WASHINGTON — By a 25-19 decision, the House Natural Resources Committee voted to amend the Lacey Act. The amendment, H.R. 3210, the “Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness Act” (RELIEF Act), is now scheduled for a full House vote in July.
Sponsored by U.S. Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and later modified by an amendment by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), the RELIEF Act would exempt wood and plant products harvested before the law was amended in 2008. Other changes would limit the scope of applicable foreign laws to the preservation and conservation of trees and plants, and limit the import declaration requirement to products containing solid wood instead of composites.
The Lacey Act and subsequent bills to amend it, have divided industry groups, environmentalists and politicians. Musicians have also weighed in on both sides. According to consulting firm Climate Advisors, Mick Jagger, Sting, Lenny Kravitz, Stefan Lessard and Bryan Adams are among those is support of the Lacey Act. Adam Gardner of Reverb and the band Guster also testified before Congress last month in support of Lacey.
“A chorus of the biggest names in music is opposing this Tea Party-led effort to eliminate the Lacey Act, which would open the floodgates to increased illegal logging,” Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee said in a statement. “Killing this vital law would create a new era of ‘blood instruments’ and destroy consumers’ freedom and confidence to buy products that are made from safe and sustainable wood.”
“This incredible list of performers and music legends illustrates the breadth of backing that the Lacey Act has across all segments of society,” added Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
As well as American Forest & Paper Assn., other groups in favor of the Lacey Act include: Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Alliance, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, United States Green Building Council, United Steelworkers and World Wildlife Fund
Yet the Lacey Act is not without its detractors. Among those speaking before Congress last month in favor of reform last month was musician Jeffrey Baxter, former guitarist for Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers and others. “I think [the Lacey Act] could be made more effective and focused, while ensuring that law-abiding American musicians and American businesses can continue to create music and create jobs without fear of accidentally violating Lacey,” he said in testimony. “The Lacey Act is a good piece of legislation, but let’s work to make it better.”
Industry groups supporting the RELIEF Act include: American Home Furnishings Alliance, International Wood Products Assn. (IWPA), National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Music Merchants, National Marine Manufacturers Assn., National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Recreational Vehicle Industry Assn.
"The RELIEF Act strengthens and improves the integrity of the Lacey Act by addressing the unintended consequences of the Act’s 2008 Amendments," IWPA Executive Vice President Brent McClendon said in a statement. "While moderate in scope and simple in execution, the provisions of the RELIEF Act will significantly increase the protection of forests around the globe and also save American family businesses."
NRF also noted the scope of foreign laws and the resulting regulations could lead to unintentional violations.
“Retailers recognize the need for environmental conservation but the current law leaves them guessing on which products are legal and which aren’t,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a previous statment. “Congress needs to carefully review the Lacey Act to ensure that the goal of eliminating illegal logging is its primary objective, not penalizing businesses that are doing their best to comply with an unworkable law.”
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