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Ohio Legislative and Policy News.
- Administration Budget Director Criticizes Legislature’s Budget Assumptions. Ohio Budget Director Tim Keen last week criticized the financial assumptions used by the legislature as it prepared its version of the state biennium budget. He believes the House used much too optimistic general revenue and Medicaid spending projections. The House projected higher revenues from the Governor’s plan by more than $300 million per year in each year of the budget. To support his position, Mr. Keen indicated that OBM had projected a revenue growth of 2% for this year, but after the first quarter it is up only 0.2% for a projected annual increase of less than 1%. The governor proposed a larger Personal Income Tax cut that the one adopted by the House, going against the Governor’s long-term goal to eliminate the PIT in Ohio. The administration is particularly unhappy that the proposed severance tax on gas and oil fracking was largely scrapped. It hopes to change that as the Senate debates the bill.
- Budget Bill Gives Manufacturers Waste Exemption for Slag, Clay, and Shale. The budget that passed the House would exclude certain manufacturing byproducts from state pollution regulations. Slag, clay, and shale would not be considered industrial waste Manufacturers have indicated that there has been uncertainty in current law over whether certain benign wastes can be used for other purposes. The provisions are intended to clear up the confusion. Although slag has long been excluded from the list of "solid waste”, there has been questions on whether it could be used on the ground according to water pollution law. The same questions have applied to shale and clay products.
- Energy Mandates Study Committee Weighs Extending Freeze on Clean Energy Standards. The Energy Mandates Study Committee which has been charged with reviewing the Clean Energy Standards during a 2-year hiatus on implementation of the standards is considering extending the hold on the standards. One of the key concerns for the panel is the pending regulations on carbon emissions from power plants, which must cut emissions 30% during the period 2005 through 2030. There are uncertainties with how the rules to cut emissions will be developed and play out and as a result, at least some on the committee believed that the standards should be held until that is determined. Some believe that a quicker path to renewables will be a help to meeting carbon emissions goals and therefore the standards freeze should be lifted.
- Net Metering Becoming an Issue for Renewable Energy. The legislature is starting to ask questions about "net metering” – the system concerning how much renewable energy producers get paid for selling excess power they generate back into the grid. Utility companies question the amount of money paid to renewable energy producers as these producers don’t contribute to the development and maintenance of the grid infrastructure. The Senate Public Utilities Committee is being urged to review the current net metering approach. Chairman Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) agrees that the issue should be reviewed but does not want to review the issue at this point in time. Utilities are pushing for the review while alternative energy producers believe the issue is a "red herring.”
- HB 176, Gaseous Fuel Vehicles, Introduced. Last week, Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg) and Rep. Sean Obrien (D-Hubbard) introduced HB 176, Gaseous Fuel Vehicles, which create a program to encourage the purchase of new or conversion of used vehicles operating on alternative fuels. The incentives would provide tax breaks and directed funding toward alternative fuel vehicles.
- Ohio Remains Nation’s Leading State for Tree City USA for 34th Consecutive Year. The ODNR, Division of Forestry announced during Arbor Day ceremonies recently that for the 34thconsecutive year, Ohio is the leading state in the country for the number of Tree City USAcommunities. This year, there were 242 cities, villages and townships that met the criteria for Tree City USA designation. According to the ODNR news release, last year the 242 communities planted 29,000 trees, pruned more than 83,000, and invested more than $43 million in urban forestry activities.
OFA Strengthening Master Logger Training on Boundary Line Determinations
As OFA and members worked on proposed timber theft legislation that did not pass in the last legislative session, there was discussion about opportunities that OFA can pursue to better insure legal removal of timber in Ohio and prevent burdensome regulation. To that end, one opportunity identified was to improve the training provided to Master Loggers on "due diligence” standards for insuring harvest boundaries in timber sale transactions. Recently a small group met to review training needs and is now developing a recommended training module for Master Loggers. The module will be presented to loggers at Logger Chapter meetings. Eventually, the module will be expanded to include more training on detailed elements of boundary line determinations that timber buyers often run into.
Waters of the US (WOTUS) Update
Concern remains with how the US EPA has proposed rules re-defining "Waters of the US”, per Clean Water Act purposes, to include virtually any body of natural and man-made water in the US, including ditches and other water channels. A new definition could add to burdensome new regulation of many land management activities, with concern over how things would play out in forest management. Last week, Senators Barrasso (R-WY) and Donnelly (D-IN) in bi-partisan support, introduced the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140), which requires the Administration to withdraw the rule and to undertake the procedural requirements not taken when the rule was first proposed (e.g., analysis of small business impacts, consultation under the Federalism Executive Order, etc.) before re-proposing a new rule. The bill has other provisions, including a number of principles to guide the re-proposal and a section that clearly indicates which waters should be included as WOTUS and those that should not.
Forest Policy Forum – A Forest Carbon Future
The Forest Policy Forum (FPF) is a group of trade associations and companies who collaborate on issues of importance to forestry, forest management, and the forest industry in general. Recently, as the USDA had announced the "USDA Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry”, the FPF issued a report, put together through the Dovetail Partners, that highlights the carbon benefits of managed and working forests and the forest products they provide. The renewable forests provide reusable and recyclable products and have immense benefits that can directly and positively affect carbon emissions. It’s a good report that provides valuable information with a Frequently Asked Questions section that you can refer to in dealing with the forest carbon issues.
NWTF Testifies in Favor of Active Management of National Forests
Last week, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) provided testimony before the House Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry in support of expanded forest management on National Forests. NWTF is actively involved in numerous projects across the US supporting the management of the forests to improve wildlife habitat. NWTF argued that active management provides numerous conservation and environmental benefits and among them forest products that we all need.
FRA 2015 National Outstanding Logger Announced
The Forest Resource Association (FRA) announced at its annual meeting that Moulton Logging, Inc. from Vermont was selected as the 2015 National Outstanding Logger. Ohio’s DeNoon Lumber was a finalist for the award as it had been selected last year as the Appalachian Region Outstanding Logger. Here is a news release on the announcement. Congratulations to Moulton Logging, Inc. No doubt they were deserving, but we thought DeNoon Lumber would have been a most worthy recipient of the award.
Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc. from Jackson, Ohio Given Tax Credit for Job Creation
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority last week announced $1.73 million in tax credit to 9 companies for creating 480 jobs and retaining 351. One of those companies is Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc. in Jackson which will receive a 7-year 40% tax credit worth $52,000 for creating 35 full-time positions generating an estimated $910,000 in annual payroll for refurbishing used barrels as well as manufacturing new barrels.
Company Looking for Ohio Loggers to Produce Poplar Bark for Shingles
Last week, OFA met with representatives from Bark House, a North Carolina company that produces wood shakes from yellow poplar bark. The company would like to identify and contact Ohio loggers who may be interested in sourcing Ohio poplar bark for the shake product. Producers would go through a process of peeling the bark off of logs and processing pieces into sizes that would then be arranged for shipment to the North Carolina manufacturing facility. The company is not interested in the poplar logs which would still be available for harvest and sale. The bark would be an additional product for sale. The company advises that prices paid for the bark are very good and makes the opportunity worthwhile. Anyone interested in contact information with the company can contact OFA at 614-497-9580.
Ohio Development Services Agency - 2015 Ohio Export Internship Program
Think you might be able to use a student intern with export-focused coursework in your operation? If so, the Ohio Export Assistance Program will help match students with companies and provide 50% funding to pay wages if arrangements are worked out. ODSA is now taking applications from companies that may be interested in the program. You can get information at the ODSA website on the Ohio Export Internship Program.
- CSAW Chainsaw Training Classes. See the OFA websitefor the complete list of Chainsaw training classes. There are classes scheduled for April and May.
- Appalachian Ohio State of the Region Conference; Manufacturing Workforce: Building Capacity; May 12, 2015, Ohio University, Athens. there will be a conference hosted by Ohio University in Athens and sponsored by the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG) on opportunities for building workforce capacity in manufacturing in Appalachian Ohio. The full-day conference will give attendees the chance to interact with local and state leaders, economic developers, and manufacturers in the region. You need to pre-register and to do so, visit www.ohio.edu/voinovichschooland click on "Register Now.” See the flyer for more information.
- Employment Law Seminar, May 15, 2015, Dublin Embassy Suites. See the flyer for the event. The session is the morning of May 15 and includes a continental breakfast. There is a $10 registration fee.
- Seminar: The Federal Endangered Species Act: Implementation, Effectiveness and Implications for Natural Resources Management. May 29,2015, OSU, Columbus. A group of sponsors including OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources, ODNR Division of Wildlife, and OSU Extension are hosting a full-day seminar on the Federal Endangered Species Act. It is designed for Natural Resource Managers who have to deal with Endangered Species issues. It will be held on May29, 2015 at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center on the OSU campus in Columbus. The Ohio Woodland Steward website has information on the seminar. Registration is $30 with a breakfast and lunch included. The registration deadline is May 22, 2015.
- Second Annual Tree Autopsy Workshop, June 6, 2015, Newbury, Ohio. This workshop is intended for arborists and those with a focus in urban forestry, but it may have interest for foresters and those working with traditional forest products. The Ohio Independent Arborist Association is hosting the workshop at the Independent Tree Service in Newbury, Ohio. The workshop is free but the organizers ask for RSVP on registration. Here is a flyer.
- OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 7-12, 2015, FFA Camp Muskingum. 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. Flyers were mailed last week for the OWIN Summer Meeting. There will be the traditional golf and clay shoot on Thursday, July 23 with the Wednesday evening Riverboat Reception on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler on July 22. Those not planning on golfing or shooting but wish to attend the reception on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler are still asked to register. It helps OFA with planning for attendance. You may register on-line here.
- 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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