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Timber Talk 4/20/15

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ohio Legislative and Policy News

  • Energy Mandates Study Committee Reviews Cogeneration, Solar, and Competition for Energy Bill Rewrite - Per directions in the last legislature, a committee of House and Senate members will review the current renewable and alternative energy mandates according to the 2008 Energy Bill. The committee is looking at the current standards and weighing such issues as competition in the market place with existing energy sources and whether renewables and alternative sources should be subsidized. There was also discussion about combined heat and power technology (cogeneration) which is currently included in Ohio’s energy efficiency standards and the renewable energy portfolio. It was stated that Ohio had the greatest cogeneration market potential of 13 mid-western states. Concerning solar production, Ohio has 102 megawatts of solar capacity, the 20th among all states. Solar capacity has grown exponentially in recent years with the price of technology declining substantially.
  • House Changes Governor’s Tax Plan - The budget bill was changed in a big way last week as much of Governor Kasich’s tax plan was taken from the bill and other measures were reviewed in various committees. The measures include changes for school funding that will insure no district receives less money than in the previous fiscal year and various Medicaid changes and other health related issues concerning Medicaid eligibility, food banks, drug courts, and drug addictions. The House plan includes $1.2 billion in income tax cuts offset by projected growth in tax revenues. Among many provisions is funding to rebuild the Buckeye Lake dam which is reportedly in grave condition. There is also increased funding for Lake Erie algae concerns. In general business groups including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses/Ohio, and the Council of Smaller Enterprises welcomed the changes to the budget bill.
  • Tax Liability for Small Solar and Wind Turbine Owners? The Ohio Department of Taxation advised businesses, school districts, and local governments that have installed solar panels and wind turbines that they could be liable for paying taxes on electricity they produced as far back as 2009. The tax responsibility, which includes the Ohio public utility personal property tax and the kilowatt-hour tax, may also be for power produced from landfill gas and other green energy systems. The taxes are normally levied on "electrical distribution companies” but could be required for anyone who produces electricity and sells it to someone else. The tax is intended for facilities with "nameplate capacity” in excess of 250 kilowatts which essentially excludes most residential users.
  • Legislation Proposed to Lure National Non-Profits to Ohio - Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) introduced HB 133 (Tax Credits) which would allow sales tax exemptions to encourage out-of-state non-profit corporations to relocate jobs to Ohio. Rep. Schaffer believes Ohio is perfectly poised to attract the association management industry to Ohio. The bill would provide a non-refundable, three-year sales and use tax exemption to non-profits that bring at least 50 full-time jobs to Ohio. Rep. Schaffer is the past Executive Director of the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers and served in similar posts for 25 years so he is familiar with non-profits and trade associations. The bill also has tax incentives for students getting a degree in non-profit management.
  • 700 Megawatt Combined-Cycle Natural Gas Power Plant Announced for Carroll County/AEP to Shut Down More Coal-Fired Power Plants - Developers announced a nearly $900 million natural gas power plant received the go-ahead for Carroll County. Carroll County Energy is one of a number of projects of Advanced Power, headquartered in Switzerland, being built in the U.S. and Europe Meanwhile AEP has plans to shutter two of its coal-fired power plants in Ohio by the end of May. The two slated for closure are the 1,440 MW Muskingum River plan in Washington County and the 100 MW Picway plant near Columbus.
  • Unemployment Remains Stable in March - The Ohio unemployment rate remained at 5.1% in March, not changing from the February rate. Employment reached a level of 5.385 million in Ohio. The national unemployment rate was 5.5%. Overall employment increased 1,500 jobs for the month, while good producers lost 5,000 positions, construction dropped 4,500 positions and mining and logging lost 500 positions. The service sector added 4,500 jobs, education and health services added 3,500 jobs, and government added 2,000 jobs.

Family Forests Can Benefit from Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 (HR 1105)
Last week, by a vote of 240-179, the U.S. House passed HR 1105, The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015. Death Taxes have been shown to have many impacts on jobs and the economy and in particular the health of America’s forests, as so many are owned by private woodland owners who often have to sell forestlands when death taxes come due. Many have argued that eliminating death taxes is paramount in drastically reducing the loss and parcelization of family forests throughout the country. Listen to an interesting story during brief testimony by Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD) who had to deal with death taxes on her family farm after her father was killed. She made a compelling argument for repealing the death tax as a member of a family farm and as a Congresswoman. The vote was essentially on party lines and in Ohio all Republican House members voted for the bill and Democrat members against.

House Committee Reviews Waters of the US Issue
Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reviewed and marked up HR 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which was introduced by Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA). In short, the legislation would force the US EPA to withdraw the rules defining Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and to develop a new rule that meets a number of criteria, part of which is to work with state and local officials in crafting new definitions. The current version would be particularly detrimental for farmers and forest landowners as it would include and regulate virtually any natural or man-made waterway in the country. The bill was quickly voted out of committee by a vote of 36-22, with bi-partisan support for passage. The bill is expected to be heard by the full House in the near future. It is expected to make its way through the Senate, but there is a question on whether it can gather enough support to override an anticipated Presidential veto should it get to the President’s desk.

Trade Show to China: Furniture Manufacturing and Supply China 2015
From September 9-12, 2015, the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) is cooperating with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, International Trade Division to attend a trade show in Pudong, Shanghai at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center. The ODSA is inviting Ohio businesses to exhibit at the trade show and advises that the Ohio Appalachia Export Grant (AEG) can be utilized by Appalachian small businesses to help offset costs for attendance at the show. Briefly the AEG can fund 50% of the cost to attend and promote products. Click on the link above to get more information about the Ohio AEG Program. Those interested in attending the trade show can get more information and register for the event by contacting Mike Hubbard via email or calling (336) 688-5027.

F&W Forestry Services Spring 2015 Forestry Report
F&W Forestry Services manages a portion of the southern Ohio forest lands formerly owned by the Mead Corporation and follow-up companies. F&W also publishes quarterly forestry report, and you can read the Spring 2015 Forestry Report here. The issue has articles on current market situations, weather and tax concerns, commentary on February housing numbers, Congressional action on timber taxes for landowners and the industry, record-breaking growth for southern wood pellet exports to Europe, softwood log and lumber exports to China, the merger of MeadWestvaco and RockTenn, and the strong U.S. paper production starting in 2015.

Wooden Bicycle Frame – an Amazing Use of Wood
For general interest, here is a brief but neat article about using wood to make a handcrafted bicycle frame. Just another example of the amazing characteristics of wood and what can be done with God’s greatest building material.

Apple Invests in Maine Working Forest Land
According to an article in the Maine Business News, Apple has partnered with the Conservation Fund to invest in a 32,400 acre working forest in Maine which will keep the supply of sustainably managed timber going to markets. The intent is to place a conservation easement on the property so that it will stay in working forest.

Coming Events

  • CSAW Chainsaw Training Classes. See the OFA website for the complete list of Chainsaw training classes. There are classes scheduled for April and May.
  • Employment Law Seminar, May 15, 2015, Dublin Embassy Suites. See this flyer for the event. The session is the morning of May 15 and includes a continental breakfast. There is a $10 registration fee.
  • OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 7-12, 2015, FFA Camp Muskingum. Camp is approaching and sign-ups are already taking place. Those registering before May 1 can get the "early-bird” rate of $325, a $50 savings. Go to the OFA website for camp information.
  • Lumber Grading Short Course, June 8-11, 2015, Yoder Lumber Company, Millersburg, Ohio. OFA is once again hosting the Lumber Grading Short Course at the Yoder Lumber Company, Buckhorn Mill in Millersburg, Ohio. The course is taught by NHLA Inspector Barry Kibbey. The fee for the course is $325 for OFA members/$400 for non-members. You can find information about the course here.
  • OWIN Summer Meeting, July 22-23, 2015, Marietta, Ohio. Maybe you’ve heard, but the OWIN Summer Meeting will be back once again in Marietta, Ohio! Also back by popular request is a reception on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler the evening of July 22. On July 23, there will be golf at the Marietta Country Club and a sporting clay shoot at Hilltop Sporting Clays in Whipple. Registration Information will soon be mailed to members.
  • Forest Heritage Festival, August 8, 2015, Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds.
  • Ohio Tree Farm of the Year Tour, September 19, 2015, Sycamore Hills Tree Farm, Harrison County.
  • Paul Bunyan Show, October 2-4, 2015, Guernsey County Fairgrounds.

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