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Weekly News 2.20.12

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, February 20, 2012
 

Weekly News 2.20.12

  • AEP Rate Increase. Last week brought a lot of attention to the AEP rate increase that took affect the first of the year. As electric bills hit late January and early February and many businesses received dramatic increases, there has been a major push-back on AEP and PUCO by those affected. Last week it was reported that PUCO is reconsidering the Electric Security Plan that it had approved last December. PUCO Chairman Todd Snitchler advised that PUCO will review the issue and come up with a change within a month. An article in the Sunday Columbus Dispatch explained the current situation and that the original plan submitted by AEP was much more beneficial to small businesses. However, through the negotiation process, one in which small businesses were not represented as a group, the plan changed to the existing format which hits small businesses very hard. The article indicates that the PUCO Board will address the issue this coming Thursday by revising the plan to benefit small businesses.
  • Athens County Commissioners Vote on Road Bonding Agreement. An article in the Athens Messenger last week indicates that the Athens County Commissioners have approved "an agreement to protect county roads and bridges from damage from oil and gas drillers, loggers, mining companies and others…” OFA learned of this almost immediately after the County Commissioners met last week, as many in the wood industry had heard about it. What particularly caught people’s attention is the statement on the imposition of a $250,000/mile bond. I am checking into the issue, and it remains unclear at the moment. After speaking with the Athens County Prosecutor and ODOT, it appears that what may have been discussed at the meeting is an "agreement” template for oil and gas drillers that the County Engineers Association of Ohio (CEAO) has developed with ODOT. Here is a copy of the template. Prosecutor Blackburn advised that he must review and approve this before it becomes effective. What remains unclear is if and how this applies to logging. ODOT advised that the template agreement was intended strictly for oil and gas activities. The Messenger article indicates that the Commissioners may have approved otherwise. OFA will continue working this issue hard and do whatever necessary to prevent this from being adopted for logging activities. It remains my understanding that local officials do not have road bonding authority, and even more, applied on a "selected industry basis.”
  • Other Log Truck Road Issues. I continue to get reports of a large number of Highway Patrol and PUCO enforcement actions on log trucks in southern Ohio. It appears that on February 1, enforcement action picked up on overweight actions. Log truck haulers should be aware that the Ohio Revised Code states that during February and March, the 7.5% weight tolerance does not apply and is not allowed. Some haulers are being hit with overweight citations even though they are within the tolerance weights. However, the law is not clear on the new provision (approved July/2011) for trucks hauling wood chips and other forest products. There does not appear to be specific language exempting February and March. I am checking into this provision and will advise accordingly.
  • Concerns with Logging on Drilling Sites. I learned last week that there are some potentially dangerous activities taking place in some areas where logging is being done as a pre-drilling activity. In some cases, logging and excavating are being administered very aggressively and with less than desirable coordination, to the point that safety is being compromised. OFA is looking into these concerns. I would appreciate hearing from any members who are involved in pre-drilling site logging and clearing so that I can get a good understanding of the practices.
  • Senator Dave Daniels (R-17) Appointed Director of Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). Last week, Governor Kasich appointed Senator Dave Daniels as the new Director of ODA. Senator Daniels is from Highland County and has been a life-long farmer operating Daniel’s Brothers Farm. Prior to being a state senator, he spent 18 years in public office serving as a Highland County Commissioner, Greenfield City Councilman, and mayor of Greenfield.
  • FMCSA Truck Hours of Service Final Rule –Effective December 2011. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put out a new rule for Hours of Service effective December 2011. Briefly, the HOS rule reduced the total number of hours a truck driver can work in a week from 82 to 70 hours. Daily maximum hours remain at 11, but, there must be at least a 30 minute break after 8 hours of driving. Drivers that meet the weekly maximum hours must take at least 2 nights’ rest from 1 AM to 5 AM as part of the "34-hour restart” provision. A driver who operates 3 or more hours beyond the maximum (or an employer who allows a driver to exceed the maximum) is subject to serious penalties of up to $2,750 per driver or $11,000 for companies. A summary of the rule can be viewed here
  • Electronic Crossties Magazine – January/February Edition. If you want to read a digital version of the latest Crossties Magazine, you can link to it here. With the OFA Annual Meeting concerning shale formation drilling in Ohio, one of the lead articles in the magazine discusses how the tie market has responded to increased drilling activity. Also, the March/April edition of the magazine will be dedicated to the sawmill members of the Railroad Tie Association.
  • NHLA Webinar on the American Hardwood Promotion. No doubt some of you have heard about the American Hardwood Promotion (AHP) efforts that were developed to unify the message and identity for American Hardwoods as a marketing strategy. You can learn more about AHP on a webinar hosted by NHLA on Tuesday, February 21 at 2 PM (est.). The webinar is no-cost but you need to pre-register if you are interested. You can do so at this link.
  • Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) Flyer. Here is a copy of a flyer OFA received from The Nature Conservancy that was developed with the Davey Tree Company to help educate landowners in the ALB infested area of southwest Ohio. Also, you can view the ALB eNewsletter from USDA that provides summary of ALB activities in Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.
  • OFA Annual Meeting, March 23-24, 2012, Crowne Plaza – Downtown Columbus. Plenty of time to register for the OFA meeting, which you can do on-line.
    1. If you are interested in going on the OWIN Tour to the OSU Thompson Library, it will be important to register early to get a seat on the bus. Parking will be an issue and participation in the guided tour will be difficult for those parking on their own.
    2. The Ohio Tree Farm Committee continues to request items for the silent auction conducted during the meeting. You can bring items to the event, or you can contact Walt and Donna Lange (419-825-5792) if special arrangements are needed.
    3. Exhibit and Sponsorship opportunities are still available. You can find information on-line or contact Gayla Fleming at 614-497-9580, ext. 5.
    4. There are still tickets available for the Columbus Blue Jackets Hockey game on Friday night. Tickets are just $34 and include your game ticket, a souvenir hat, popcorn, hotdog and soda. Tickets are going fast so reserve yours today.


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