Institute did a study here (that I reviewed when I worked at the FS) http://www.pinchot.org/gp/National_Forest_Certification that said it was doable in terms of FS practices being able to meet the requirements. When I searched on it on this blog I found this request for input from FSC last June that Steve posted. Has anyone heard anything more recently?

    • I don’t think anything’s changed much since the Pinchot report.. but again FSC might have changed the rules since then. If you are of the worldview that when D’s are running things the FS is more restrictive, then it’s unlikely the FS got further away from meeting the previous FSC requirements in the time since.

      Hopefully someone else on the blog or one email away from someone here is keeping up with this. The Pinchot report is very comprehensive and well worth a look if you are interested.

  3. Having dealt tangentially with EPA on surface mine and T&E issues, I doubt it was or has been EPA R&D responsible for this. In fact I suspect EPA has nobody in their R&D with any core competencies or interest in forestry for the most part. I suspect it was solely from the their regulatory staff. I have always chuckled when I see their comments to EIS scoping for federal actions and you can tell they have somebody in DC that scans a state’s (not the USFWS) endangered species list and they say “we are concerned you didn’t discuss or evaluate the impacts to such and such”. And more often than not it turns out to be a critter or plant not in the opportunity area or a species that would benefit say from creating early successional habitat. I recall a meeting where one EPA person with mining responsibilities admitted that they had only been to one surface mine in 15-20 years of working with the group that rides herd over Corps of Engineer permitting for mining. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if EPA regulatory and management side pick and choose research findings to suit their needs. As one forest supervisor told me, upset that USFS R&D recommendations were supportive of land management he wanted no part of, “you have your experts, I have my experts and I can go and get experts from stake holders.” In other words, he like most in management see science in relativistic terms.

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