House to vote on easing environmental regulations after Gibson Guitar raid


The Lacey Act makes it a crime to import plants or wildlife into the United States if those goods were obtained in a way that breaks the laws of another country. In Gibson’s case, U.S. Fish and Wildlife said the company is suspected of obtaining illegally logged ebony and rosewood from Madagascar and unfinished wood from India. Gibson has denied the charges.

But the famous guitar-maker became a symbol for conservatives and Tea Party groups who said it was outrageous that an American company could be punished for violating another country's laws.

Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGraham, Van Hollen introduce Turkey sanctions bill Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show GOP senators say Erdoğan White House invitation should be revoked MORE (R-Tenn.) introduced the Relief Act to exempt certain kinds of plant materials from the Lacey Act's restrictions and to ease penalties under the law.

"The music industry and small business owners across the country watched nervously as the federal government recently raided Gibson Guitar," Cantor said in a memo to lawmakers on Friday outlining the House's agenda for the summer. "Whether intended or not, a 2008 law amending the over 100-year old Lacey Act resulted in the raid. Just as fast as Congress can create unintended consequences, we can also fix them."

Cantor said he expects the Natural Resources Committee to advance the bill in time for a floor vote in July.

But a host of environmental groups warn the bill would gut the Lacey Act's protections for endangered forests. Even many in the logging industry oppose the changes because they say it would be unfair to have to compete with illegal loggers.

A group of musicians, including Willie Nelson, the Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Bonnie Raitt, Maroon 5 and Jason Mraz, also signed a petition opposing the bill.