Wood Packaging Cleared, Despite Insect Risk

     (CN) – The 2nd Circuit upheld federal regulations green-lighting the importation of wood packaging materials, including crates and pallets, despite the risk that the materials will transport invasive wood-boring insects that can destroy native ecosystems.

     The Natural Resources Defense Council, along with the states of California and New York, sued the Department of Agriculture in 2005 over the regulations.
     They claimed that the packaging materials would threaten forests by introducing exotic pest species that hitch a ride on imported wood packaging and can wreak havoc on ecosystems not adapted to such species.
     According to the NRDC, the emerald ash borer beetle from Asia has destroyed millions of ash trees in the United States.
     The plaintiffs also objected to a provision of the rule calling for fumigation with methyl bromide, a powerful ozone-depleting chemical.
     The environmental group and states specifically challenged an environmental impact statement issued in 2003 for the regulation, claiming that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) failed to adequately consider phasing in alternative packaging materials such as plastics or processed wood.
     The federal agency admitted that its chosen option would not eradicate all pest risks and could increase demand for forest products.
     The federal appeals court in New York ruled that APHIS adequately balanced the risks against the benefits for keeping the wood packaging materials.
     Although requiring alternative materials would have provided the greatest plant protection, the court ruled, it also could have led to international trade violations, given the lack of global consensus on how to deal with importable pests.
     Phasing in substitute materials “is not currently a workable alternative,” Judge John Walker wrote for the three-judge panel.
     The ruling affirms a federal judge’s decision upholding the regulation.

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