Monday, November 30, 2009

Turning bad environmental practice into a tax break

Camp Connell, CA -- The attached story was published in the Sonora Union-Democrat in response to SPI's announcement it was "saving" Giant Sequoias -- the largest trees in the world-- and going to get a tax break for doing it.
Why am I not celebrating?

The company press release did not mention that the only Giant Sequoias on SPI land are all recent plants, no giants actually, and "saving the Sequoias" has absolutely nothing to do with the remaining natural Giant Sequoia trees, scattered in only 75 groves along California's Sierra Nevada.

In fact, SPI clear-cut big timber right adjacent to the state and federally protected groves in Tuolumne County's portion of the state park, a cut that made both state and federal officials very nervous about the impact on habitats and watersheds. But not nervous enough to take on the politicians who benefit from SPI.

There are some planted Giant Sequoias outside of protected parks including in a subdivision and a park in Murphys, in cemeteries of pioneers, and eight within a quarter mile of our home all planted by early cabin builders.
None constitute a grove and no one gets a tax break for leaving them alone.

I have one growing on my deck in a bucket, but never thought to ask for a tax break. If I can get a million dollars from the government for a $6 seedling, I may want to participate.

Anyway, some more details are available at his link:

and here's most of the story from the newspaper:

SPI offset deal scoffed at by some observers
Written by James Damschroder, The Union Democrat October 06, 2009 11:40 am

About a week after a new state program was adopted to allow polluters to buy carbon offsets from logging companies, environmentalists say their fears are coming to fruition: logging companies earning millions of dollars for disguised clear-cutting practices.

California’s largest private landowner and logging giant, Sierra Pacific Industries, recently entered into the nation’s largest forest carbon offset deal to date.

SPI claims the deal will sequester an additional 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide — equal to taking 300,000 cars off the road for a year — over the next five years.

The highlighted project in the deal will be to “protect in perpetuity” about 20,000 giant sequoias on over 60,000 acres of SPI land — most of which are in Tuolumne County, said Mark Pawlicki, SPI spokesman.

“The only little sequoias that are growing on SPI lands are a few scattered small trees amidst its mostly pine-tree plantations that have been planted after fires or clear-cuts,” said John Buckley, executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center.

Pawlicki admitted that the oldest of SPI’s giant sequoias are only about 30 years old, and many are just seedlings.

“They grow really fast, though,” he said. “They’re already big.”

Pawlicki wouldn’t say how much money SPI looks to gain from the deal — which came just a week after the program was pushed through the California Air Resources Control Board by the Schwarzenegger administration— but by all measurements it will be worth millions for the logging company.

Essentially, the program — called the Climate Action Reserve Forestry Protocol Version 3.0 — will allow industrial polluters, like power plants and oil refineries, to buy carbon credits from logging companies, like Sierra Pacific Industries, which adhere to forestry practices outlined in the plan.

This could become extremely profitable for logging companies, especially once Assembly Bill 32, the landmark global warming bill, goes into practice in two years. The bill will put caps on polluters so they have to either clean up their acts or buy carbon offsets.

SPI is one of the few logging companies that didn’t participate in an earlier version of the program, which did not allow clear-cutting practices.

In the new wording, according to a handful of environmental groups, the baseline is being set so low that SPI will be monetarily rewarded for its standard 17- to 20-acre clear-cuts. Environmentalists say it is already happening in this deal.

“This appears to be one of the biggest scams on the public that a lumber company and state officials have ever attempted to pull off,” said Buckley.

But SPI and Gov. Schwarzenegger say this is a landmark deal that will help stem global warming.

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