Paper Lobby Wants Washington To Keep Killing Trees For Official Use

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Against the tide of digitization, the paper industry is bent on convincing the federal government to either stop or slow its move away from paper products, the Washington Post reported.

One of the industry’s top lobbying groups, Consumers for Paper Options, has launched a new campaign to hinder what has been a constant transition to digital materials in recent years. It is working to convince federal agencies to continue offering paper documents for Social Security and other programs, arguing they’re a benefit for older, computer-illiterate Americans.

“The glitzy new thing is to be pro-technology,” John Runyan, its executive director, told the Post. “But a lot of government agencies are saying, ‘We’re going electronic and the heck with it.’ ”

The industry is fighting against the Obama administration, which has pushed for digitization in government and touted the results. An electronic payments costs the government 9 cents, while a paper check costs $1.25. The Treasury Department has effectively suspended paper mailings and said it will save up to $1 billion over 10 years. Over the last year, the biggest federal agencies have cut paper use by 7 percent, saving $64 million.

While the paper industry presents its efforts as on behalf of a certain set of Americans, the Post said, it’s also seeking to ensure its own survival. Paper product demand has dipped an average of 5 percent every year for the last five years.

So they’re meeting with members of Congress and pushing them to continue offering paper products through federal agencies as frequently as possible. The industry has scored a few wins, according to the Post: Last month’s budget deal included a provision to resume mailing paper statements for Social Security, the result of the industry lobbying Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA).

“I wish we had launched this effort 10 years ago,” Thomas Howard, vice president of government relations for Domtar, one of the largest U.S. paper manufacturers, told the Post. “But we’re on top of things now. Government agencies are in effect slamming citizens by determining how they will receive vital information.”