California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that imposes a 1-percent tax on lumber products starting in January. The bill also protects the timber industry from excessive legal damages for wildfires.
The bill had strong backing from the California timber industry for several reasons. It eliminates regulatory fees companies currently pay when harvesting and shifts the costs to consumers through the tax. It also limits legal damages landowners pay for starting wildfires.
Mark Pawlicki is with Sierra Pacific Industries, which represents the largest private landowners in the state. He says he’s pleased with the legislation.
"It will say to our insurers that when we are trying to get insurance for our operations that they know a little better what it’s going to cost if the fire jumps from private land to federal land and so that will reduce our insurance costs and make it easier for us to get insurance," says Pawlicki
Environmental groups liked some aspects of the legislation, but not all of it. Gary Hughes with the Environmental Protection Information Center opposed the legislation. He says in part because it requires fewer environmental reviews of the timber industry’s harvest plans.
"Basically giving industry a much greater prerogative to escape any sort of review that would be incorporating the newest and most contemporary science," says Hughes.
Taxpayer groups and some wood dealers were also opposed to the legislation. But Governor Brown says it evens the playing field to protect California’s timber industry jobs.
The bill passed the legislature with a two-thirds majority.