How the 2010 Elections Will Affect Private Forestland
November 11, 2010
As a result of the November elections, the Forest Landowners Association (FLA) expects to see some improvement in the treatment of private forests by the new Congress. Although the House of Representative will likely be highly active, the Senate may remain somewhat gridlocked. As a result of the change in Congress, FLA believes the Administration will try to pass its agenda in other ways:
- Forwarding acceptable pieces of legislation through Congress, rather than all-inclusive legislation
- Through pressure on the EPA and other agencies to move administrative goals
- Through the states, rather than at the federal level
FLA believes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lost much ground in this election. The Agency is expected to be the target of Congressional attacks, once the Republicans take control of the House and gain several seats in the Senate. We expect to see increased pressure on the EPA regarding recent regulations harmful to forest landowners.
Leading up to the election, FLA and our allies drew attention to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson by pointing to her agency’s new regulations of declaring wood-burning emissions as an equivalent pollutant to fossil fuels (i.e. “Tailoring Rule”) and the 9th Circuit Court ruling that forest roads are point sources of pollution under the Clean Water Act, among others, as proof that President Obama and the Democratic Congress were stifling the struggling economy.
Clean Water Act
A longtime proponent for the expanding reach of the EPA’s regulation of private lands, U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) failed his bid for re-election. Oberstar had become the most vocal and powerful advocate for expanding EPA’s jurisdiction over all waters of the United States. Oberstar sponsored the controversial Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA), which would dramatically expand the scope of the federal Clean Water Act, and strip the individual states of oversight of small and temporary bodies of water. Under the CWRA, individual property owners would have to answer to federal officials, rather than their local government, on even minor land use decisions. The sponsor of the Senate version of the CWRA, Russ Feingold (D-MN), also lost his bid for re-election.
Clean Air Act
The first order of business for Republicans could be legislation to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases (e.g. burning wood) under the Clean Air Act.
An energy bill may be addressed by the Obama Administration in what they are calling “chunks,” meaning that they will divide the bill into smaller portions and try to pass the more acceptable pieces first. However, FLA still opposes the existing definition of renewable biomass in Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) Renewable Electricity Standard.
FLA is pleased to announce an additional 12 Senators and 117 Congressional Representatives (including incoming freshmen) have signed the American Family Business Institute's "Death Tax Repeal Pledge," for which FLA members recruited signatories. The 112th Congress will now have a total of at least 49 repeal supporters in the Senate and 245 repeal supporters in the House, including incumbents who have previously voted for repeal. FLA believes that it is possible that the death tax and other expiring Bush-era tax cuts may not be focused on in the lame duck session, but could be favorably passed in 2011 to be retroactive to the beginning of the year.
Lame Duck Session
Congress and their staffers are preparing for a busy next week. The lame duck session starts then, but there will also be an orientation for 16 freshmen senators and at least 93 newly elected House members. For Democrats, the big unsettled debate is how long and hard to push in the lame duck session for the desires of the party. The outgoing House majority and the dwindling Senate majority have the power to keep Congress in session until the week after Christmas to promote their agenda for as long as possible and limit the reach of the tax cut extensions. They could, however, do the minimum necessary, writing a bill to keep the government funded at current levels until the end of the year. Some representatives are arguing against an extended lame duck session because departing members must vacate their offices by noon on December 1.
Watch for a full report on how the outcome of the election will affect private forest landowners and FLA’s priorities in the 112th Congress in the January/February issue of Forest Landowner magazine.