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Weekly News 6/4/12

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, June 05, 2012
  • Ohio Legislative and Policy News. Here are a few highlights from last week in and around the statehouse:
    • ODOT is cutting administrative costs and raising new revenues to improve its large scale road project schedule, contrary to earlier reports of major budget shortfalls that would significantly delay road construction projects. ODOT expects to free up $150 million per year by taking a number of actions including
      • Saving $34 million per year by eliminating 400 positions;
      • Using "zero-based” budgeting, which eliminates past practice of carrying funds forward for future years, saving nearly $60 million;
      • Reducing its underutilized vehicle fleet by nearly 40%. (It will start a similar assessment on large equipment)
      • Reviewing plans to convert 59 rest areas to privately operated service plazas could generate $50 million per year
      • Selling corporate sponsorships and naming rights for infrastructure like bridges, interchanges, etc. could generate $25 million per year.
    • The legislature is considering implementing a system with more income tax uniformity among Ohio’s hundreds of local taxing jurisdictions. The legislature is taking input from many interested parties to see if it makes sense to pursue legislation, which at the earliest would take place next year. According to Tom Zaino, former Ohio Tax Commissioner, Ohio is apparently one of only 10 states where municipalities assess and collect income taxes, and the only state that gives municipalities tremendously broad authority to create their own definition of income, set their own rules and regulations, mandate use of their own form, and assess varied amounts of penalties and interest. He said international site selectors have identified Ohio’s complex local tax structure as one of the top barriers to economic development in Ohio.
    • The Small Business Advisory Council told the Kasich Administration last week that the Unemployment Compensation benefits determination system needs to be overhauled and suggested that it may need a legislative fix. The announcement came after news that the system may be unfairly weighted toward discharged employees.
    • The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Townships do not have authority to charge "impact fees” on new commercial and residential projects to pay for roads, parks, police and fire services, etc. because they constitute "taxes” that townships do not have authority to collect. The determination was based on case with Hamilton Township in Warrant County. Hamilton Township is one of 26 limited "home rule” townships in Ohio that have broader authority than regular townships.

  • National and Ohio Home Sales Numbers Showing Promise. On May 18, the National Association of Realtors issued a report indicating "promise” for American home sales. In April, previously owned home sales rose 3.4% from March, going beyond economists predictions. In addition, the Department of Commerce reported that new sales increased 3.3% from March to April, again surpassing economists’ predictions. Compared to the same period in 2011, new home sales are up 9.9%. American Trucking Association reports of increased hauling of building materials is supporting these statistics. Finally, the National Association of Homebuilders is reporting builder confidence is at a 5-year high. Concerning specific Ohio numbers, April home sales posted the 10th straight month of positive activity. New and existing home sales grew by 11.3% during the first 4 months of 2012 compared to the same period a year ago.

  • Wood Resource Quarterly News Brief: Global Lumber Trade Up. In a news brief of The Wood Resource Quarterly from Wood Resource International LLC, it says that over the last 2 years, global softwood lumber trade is up 25% from the sharp 2008-2009 decline, but still remains well below "pre-financial crisis” levels. Some countries showed sharp increases in imports (China, Japan, Spain, and South Korea) while other countries showed drops (US, UK, Italy, France, and Egypt.)

  • More on the Logging Road Court Issue. Last week I mentioned that the US Solicitor General, if the logging road case is heard by the US Supreme Court, would not argue the case against using NPDES permits on logging roads. However, now more information on the issue indicates that the White House, via the Solicitor General, has gone farther and asked the Supreme Court NOT to hear the case. Why? It is easy to think that the administration believes the EPA could lose regulatory authority depending on how the Supreme Court rules. The move certainly seems like a calculated effort by the administration to encourage the Supreme Court not to hear the case, and the Court is expected to decide on whether it will hear the case by the end of June. In the meantime, forestry interests continue to believe that the issue needs to be locked down by legislation. There is already a moratorium on NPDES permits for logging roads that runs through September. If the Court hears the case, forestry interests will ask for another moratorium. If the case is not heard, the same interests will go full bore on legislation. OFA has been involved and will continue to be part of the legislative effort.

  • ALB Update. Attached is the regular update on ALB activities in Clermont County. Everything is pretty much the same, except it mentions that there will be a public meeting on June 19 at the Clermont County Fairgrounds to explain the proposed actions outlined in the Environmental Assessment. One of the options was to remove un-infested host trees which caused significant push-back by local landowners with the original plans.

  • APHIS Revises Enforcement and Structure of Emerald Ash Borer Regulatory Areas. APHIS just announced a revision to its Emerald Ash Borer enforcement and regulatory area policy that will allow unrestricted movement of ash products within the federal quarantine areas. You can see a map of the quarantine areas here (note the "protected area” status in Illinois and Indiana that require permits.) A news release explaining the new policy is attached. The change is different from the past in that APHIS treated regulatory areas in different states individually. Now it will look at contiguous state areas the same.

  • China Lifts Log Ban from Virginia for a 6-month Trial. China recently announced it will allow a 6-month trial allowing hardwood and softwood logs to be shipped from Virginia ports to China. More than year ago, China banned logs shipped from Virginia and South Carolina ports due the detection of nematodes on a single shipment of logs. Following a year of work with Chinese trade officials, capped by a visit of officials to Virginia ports, a 6-month trial was agreed to. The trial starts June 1 and runs through November 30. Port authorities and industry representatives had taken concerted efforts to insure that good practices were put in place to reduce the risk of pests getting into shipments.

  • Endangered Species Law Revision? That’s the stance by Cong. Doc Hastings (R-Washington), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. He wants it changed for several reasons and said so in an op-ed piece in the Washington Times recently: to reduce ESA litigation which wastes massive amounts of taxpayer dollars, to base decisions on proper science (there are so many cases where no science or poor science has been used), and to focus on people as well as species (development needs to be a part of the complete review).

  • SFI Call to Action. The battle over forest certification programs continue, fueled by environmental groups that only want one program (FSC) to reign over all the others. Recently, ForestEthics sent out a news release indicating that 7 large companies have dropped SFI certification in favor of FSC. The 7 companies are Ruby Tuesday, Phillips Van Heusen, Pitney Bowes, Shutterfly, Allied Electronics, Energizer, and US Airways. OFA believes that if certification is used, all third-party verified certification systems should be given equal footing, not one program over another. We believe bias in support of one program will ultimately hurt American forests and industry. To that end, we support SFI efforts to encourage companies to give equal weight to all programs. SFI has provided two attached document on the issue, company contact information and message talking points. If you support any of the companies and feel so inclined, please contact them to let them know how you feel.

  • A Working Forest Video. Recently, a forester from New Jersey, Robert Williams, produced a movie titled A Working Forest, its future with Fire, People & Wildlife which is a one-hour documentary explaining what working forests are all about, who owns them, and the type of cultural work needed to manage them. The movie enlisted the help of many sponsors and was hosted by Chuck Leavell, legendary Tree Farmer, conservationist, and Rolling Stones keyboardist. OFA has acquired a copy of the video and will make it available to members for meetings and events or personal viewing. Attached is a news release from the Northeastern Loggers Association on the video and their communications award to Mr. Williams.

  • Carbon Market North America. For those who may be wondering what has been happening with carbon markets, attached is a Carbon Market North America newsletter by Thomson Reuters. It provides a brief update on what is going on. California has been moving ahead with a state carbon program and fueling an emerging North American carbon market. Forestry projects are part of the protocols for the programs and some projects continue to be worked on, even in eastern states.

  • SBA International Trade Events Schedule. Attached is a schedule of workshops and events from the Small Business Administration for international trade information. The schedule has events from June through October, 2012.

  • Spring 2012 Issue of Center Focus. Attached is a copy of the Center Focus, a newsletter from the Center for Forest Products Business at Virginia Tech University. The issue contains the Director’s Message in which he comments on his observations of the state of the forest products industry (future smaller domestic market with "normal” housing levels later in the decade). There is an article titled Reducing Energy Inefficiencies in the Forest Products Industry Using Value Stream Mapping which describes research that the Center will conduct to determine the influence of forest products industry value stream processes on overall energy consumption. The research will use Energy Management Systems to assess energy consumption among a variety of forest products companies. The report also contains information on forest industry workshops from May through October in Virginia.

  • OWIN Summer Meeting. We have confirmed an OWIN tour for the summer meeting. We will visit Globe Metallurgical, Inc. in Beverly, Ohio. Globe Metallurgical is a subsidiary of Globe Specialty Metals, one of the world’s largest producers of metallurgical and chemical-grade silicon metal and silicon based specialty alloys. The Beverly plant makes silicon metal, specialty alloys, and ferroalloys and uses a tremendous amount of wood fiber in its process. Stay tuned for details on the summer meeting.

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