Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed AB 1492, a sweeping bipartisan bill to strengthen California's timber industry and protect thousands of jobs by eliminating regulatory fees on California companies, allowing extra time to harvest timber and preventing excessive civil liability for wildfires.
"California's laws have saddled our timber industry with costly burdens while giving out-of-state competitors a free ride--but that stops today," said Governor Brown. "This legislation enacts serious bipartisan reform to even the playing field to protect California's timber-industry jobs."
"This legislation helps our state's timber industry tremendously by putting more people to work here in California and getting more Californians to buy California timber," said Senator Tom Harman. "Today, seventy percent of our lumber is imported from nearby states and beyond, causing jobs to be exported outside California. This bill brings major reform to California's timber industry and much-needed relief to California businesses."
Under current law, California companies pay multiple regulatory fees when harvesting timber, giving out-of-state companies a major, competitive advantage. As a result, 70 percent of California's lumber is currently imported. This new law eliminates regulatory fees and imposes a one percent assessment on lumber sales to level the playing field with out-of-state timber companies. This is projected to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in general fund expenditures annually and provides full funding for the California Department of Fish and Game's Timberland Conservation Program.
"Governor Brown took action to reduce regulatory burdens and protect thousands of California's timber-industry jobs," said President and Chairman Emeritus of Sierra Pacific Industries, A.A. Red Emmerson, "This bill makes our company more competitive with out-of-state businesses and strengthens our industry. Governor Brown's leadership brings California the first major reform to the timber industry in decades, improving California's business climate for years to come. Our industry is extremely appreciative that Governor Brown led the way through the difficult legislative process."
The new law also gives companies extra time to harvest timber without having to duplicate extensive environmental compliance documents. Under current law, companies can spend several years preparing environmental analysis for a Timber Harvest Plan, drafting a report and getting regulatory review--all for a plan that is valid for only three years. By extending the effective harvest period to five years with a two-year extension, the state will reduce regulatory burdens while maintaining critical environmental protections.
AB 1492 also reduces insurance and liability costs for California companies by preventing the federal government from obtaining potentially unlimited environmental penalties against timber companies for wildfire damage. This change could save California companies millions of dollars annually, though they will remain liable for reasonable and quantifiable damages related to actual firefighting and restoration costs.
"The work of the Governor and members of the legislature on AB 1492 shows a commitment by our state leaders to tackle complex issues that are critical to retaining and creating jobs in California," says Cheri Collins Smith, an owner of Collins Pine. "The leadership demonstrated on both sides of the aisle along with the diverse coalition that was able to come together in support of these imperative reforms resulted in the most significant development in California forest policy in decades. We are truly thankful to our state leaders for setting aside their differences to generate meaningful reform. The AB 1492 is proof that our state government can, in fact, work."
According to industry analysts, every 10 percent increase in timber production in California produces 1,000 to 2,000 new jobs. California's 8.7 million acres of private forestland currently support approximately 22,000 jobs.
AB 1492 passed the Legislature with bipartisan support and strong backing from the California Forestry Association, Associated California Loggers, California Building Industries Association, Pacific Forest Trust, California Association of Professional Scientists, California Farm Bureau Federation and dozens of local County supervisors, environmental organizations, labor groups and other trade associations.