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Weekly News 2.27.12

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekly News 2.28.12

  • PUCO Scrubs AEP Electric Security Plan (ESP)/Other OFA Actions - Following the flurry of outrage from small businesses, schools, churches and other GS2 rate users in the AEP distribution area, the PUCO voted to revoke the AEP rate plan that it had approved in December and start the process over again. The Columbus Dispatch reported on the action last Friday. AEP has 30 days to decide if it will resubmit its original application from a year ago. After that, interested parties will have the chance to become part of the case and present evidence. OFA has agreed to become a participant in the rate case with 3 other trade associations (Ohio Aggregate and Industrial Minerals Association, Ohio Ready Mixed Concrete Association, and Flexible Pavements of Ohio) and have secured legal services to represent our coalition. Here are copies of two coalition letters to PUCO concerning both the AEP and Duke Energy rate plans in which the coalition expressed concern about the plans and were part of the hundreds of complaint responses to PUCO. These are in addition to previous letters to PUCO from the coalition. OFA had also filed a separate complaint on behalf of manufacturing members who had already learned that their rates were significantly increased. John Dorka and Adam Conway (Superior Hardwoods of Ohio) met with Senator Troy Balderson (R-20, Zanesville) late last week to discuss concerns with AEP rates. Senator Balderson is currently Vice-Chairman of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee and can weigh in with PUCO on the issue. In addition, two Superior Hardwood sawmills are in Senator Balderson’s district. There was also a meeting with Rep. Andy Thompson (R-93, Marietta) who is a member of the House Public Utilities Committee, and who also has Superior Hardwood facilities in his district.
  • Athens County "Road Bond” Issue - I had reported last week that it appeared Athens County Commissioners had taken some type of action on road maintenance requirements for oil and gas drilling, logging, and mining, based on a recommendation from the Athens County Engineer. After talking to a number of people, including an Athens County Commissioner and the County Prosecutor and further investigating Ohio legal authorities on road issues, Athens County is implementing a "voluntary” road maintenance agreement that it will use with drilling companies operating in the County. The agreement is based on a template developed by ODOT and the County Engineers Association of Ohio. I was told that in spite of how it was reported in the paper, it was intended primarily for pending oil and gas drilling activities in the county. When the local officials were questioned on why logging was mentioned in the newspaper article, I was told that the county thought there might be a rare occasion where unusually large equipment, similar to drilling equipment, would be used in the county. The agreement indicated that in certain cases, bonds up to $250,000/mile could be required. I further found out that Ohio law prohibits County and Township authorities from requiring road bonds. Bonding can only be implemented if companies voluntarily agree to do so and sign an agreement. If any member companies are approached with road maintenance agreements, I encourage you to contact OFA first.

  • Hardwood Federation Letter to Congress on EPA Regulatory Relief Act (S 1813). OFA signed on to a letter from the Hardwood Federation concerning S 1813, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act. You can read the letter here and if you want, you can also sign the letter as an individual or business. The legislation is directed at putting controls in place for EPA to address rules on Boiler MACT and giving companies adequate time to comply with rules once finalized.
  • Wood Education and Resource Center (WERC) Update. The February 12 WERC Update can be found here. The update has information on workshops and webinars for the forest products industry sponsored or conducted by WERC. Scheduled workshops include such topics as Energy Efficiency in the Hardwood Products Industry; North American Thermally Modified Wood Standards Development; New Technologies for Value-Added Wood Products Manufacturers – Cabinets, Furniture, Millwork; Small Business Strategies and Hands-On Demonstrations; and Leadership Conference for Promoting Locally Made U.S. Wood Products. The workshops run from March through August. Unfortunately, they are all at the WERC facility in Princeton, WV. The webpage also contains links to archived webinars on a host of wood products industry subjects. Finally, there are links to an Update on the Housing Market by Urs Buehlmann from Virginia Tech and an Update on Wood Markets from Don Deckard, MN Division of Forestry.

  • National Review Editorial on Logging Roads. John Gordon, former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies recently wrote an interesting editorial citing the Pacific Northwest court case and decision which challenges long-standing regulatory approaches on "non-point” sources of pollution on logging jobs. I had reported on this issue earlier, but it is still pending and one worth paying close attention to.

  • Southern Ohio Forestland Association (SOFA) March Newsletter. Here is the March SOFA Newsletter. Included in the newsletter is information on sugar maple trees, hemlock wooly Adelgid found in Meigs County, Kudzu in southern Ohio, and the most recent and upcoming meetings and seminars.

  • OFA 2012 Annual Meeting, March 23-24, Crowne Plaza Hotel – Downtown Columbus; "Shale Formation Drilling – What is the Impact on Ohio’s Forestry?” Early registration rates run through March 5. You can sign up on-line at the OFA website.

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