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Timber Talk 4/28/14

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Legislative and Policy News
The legislature remains on break with only a few committees meeting to take care of business this week. Activity will pick up again following the May primary next week.

HB 515, Timber Harvesting - With the legislature on recess, there has been no action on HB 515 since being introduced and assigned to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Some meetings with legislators are taking place to share OFA’s concerns about the bill. Stay tuned for more on the bill over the next couple weeks.

Discussion on Renewable Energy Changes Continues/University of Cincinnati to Stop Burning Coal, Moving to Renewable Wood Fiber Pellets - The renewable energy issue continues to draw fire in the legislature as discussions continues on changing renewable portfolio and energy efficiency requirements. Currently, the Senate is considering ways to make it easier for large commercial electricity customers to opt-out of paying for energy efficiency programs. Large customers and most utilities support the proposed freeze in the standards while opponents claim doing so will essentially destroy the advances that have been achieved since the bill was passed. AEP is supporting a continuance of the energy efficiency programs as the company indicates it has met annual standards since the law became effective and believes it is beneficial to customers. However, the company worries about how increasingly expensive it will be to continue meeting benchmarks as they ratchet up to the 22% consumption reduction by 2025. The Ohio Advanced Energy Economy provided cross-fire saying that based on information from the four Ohio utilities, the utilities have spent $456 million on energy efficiency measures that have saved ratepayers more than $1 billion between 2009 and 2012. Meanwhile, the University of Cincinnati has announced it will discontinue burning coal for energy within a year and move to other fuel sources. Presumably, the wood fiber pellets will be made from recycled, waste content wood and plastics.

Small Business Tax Filers Slow to File for Small Business Tax Cut - The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) is reporting that many Ohio small businesses have not yet filed for the 50% tax deduction on net income up to the first $250,000. As of April 15, only 237,700 of 717,000 businesses, or about one-third, have filed by the April 15 deadline. However, ODT expects that many companies have filed for extension to turn in taxes and expects that the response rate will increase significantly as the schedule moves toward the Oct. 15 extension deadline. Projections of savings were between $500 - $600 million each year for the next 3 years, but so far only $147.5 million in savings has been realized for tax filers. Again, that amount is expect to increase considerably over the months ahead.

Report Says Administration-Proposed Oil and Gas Severance Tax Still Less Than Most States - A report submitted last week by consulting firm Ernst & Young on behalf of the Ohio Business Roundtable stated that the Kasich Administration’s proposed 2.75% tax on gross revenues from horizontally fractured wells would still be less than that in most major shale-drilling states. Currently, the tax rate is 1.5% of sales. The administration’s proposal is combined with a broader plan to cut personal income taxes. The legislature so far has elected not to go with the administration proposal and is instead looking at a severance tax rate of 2.25% of net proceeds from horizontal well with proceeds going to local governments, capping abandoned wells, geological mapping and the income tax reduction fund.

BWC Staff Proposes 6.3% Premium Cut for Private Employers - Last week, the Bureau of Workers Compensation staff recommended a 6.3% cut in private employer premiums. If approved by the BWC Board of Directors, this would be the 8th straight year in which premiums either remained steady or fell. The proposed reduction is the result of better than expected claim frequency and severity. The total value of the proposed cut would amount to $91 million. The Board is expected to review the proposal at the May 22 Board meeting.

ODNR to Spend $88.5 million in Capital Improvements on Ohio State Parks - Last week, ODNR announced that it will spend $88.5 million on capital improvements at its State Parks over the next two years. The funding was approved in the recently passed Ohio Capital Improvement Budget (HB 497), a 2-year funding document for major construction and renovation in Ohio.

BWC News and Information; Open Enrollment Starts
Here is information from CareWorks Consultants, Inc. (CCI), the administrator of the BWC Group Safety Rating Program for OFA. The first document is a Progress Report for 2014 detailing the significant accomplishments of CCI as a Managed Care Organization (MCO). The second is information about the start of 2014 open enrollment period which runs from April 28 through May 23, 2014.

Emmett Conway Sr. Inducted into the ODNR Conservation Hall of Fame
On April 27, Emmett Conway Sr. was inducted into the ODNR Conservation Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the renovated Lake Hope State Park Lodge. Many older members of OFA will recall the "Olde Forester” Emmett Conway Sr. and the many contributions he made to OFA over the years, as well as the remarkable contributions he made to the forestry and conservation community over his career in general. Emmett was credited with starting the Paul Bunyan Show in 1957 in Vinton County, and he was instrumental in the creation of the Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest which started as a cooperative effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the D.B. Frampton Company which originally owned the land. After a number of land ownership changes, today the land is under ODNR-Division of Forestry ownership where the long-term experimental forest continues its mission. Fittingly, the ceremony recognizing Emmett’s induction was held at the renovated Lake Hope State Park Lodge which burned down several years ago but has since been rebuilt. Emmett was the Forest Ranger at Zaleski State Forest and Lake Hope State Park in the late 1940s, and he oversaw the building of the lodge when both the forest and park were under the same management. At that time Lake Hope Lodge was the first of its kind built in Ohio. The ceremony was celebrated with Emmett’s family and many friends who knew him over the years. It was noted that Emmett would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. Although the award was conferred posthumously, it is an award of unusual distinction and recognition among Ohio’s conservation community.

ODNR, Division of Forestry Chief Bob Boyles Promoted to Deputy Director
ODNR Director James Zehringer announced that Bob Boyles will be promoted to ODNR Deputy Director, taking the position formerly held by Karl Gebhardt who recently went to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as the Chief of the Division of Surface Water. Bob Boyles will serve concurrently as Forestry Chief and ODNR Deputy Director and will oversee the Divisions of Forestry, Wildlife, and Mineral Resources Management.

Southern Ohio Forestry Association (SOFA) Newsletter
is the May Newsletter from SOFA. There is information about the latest general meeting during which nurseryman Steve Boehm talked about tree pruning and cultivation practices as well as a tour of McCoy Lumber Company in Peebles; upcoming events; an update invasive species including the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and Emerald Ash Borer; a timber theft on the Wayne National Forest; and the meeting on May 8 featuring former OFA Board member John Schmidt & Associates singing about trees and other interesting things.

Upcoming Events

Forest and Wood Products Export Conference, May 13, 2014, OSU South Centers, Piketon - This is a free workshop for anyone wanting to get more information about exporting hardwoods. A featured presenter will be Mike Snow, Director of the American Hardwood Export Council. You can get information on the seminar at the OSU South Centers website.

CSAW Custom Chainsaw Training, June 6, 2014, OSU Mansfield Campus - Register on-line. Class fee is $50.

OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 8-14, 2014, FFA Camp Muskingum - Check the OFA website for camp information.

Hardwood Lumber Grading Short Course, June 9-12, 2014, Yoder Lumber Company, Inc., Millersburg (Buckhorn Sawmill) - You can register on-line at the OFA website.

CSAW Level 1 Chainsaw Training, June 20, 2014, OSU Mansfield Campus - Register on-line.

OWIN Summer Meeting, July 23-24, 2014 - Mark your calendars! The OWIN Summer Meeting will be on July 23-24, 2014 in Portsmouth, Ohio. Festivities will start with a tour on the 23rd with the OFA Board meeting in the afternoon followed by a voluntary guided-tour for attendees of the famous Portsmouth Floodwall Murals along the Ohio River. The tour will conclude with a reception at the Portsmouth Brewing Company which is located at the end of the Mural Tour. Golf the next day will be at The Eagles golf course in McDermott and sporting clay shoot at Anderson’s in Lucasville. These are the same locations as last year.

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