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Timber Talk 8/26/13

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ohio Legislative Activities
With the legislature out of session, a number of committees and working groups are traveling around Ohio conducting information gathering sessions on a number of issues. The following relate to a couple of the issues.

Sen. Seitz Seeks to Ease State Energy Conservation Standards  Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) is expected soon to introduce legislation that will cap how much electric utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and scrap requirements for in-state solar and wind power. Sen. Seitz is Chairman of the Senate Public Utilities Committee. He believes that SB 221, the Ohio Energy Bill passed in 2008 needs a 5-year review and should be modified based on changes in markets and other factors since the bill was passed. One of his concerns relates to a recent decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that says requirements to purchase renewable energy from in-state sources is an unconstitutional infringement on the Commerce Clause. Under current law, there is a requirement that 12.5% of the state’s electricity portfolio comes from sources like wind and solar, and that half of that must come from Ohio. Sen. Seitz also want to cap the amount of money utilities are required to spend each year on energy efficiency benchmarks. The changes would also expand the kinds of energy efficiency upgrades, such as power plant and transmission line improvements which save energy that can be counted toward compliance with the benchmarks. Finally, Sen. Seitz also wants to flesh out advanced energy portfolio standards which require that 12.5% of Ohio’s power in 2025 come from low-emission coal, innovative nuclear facilities or other emerging technologies. Unlike the renewable portion, the advanced portion has no benchmarks before 2025

House Tax Reform Legislative Study Committee Meets in Cincinnati
The Tax Reform Committee was developed to get ideas from Ohioans on ways to improve Ohio’s tax code. A number of local elected officials testified at a meeting of a House reform committee last week about the negative impacts of the loss of state funding on local governments. The testimony was a mixed bag of support for the tax reform in the budget bill to opposition that state cuts have hurt local services. One local township official acknowledged that the cut in local government funding in addition to the loss of estate taxes and tangible personal property taxes have hurt the township but also acknowledged that the action forced the township to create a new plan to reinvest in itself through other funding sources. Others were more critical of the cuts. Ideas for tax reform from testifiers included adding more incentives for economic development tools, broadening the sales tax base to include more services but not to the detriment of small businesses, closing loopholes for out-of-state internet sales, increasing the ceiling for counties for permissive sales and use taxes, and adding more cuts to the business income tax rates.

DOF Creates New Website for Small Woodland Owners/ODNR Announces Open Houses for Proposed Abandoned Mine Projects
Division of Forestry Chief Bob Boyles recently announced that the Division has created a website for small landowners that helps them get information on services available to them, such as for tree planting, woodland maintenance, soil and water protection, and other areas of interest. In addition, ODNR announced it will hold a series of 4 open houses in September to discuss proposed abandoned mine land projects throughout the state: Sept. 16 in Salem; Sept. 17 in Athens; Sept. 18 in Cambridge; and Sept. 19 in New Philadelphia. All will be held in the evening.

Glatfelter Recognizes Loggers
Last week, Glatfelter held its annual Logger Appreciation Dinner at the Vinton Furnace State Experimental Forest in Vinton County. It was well attended and offered a great time for networking among southern Ohio loggers and wood manufacturers. Steve Brown, Glatfelter Director of Operations, Fiber Supply spoke about the state of mill operations and some of the products the company is now making. The staff also did its annual recognition of outstanding logging companies from its 3 procurement area regions. The East District Logger of the Year was R. C. Mullen Logging; the West District awardee was Perkins Wood Products (James and Jason Perkins); and the Southern District Logger of the Year was R. L. Lute Logging (R. L. Lute, Jerod Lute, Greg Lute, and Arnold Mathews). Special mention was given to Arnold Mathews who will turn 80 in October. He started working in logging with his father more than 70 years ago and is still hard at it driving a tandem-axle truck delivering logs. He’s a military veteran and became active as a charter member of the Master Logging Company Program when the program started. Congratulation to all the recipients for their great work in the logging business!

Ohio EPA Chief of Division of Surface Water Resigns Following Coal Industry Pressure
The OEPA Chief of the Division of Surface Water, George Elmaraghy, resigned last week. In a memo to agency staff, he cited pressure from the Ohio coal industry, the governor’s office, and the Director of EPA as reasons for his decision to leave the agency. He said that he was requested to leave by the administration over his agency’s enforcement of water pollution laws with the coal industry, citing pressure to approve permits in circumstances that he believed would negatively impact Ohio streams and rivers. Mr. Elmaraghy was a 40-year employee with OEPA and had been chief for the last 8 years, having been appointed under the Strickland Administration. Lately, coal companies have been pushing hard to get permits to build new storage facilities for liquid waste slurry from coal washing operations, as many older slurry storage impoundments are reaching capacity. Regulators have been reluctant to issue permits, citing Clean Water Act requirements.

Request for Logger Training
Recently, OFA had received an inquiry about logger training in Ohio. The caller was interested in more than just the Master Logger Training classes provided through OFA. He wanted to know if there was extensive training available for someone wanting to get into the logging industry. OFA advised that there is no such training in the state and after checking, found two training curriculum in the eastern U.S., one in North Carolina and one in Louisiana. The state forestry associations are cooperators in both and each is provided through local community colleges. In addition, we became aware of a training program in British Columbia provided by a forest products company, Western Forest Products. This program involves a 7-week training course that provides financial compensation to trainees while they are learning. The article at the link indicates that the industry in that part of North America has a current shortfall of 3,400 employees which the need will increase to 15,000 new employees by 2020. One of the chronic issues that many in the industry across the country talk about is the loss of logging capacity.  Many also worry about how the capacity will be met when business and demand really pick up with a hopefully improving economy.

July Ohio Home Sales up from Same Time Last Year
The Ohio Association of Realtors reports that July home sales were 25.85 higher than July, 2012. Total sales were 13,354 and the last time July sales were this high was in 2005. The average sale price also increased 7.2% and is $156,738. This is the 25th consecutive month home sales have increased, the longest such stretch in 16 years.

China Surpasses Japan as World’s Largest Importer of Hardwood Chips
A report by the Wood Resources International LLC indicates that the rising demand for paper in China has resulted in a dramatic increase in the importation of wood chips to supply new pulp mills. It became the world’s largest importer of hardwood wood chips. Except for very sporadic shipments from Latin America, none of the wood chips are coming from North America or the US. It is anticipated that the demand for both hardwood and softwood chips to China will continue to increase with increased pulp manufacturing.

SOFA September Newsletter
Here is the Southern Ohio Forestland Association (SOFA) September Newsletter
. It includes information on the first combined meeting of 3 local forest landowner associations, SOFA, SEOWIG (Southeast Ohio Woodland Interest Group) and MRWIG (Muskingum River Woodland Interest Group. The meeting was held at Hocking College. There is also information on Ohio’s Recreational User Statute which protects landowners liability protection from casual use by visitors, redheaded pine sawfly, and the Owney Tree Farm Tour on September 14.

Upcoming Events:

Lumberman’s Outing, September 11, 2011; Golf in Orrville and Sporting Clay Shooting in Fredericksburg. Visit the OFA website for more information and registration. Sponsorships for both events are welcome.

Paul Bunyan Show, October 4-6, 2013; Guernsey County Fairgrounds. New events and activities this year include Master Logger Re-certification 8-hour training on Friday, October 4; First ever PBS Skid Steer Rodeo on Sunday, October 6 at 11 am.

2013 Ohio Tree Farm of the Year Tour, October 12, 2013; Dr. W.J. Lavelle and Family Stonewall Coonskin Sugarbush Tree Farm, Amesville.

See the OFA Website for more events.

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