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Timber Talk 11/24/14

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, November 24, 2014

HB 515 Will Get Hearing on December 2, 2014
OFA learned last week that the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will hold a second hearing on HB 515 at which there will be both proponent and opponent testimony on the bill. The hearing is currently scheduled for 10 AM, subject to change. OFA will be preparing testimony for the hearing and working with other interests to do the same.

Meigs County Commissioners Hold Town Meeting on HB 515
OFA learned early last week that the Meigs County Commissioners were planning a "town meeting” on HB 515 on Tuesday evening, November 18 at the Court House in Pomeroy. Ahead of the meeting, it was difficult to find out details on why the meeting was called. OFA attended, as did approximately 30 other local and area residents. It appeared that approximately half of those attending were Meigs County and other area loggers. The Commissioners opened the meeting by stating that they were made aware of HB 515 from local residents and were concerned that it had received very little public attention. One of the co-sponsors of the bill is Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Athens), and the commissioners advised that they extended an invitation to Rep. Phillips to attend. It was their intent to provide residents a chance to learn more about the bill. They advised There was brisk discussion throughout the hour-long meeting. Many of the participants expressed their opinions on the bill and for the most part there appeared to be unanimous opposition. One of the outcomes of the meeting was a resolution to be sent to Rep. Phillips which indicated that residents were strongly opposed to the bill and all should contact their state elected officials to express that opposition. Also included in the attachment is a copy of the newspaper article from the November 20 edition of The Daily Sentinel in Middleport-Pomeroy.

Other Ohio Legislative and Policy News:

HB 490 Receives Amendments on Manure, Dredging, and Wastewater Treatment Concerning Algae Problems Before Voting to Send to the Full House for Vote - In continued action on HB 490, the Mid-Biennium Review bill addressing a number of environmental concerns, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee accepted several amendments aimed at further curbing algae problems. The amendments include banning manure and chemical fertilizer applications on frozen or snow-covered ground, when the top two inches of soil are saturated or when local weather forecasts call for heavy precipitation. Another amendment would impose new regulations on dredging in Lake Erie and along tributaries, restricting the dumping of dredged material after July 1, 2020 in portions of Lake Erie where the state has jurisdiction. The committee then voted to send the bill to the full House for approval, which it approved 71-18.

Ohio Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.3% - The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services announced last week that Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.3% in October, down from 5.6% in September. The national unemployment rate in October was 5.8%. In October of 2013, the unemployment rate was 7.2%. Different sectors showed variable changes as "good producers” dropped 3,900 jobs with a decline of 2,800 positions in construction and 1,200 in manufacturing, while the service sector added 12,300 jobs. Government employment fell by 7,400 jobs with a decline of 4,500 state jobs and local governments reducing 2,500 positions.


BWC Board Approves Base Rate Reductions for Public Employers - Last week, the BWC Board approved premium rate reductions ranging from 6% to 22.4% for individual classes of public employers. These rates apply to 3,900 cities, counties, townships, villages, and school districts.


Energy Mandates Study Committee to Begin Meeting - The Energy Mandates Study Committee authorized by SB 310 will begin meeting Thanksgiving week. The committee was the outcome of discussions in the Senate bill which made changes to Ohio’s renewable energy law. The law in effect postponed for two years the mandates created in 2008 which require that 12.5% of Ohio electricity come from renewable sources by 2025, with consumers reducing consumption by 22%. The committee is charged with coming up with recommendations for changes to those mandates. The Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center is reporting that solar energy is growing very fast in Ohio and that it could generate 10% of Ohio electricity by 2025 assuming that efforts continue at the same pace.

Cong. Gibbs Responds to OFA on Northern Long Eared Bat Concerns
Here
is a letter of response from Cong. Bob Gibbs office to OFA from our letter to him expressing concerns about potential listing of the Northern Long Eared Bat as an endangered species. By and large, it appears to be a general response to all who have expressed concern over the listing of the bat. This letter particularly cites oil and gas and coal operations.

USF&WS Opens Public Comment Period on Northern Long Eared Bat Again, Through December 18, 2014
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) once again opened up the public comment period on the Northern Long Eared Bat through December 18, 2014. USF&WS says that it is opening the comment period based on new information it has received from state conservation agencies. Those agencies are represented by 5 agency associations including the Northeastern Area Association of State Foresters (Ohio DOF is a member), the Southern Group of State Foresters, the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (Ohio DOW is a member), and the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. It was provided last week, but again, here is a copy of the letter sent to USF&WS. All the agencies are opposed to endangered species listing, while some think that a "threatened” listing may be warranted, while others took no position on the issue. In total agreement however is the position that USF&WS should revise its definition of "take” to exempt certain forest management activities, specifically those activities for which best management practices have been developed.

Ohio AG Mike DeWine Weighs in With the EPA/Corps of Engineers on Waters of the US
Last week, Attorney General DeWine’s office sent OFA a copy of a letter that was sent to both the US EPA and Army Corp of Engineers relaying comments and concerns about the proposed definition of "Waters of the US” or WOTUS as it is termed. In short, the AG takes issue with the potential expansion of the WOTUS definition to include intermittent and ephemeral bodies of water that could include ditches and other man-made structures. Even more, he is concerned with the potential harm it can cause many "ordinary” people going about daily life. The attached letter has its required "legalese” making it a force to read through for many of us, but it hits the mark on concerns for the proposed rules. OFA appreciates the AG’s comments on the issue.

EPA Releases Framework for Assessing Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources
Last week, the US EPA released its assessment of woody biomass as a source of CO2 and in essence has ruled favorably that biomass is "carbon neutral” so long as the biomass source meets certain criteria, one of which is that the biomass must come from "sustainable forests” which is yet to be clarified. This is good news for recognition of the environmental benefits of forest management and the positive environmental "footprint” of woody biomass.However, caution is in order as it is yet to be determined what constitutes a sustainable forest.

OSU Thompson Library Project Update
We have reported in the past that OFA is working with a group of interests including the Ohio Tree Farm Committee, the Ohio Division of Forestry, Ohio Society of American Foresters, and OSU Extension on a promotion project highlighting the wood used in the OSU Thompson Library Renovation Project. Although activities at times have moved slowly, recent discussions point to a new emphasis and opportunity for highlighting the wood use through a special gallery "exhibit” at the library. Library staff have met with the committee to discuss enhancing the project and making it a focal point for visitors. Those who have visited the library may have seen the gallery on the third floor that highlights special events or themes, which currently displays an exhibit celebrating the 50thanniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The committee is excited about this new emphasis and hopes that efforts will provide a great opportunity to highlight the value of wood from managed forests as a remarkable building product.

2015 OFA Annual Meeting, February 11-12, 2015, Embassy Suites Columbus-Dublin; The Changing Business Climate for Ohio Forestry and the Hardwood Industry.


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