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California Carbon Auction Brings In $1 Billion! And Protects Forests

California Carbon Auction Brings In $1 Billion! And Protects Forests | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
California raked in $1 billion in first cap-and-trade auction of the year, and since they take place every quarter, it can look forward to raising about $4 billion this year.

December's auction brought in $400 million, so why so much more now? As of January 1, transportation fuels are included in the program. 

This is a big deal. Until now, the program applied to a few hundred major stationary polluters - utilities, manufacturers and food processors. Now, it includes mobile sources - transportation fuels - which accounts for 40%  of California's emissions, expanding it dramatically. 

Refineries and fuel wholesalers have to pay for emissions tied to fuel sales. They passed the cost to motorists, raising gas prices about 10 cents a gallon at the pump. 

Even with the number of permits raised substantially, prices held steady at $12.21 per carbon credit, which gives companies the right to emit 1 ton of carbon this year.

Last year, Quebec joined the program, so the province will get a  share. When Quebec on board the program became the  Western Climate Initiative. 
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Prosecutors accuse timber company of deception in efforts to reverse forest fire settlement

Prosecutors accuse timber company of deception in efforts to reverse forest fire settlement | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Federal prosecutors in Sacramento accuse the state's largest timber company of deception in its efforts to reverse a $100 million settlement it agreed to pay over a wildfire that destroyed more than 100 square miles of forest in Northern California.

Court papers cited by the Sacramento Bee this week (http://bit.ly/1E9lX4r ) show the government contends Sierra Pacific Industries' efforts to overturn the settlement "lack integrity" and are based on false accusations. Prosecutors claim the company "only pretended to settle" the lawsuit it faced.

Officials have blamed the Shasta County company for the 2007 Moonlight Fire.

Last October, Sierra Pacific filed court papers accusing prosecutors of misconduct and unethical behavior in prosecuting the civil suit and said the settlement should be overturned because of "fraud upon the court."

Prosecutors rejected that claim.
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Judge orders Cal Fire to pay $30 million for ‘reprehensible conduct’ in Moonlight fire case

Judge orders Cal Fire to pay $30 million for ‘reprehensible conduct’ in Moonlight fire case | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
In a blistering ruling against Cal Fire, a judge in Plumas County has found the agency guilty of “egregious and reprehensible conduct” in its response to the 2007 Moonlight fire and ordered it to pay more than $30 million in penalties, legal fees and costs to Sierra Pacific Industries and others accused in a Cal Fire lawsuit of causing the fire.

The ruling is the latest twist in an epic legal battle that began not long after the fire erupted on Labor Day 2007, scorching more than 65,000 acres in Plumas and Lassen counties.

Sierra Pacific, the largest private landowner in California, was blamed by state and federal officials for the blaze, with a key report finding it was started by a spark from the blade of a bulldozer belonging to a company working under contract for Sierra Pacific.

But company officials have steadfastly denied responsibility and have accused the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the U.S. Forest Service of conspiring to cover up their own shortcomings that allowed the fire to rage out of control.

Even after Sierra Pacific agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over the devastation in two national forests by paying $55 million in cash and handing over 22,500 acres of land to the government, the company insisted it was undone by an erroneous ruling of U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, and then was a victim of stonewalling by Cal Fire in that agency’s Plumas County suit, including the alleged withholding of thousands of pages of key internal documents relevant to the legal struggle.

In a 28-page order issued Tuesday, retired Superior Court Judge Leslie C. Nichols essentially agreed with all of Sierra Pacific’s points, adopting a separate, 57-page order proposed by Sierra Pacific and the other defendants almost word-for-word, and excoriating the behavior of Cal Fire and two lawyers from the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris, which represented the agency.
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Judge Rejects State’s Claims That Timber Company Started Moonlight Fire

Judge Rejects State’s Claims That Timber Company Started Moonlight Fire | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

A Plumas County Superior Court judge has dismissed a state lawsuit against California’s largest timber company for a 2007 wildfire that destroyed more than 100 square miles of forest in Northern California.


State and federal officials have blamed Sierra Pacific Industries for the Moonlight Fire, which they said was caused by two unsupervised employees who operated bulldozers on a red-flag warning day with high fire danger.


Investigators had blamed company contractors working on private land for failing to follow fire regulations, sparking the blaze that burned for more than two weeks and consumed 72 square miles of public land in Plumas and Lassen national forests northwest of Lake Tahoe.

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CalPERS to sell 20,000-acre Sonoma County forest

CalPERS to sell 20,000-acre Sonoma County forest | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

A national conservation group has reached an agreement to buy nearly 20,000 acres of timberland in northwestern Sonoma County, a move that derails the long-disputed, forest-to-vineyards conversion project pushed by CalPERS, the giant state workers pension plan.


The $24.5 million purchase of the so-called Preservation Ranch, to be completed by the end of May, is led by The Conservation Fund, based in Virginia. It would contribute up to $6 million toward the purchase.

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The Conservation Fund owns and manages 55,000 acres of forest in Mendocino County and would use the new property for sustainable timber production and possibly for the sale of carbon credits.

The purchase would eliminate the threat of subdivision for rural estates and commercial vineyard development.

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Jerry Brown signs bill boosting California timber industry

Jerry Brown signs bill boosting California timber industry | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday enacting a new tax on lumber sales and restricting legal damages for wildfires.

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Previously, oversight of California’s vast timber industry was funded with fees on companies in the state. The bill shifts the costs to consumers by placing a 1% tax on lumber sales.


California timber companies supported the change because it eliminates a financial advantage for out-of-state operations, which didn’t need to pay the fee.

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The bill has been controversial because it limits the amount of money government agencies can seek during lawsuits over wildfires caused by negligence. Members of President Obama's Cabinet and federal prosecutors opposed the change, saying it would make it harder to recoup money needed to recover from wildfires. Timber companies have countered by saying federal prosecutors routinely sue for much more than the land is worth in an effort to boost the government's bottom line.

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Timber Sales Cultivate Jobs

Timber Sales Cultivate Jobs | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

The West Coast's beleaguered timber industry is making a comeback, boosting the economies of rural towns that remain otherwise hard hit by the economic downturn.

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The revival comes as California timber harvests and revenue rise for the third straight year, according to state data and timber companies. Timber harvests are up by 20% or more—and revenue is growing by a substantially higher margin—since a post-housing-bust slump sent harvests to a record low in 2009.

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The recovery is due in part to steady demand from overseas. From 2008 to 2011, RISI data show, overseas wood shipments more than doubled. Industry analysts say it's unclear how long that demand will continue.

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"Compared to two years ago, things are a little better," says Ken Cooper, manager of the Chinese Camp mill. Still, he says the industry remains a shadow of what it was 30 years ago, with the 2011 harvest less than one-third of the state's 1988 peak.

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Opinion: CA timber tax would just give industry a fire fine escape

Opinion: CA timber tax would just give industry a fire fine escape | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

In his new budget, Gov. Jerry Brown has quietly inserted provisions that would allow lumber companies and major Northern California landowners to recklessly slash trees and leave the detritus behind to catch fire. So much for Governor Moonbeam.


According to The Sacramento Bee, Brown’s budget provisions would limit liability on the part of lumber companies and landowners in cases where their negligence led to major forest fires. In return, the lumber industry would have to pay an additional 1 percent lumber tax in order to fund forestry oversight.


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Round Valley First Forest Carbon Offset Project on Native Trust Land for California

Round Valley First Forest Carbon Offset Project on Native Trust Land for California | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Round Valley and New Forests on Tuesday announced the regulatory approval of the first forest carbon offset project developed on Native American trust land for the California carbon market.

Carbon offsetting, according to carbonneutral.com, “is the use of carbon credits to enable businesses to compensate for their emissions, meet their carbon reduction goals and support the move to a low carbon economy.”

The offsetting provides funding for renewable energy, forestry and resource conservation projects that generate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Daily Astorian reports that Carbon-dioxide emissions are the most prevalent greenhouse gas from human activity and are tied to global warming.

The Round Valley Indian Tribes Improved Forest Management Project earlier this month received approval from the California Air Resources Board (ARB) for more than 540,000 ARB offset credits – these credits can be used for compliance in the California greenhouse gas cap and trade program.
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Carbon offset scheme gives the Yurok tribe a new way to make money while improving wildlife habitat

Carbon offset scheme gives the Yurok tribe a new way to make money while improving wildlife habitat | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
The tribe’s forestry programme is one of more than two dozen operations across California that have generated offsets for the state’s growing carbon market.

This winter, Yurok tribe forestry crews will be four-wheeling down muddy fire roads, hiking through steep, slippery brush and trekking across more than 8,000ha of forest to count and measure trees.

Instead of preparing to sell lumber, as it has in the past, California’s largest Indian tribe is taking stock of its firs, redwoods and tanoaks to make money in a cap-and-trade programme. By managing its forest near Redwood National Park for carbon storage instead of timber harvest, the tribe is generating credits to sell to oil companies and other businesses that must reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the state’s effort to slow climate change.

When trees are allowed to grow, they absorb more carbon dioxide from the air and store it in their trunks, branches and roots. That sequestered carbon, which would otherwise contribute to global warming, is now a valuable commodity for landowners like the Yurok.

The Yurok tribe has sold millions of dollars’ worth of carbon credits, known as offsets, to some of the state’s biggest polluters. The tribe’s forestry programme is one of more than two dozen operations across the nation that have generated offsets for California’s growing carbon market. The initiative is giving the Yurok tribe a new way to make money while it improves wildlife habitat, grows its forestry staff and acquires land in its ancestral territory near the mouth of the Klamath River in Del Norte and Humboldt counties.
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Sierra Pacific levels corruption allegations in renewed legal fight over Moonlight fire

Sierra Pacific levels corruption allegations in renewed legal fight over Moonlight fire | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

The incendiary legal battle over responsibility for the Moonlight wildfire, which scorched 65,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada seven years ago, has flared anew with charges of corruption and cover-up leveled at federal prosecutors, and state and federal investigators.


The allegations are contained in hundreds of pages of documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento seeking to wipe out a 2012 settlement calling for timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries to pay the federal government $47 million and deed it 22,500 acres of its land to compensate for the devastation of more than 40,000 acres in two national forests in Plumas and Lassen counties, as well as the U.S. Forest Service’s firefighting costs.
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The company contends federal prosecutors sat by in pretrial depositions and knowingly allowed the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and U.S. Forest Service investigators to “repeatedly lie under oath about the very foundation of their investigation.”
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One of the documents Sierra Pacific filed is a declaration from a veteran former assistant U.S. attorney, who says he was forced to give up his position as the government’s lead lawyer in the Moonlight case, apparently because he rebuffed pressure from a superior to “engage in unethical conduct as a lawyer.”


The declaration from E. Robert Wright says he was bounced out of the case by his boss, David Shelledy, chief of the civil division in the U.S. attorney’s office, and replaced by a prosecutor with no previous experience in wildland fire recovery cases.
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Although Sierra Pacific agreed to a settlement in 2012 to end its legal fight with federal authorities, it has always contended the fire investigation was flawed and that investigators manipulated evidence and lied under oath about where and how the blaze began.


According to Sierra Pacific, the government could reach into the company’s deep pockets for a big recovery only if it could blame the company for the fire, and that is what motivated investigators to move the blaze’s place of origin to the area where the bulldozer was working and then falsely deny they had originally settled on a different location.

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Shell to buy 500,000 California forest carbon credits

Shell to buy 500,000 California forest carbon credits | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Shell Energy has agreed to buy 500,000 carbon offsets sourced from a forestry project in Michigan as soon as regulators approve the credits for use in California's cap-and-trade program.

The credits come from a project by carbon offset developers Blue Source to improve forest management in a swatch of land in Michigan's upper peninsula.

"The transaction represents a significant step in carbon market development since actions from large compliance entities like Shell are necessary to help spur investment in greenhouse gas reduction projects," Blue Source said in a press release.

Blue Source, which also brokered the deal, said it would not disclose how much Shell agreed to pay for the credits.

The Bishop property where the project resides consists of over 200,000 acres of land, making it one of the largest offset projects in development that can generate credits eligible for California's carbon market.

Sam Radcliffe's insight:

The Bishop property is owned by a fund managed by The Forestland Group.

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Idaho forest companies seek lawsuit protections

Idaho forest companies seek lawsuit protections | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Idaho's private forestry companies want to buttress their protections against federal wildfire lawsuits that they say have been costly for companies elsewhere.

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Sierra Pacific Industries paid nearly $50 million and donated 22,500 acres to settle a lawsuit over a 2007 wildfire that prosecutors said was caused by unsupervised, bulldozer-riding employees on a red-flag warning day.

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Timber tax passes Legislature in last-minute scramble

Timber tax passes Legislature in last-minute scramble | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

A proposed tax on timber came back from the dead early Saturday, passing after Gov. Jerry Brown's aides muscled votes in the final minutes of a legislative session that stretched past midnight.

The bill would place a 1% tax on lumber sales to fund oversight of the timber industry. It also would limit companies' liability for legal damages in cases of wildfires caused by their practices, restricting how much government agencies could sue for negligence.

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Democrats hailed the plan's passage. "We needed critical reforms to ensure sustainable forestry management and to protect jobs in impoverished parts of our state," said Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills).


Federal prosecutors and Obama administration officials oppose the limits on damages out of concern that they could make it more difficult to secure money to pay for recovery from destructive blazes. The timber industry argues that prosecutors routinely sue for much more than the relevant land is worth.

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CA wildfire liability bill language emerges from the ashes

CA wildfire liability bill language emerges from the ashes | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

California timber companies and other major landowners would pay significantly less money when found liable for wildfire damage under draft legislation that resurfaced Monday in the Capitol.

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U.S. attorney's office assails Calif. Gov. Brown's wildfire-liability plan - KansasCity.com

U.S. attorney's office assails Calif. Gov. Brown's wildfire-liability plan - KansasCity.com | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Gov. Jerry Brown tucked provisions into his budget that would limit payouts in wildfire liability cases, potentially saving timber companies and other major California landowners hundreds of millions of dollars as federal prosecutors pursue record-high damages in court.


The Democratic governor also asked lawmakers to impose a 1 percent lumber tax to fund forestry oversight while reducing industry costs. And he wants to reduce the frequency with which California reviews tree-cutting plans for environmental impacts.

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But the plan has drawn strong opposition from the Sacramento-based U.S. attorney's office, which is aggressively pursuing wildfire negligence cases, as well as some environmentalists who contend Brown is giving the industry too much.


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