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Timber Talk 9/11/13

Posted By John Dorka, Monday, November 11, 2013

Ohio Statehouse News
House Lawmakers Announce Bi-Partisan Legislation to Promote Alternative Transportation Fuels - Last week, Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg) and Rep. Sean O’Brien (D-Brookfield) sponsored legislation to provide tax incentives to entities that convert vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG), creates a sales tax reduction for consumers that purchase electric vehicles, and establishes a 5-year phase in of a motor fuel tax on CNG to match current gas and diesel taxes. The incentives would be self-funded by existing oil and gas taxes on Ohio companies and the program would be phased out after 5 years. Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have passed similar legislation and this would help Ohio stay competitive in the alternative fuels market.

OMA Says Ohio Energy Bill Overhaul Will Lead to Higher Energy Costs - The Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee has been debating an overhaul of the Ohio Energy Law involving changes to the renewable and alternative energy standards. Senate Bill 58 has been proposed by Committee Chairman Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and he has championed its passage along with several other business groups. At a hearing this past week, the Ohio Manufacturers Association (OMA) testified that it had commissioned studies which conclude the current renewable energy standards could yield nearly $ 5.6 billion in actual and projected savings for electric customers from 2010 to 2020 and conversely, that the proposed bill changes would negate as much as $2.56 billion in energy efficiency savings during that period. There was further testimony that changing energy efficiency requirements will lead to undue profits for utilities and cost consumers more money.

Ohio Unions Provide Diverging Opinions on Energy Bill Overhaul - A number of Ohio labor unions weighed in last week on the Energy Bill overhaul, with unions on both sides of the issue. The Affiliated Construction Trades Ohio (ACTO), an umbrella group for a number of construction unions, was generally supportive of the SB 58 re-write saying that the bill will encourage capital improvement investments by utilities which will benefit the trade unions, and even more, the group vehemently opposed any effort that would lead to capacity reductions and facility closures. The group testified that since the green energy bill was passed in 2008, industrial construction hours have declined 58%. ACTO, however, opposed the idea of eliminating the requirement that half of Ohio’s renewable energy come from the state as well as allowing Canadian hydro-electric power as part of the portfolio. ACTO supported the efforts to develop wind and solar farms in the state. The Sheet Metal Workers Locals 24 and 33 joined the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association expressing opposition to the proposed bill, saying it would have an adverse effect on their industry which supports the renewable and alternative energy manufacturing sectors.

Ohio Business Climate Dips Slightly
In 2012, Ohio ranked as the second best state in the country for business climate. This year the state dropped to the 4th best, according to Site Selection magazine, the preferred publication of economic development and site selection professionals. The top 5 states according to the magazine were Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio and Tennessee. A spokesman for the magazine said that Ohio’s drop wasn’t a negative reflection on things getting worse in the state but rather a few other states improved more. The survey uses 8 categories to survey executives. The number one category among executives for choosing a state was the skills of the workforce, followed by transportation, state and local taxes, utility infrastructure, land/​building prices and supply, ease of permitting and regulatory procedures, flexibility of incentive programs, availability of incentives, union activity, and access to higher education resources. You can read an article in the Toledo Blade about the survey.

BWC Group Rating Sponsor Seminar
OFA is a BWC Group Rating Sponsor Organization and is required to meet a number of program requirements to maintain sponsorship. This past week staff attended a two-hour seminar to discuss and review various program components including an update from Director Steve Buehrer, Group Rating Safety Requirements, Claims Trends, Safety Grant Program updates, and Group Retrospective Rating.

  • The Director highlighted the "$1 Billion Back” program whereby favorable BWC investment returns combined with lower claims losses allowed the state to return nearly $1 billion in past premiums to private and public employers. This will be combined with future premium reductions.
  • BWC also advised that the number of claims have declined dramatically since 2000 when there were nearly 200,000 claims for the year. In 2012, there were 97,000 total claims. Injury claim severity has also shown dramatic declines. Over a period of 4 decades, the number of Ohio employees covered by Workers Comp has doubled but the number of injuries and deaths has declined by 65%.
  • BWC has increased funding for its Safety Grant Program three-fold to $15 million per year. The program offers two grants:
    • The first is for the purchase of equipment for safety and industrial hygiene purposes. A company can receive $40,000 per grant cycle matched on a 3 to 1 basis and must meet various reporting requirements. The equipment purchases may not lead to loss of employees.
    • The second is the Workplace Wellness Programs and provides $4 million per year for grants. Grants up to $15,000 over a 4-year period and allows $300 per employee to develop wellness programs.
    • OFA members can contact OFA for more information on these grant program opportunities.
ODNR Approves Over $2 million in Trail Grants; Division of Forestry receives Grant for ATV Areas
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) this week announced the release of just over $2 million for 15 recreational trail projects throughout Ohio. The funding is provided through the federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP), and funding for RTP comes from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and a portion of the federal motor fuel excise tax collected from non-highway recreational fuel use. The Division of Forestry (DOF) was one of the recipients of the grant funding and will

Plum Creek to Purchase MeadWestvaco Woodlands
Last week, MeadWestvaco announced that it had reached agreement with Plum Creek to purchase all of the company’s remaining U.S. woodlands amounting to 501,000 acres in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The announced sale price is $1.1 billion. The sale will include royalty and lease income from coal and wind, but MeadWestvaco will retain oil and gas rights in West Virginia. The sale will include a 25-year fiber supply agreement covering timberlands in Virginia and West Virginia to supply MeadWestvaco’s paperboard plant in Covington, Virginia.

American Wood Council Webinar: "Wood Products and Environmental Declarations”
The American Wood Council and Canadian Wood Council are sponsoring a free webinar on "Wood Products and Environmental Declarations” on November 12 from noon to 1 pm EST. Here is the description from the registration materials: "Company executives, mill managers, and sales and marketing staff are invited to learn about the latest information regarding EPDs. Recently-released EPDs for lumber, plywood, OSB, glulam, LVL, I-joists and redwood decking can help distinguish product advantages and facilitate product improvement, as well as support specifiers and customers to make informed product selection decisions to comply with ‘green’ codes, programs, and rating systems.” You can register for the webinar here.

West Virginia Forestry Association (WVFA) Looking to Hire Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Coordinator
OFA has been advised that the WVFA is interested in hiring a new SFI Coordinator. The following has been passed along to us in regard to the job posting:

WV SFI Program Coordinator - West Virginia’s SFI program is seeking an energetic self-starting individual to lead and manage the program. The SFI Program Coordinator serves as the face of the SFI program in West Virginia, representing and promoting the program to various stakeholder groups and the general public. Primary responsibilities include coordinating and developing logger training programs, assisting program participants in meeting the SFI Standards, implementing landowner outreach activities, and securing the financial support from industry and other entities. The SFI Program Coordinator must be self-motivated and demonstrate the ability to operate independently. The position requires frequent travel, including occasional overnight travel. Preferred candidates will have strong oral and written communication skills, computer proficiency, as well as organizational skills, ability to multi-task, and a desire to educate others. A Bachelor’s degree and/or a minimum of 2-year experience in forestry, natural resources, logging or wood products is required. A valid driver’s license is required. The WV SIC is a standing committee of the West Virginia Forestry Association (WVFA) and the SFI Program Coordinator is an employee of WVFA reporting to the Executive Director. Work activities of the SFI Program Coordinator are oriented by the WVSIC. WVFA’s office facilities and staff are located in Ripley, WV. This is a full-time salaried position with benefits. Compensation will be based on background/experience. Applicants will be accepted until the position is filled. The WVFA is an equal opportunity employer. Additional information regarding the West Virginia SFI program and SFI, Inc. can be found at http://www.wvfa.org/sfi.html.org and www.sfiprogram.org. Please submit resumes or inquiries to: hopegoff@wvfa.org or to: WVFA Executive Director, PO Box 718, Ripley, WV 25271.

Environmental Groups Send Letter to Senators Against Tax Subsidies for Biomass Energy
A number of environmental groups recently sent a letter to all Senators attacking tax subsidies for biomass, and claiming that biomass is not carbon neutral and does not have other claimed environmental benefits. You can take a look at the letter that was sent to the Senators and see the names of the organizations included in the group letter. The group takes aim at the Production Tax Credit for biomass which they claim will cost the US government $2 billion in tax revenues through 2020 if current trends continue. But of particular concern are the claims that biomass is not carbon neutral and burning it leads to other environmental degradation.

Southeast Ohio Woodland Interest Group (SEOWIG) November Newsletter
Here is the November Newsletter for SEOWIG.  It includes information on upcoming meeting dates, A Day in the Woods - Second Friday Series at the Vinton Furnace Forest, timber theft, fall foliage color, and plywood.

OFA Foundation an Opportunity for Tax-Deductible Giving
Many OFA members are aware that the OFA Foundation was established several years ago, concurrent with the OFA incorporation as a 501c-6 trade association. The OFA Foundation administers and supports a number of traditional OFA activities including the OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp and the E. Burns Miller Memorial Scholarship Program. The Foundation is a co-sponsor of the Ohio Tree Farm Program and provides administrative support for Tree Farm activities. The Foundation also support other fund-raising events like The Lumberman’s Outing and the Forest Heritage Festival. The OFA Foundation purpose is to operate "exclusively for charitable, educational, and scientific purposes to encourage the conservation of Ohio’s forests and the development of industry which uses the forests.” The OFA Foundations is a 501c3 organization, incorporated under the laws of Ohio. All donations to the OFA Foundation are tax-deductible. You can read find more information on the OFA Foundation on the OFA website. Please consider the OFA Foundation for your tax-deductible giving.

Upcoming Events

  • OFA Board Meeting, 1 pm, November 13, 2013, OFA Office, Columbus.
  • Logging Standards Council Meeting, 5 pm, November 13, 2013, OFA Office Columbus.
  • OFA Annual Meeting, March 5-6, 2013, Columbus Sheraton Hotel at Capitol Square.

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