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Timber Talk 5/27/14

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Tuesday, May 27, 2014

State Policy and Legislative News

Senate Set to Begin Hearings on HB 375, Oil and Gas Severance Tax - Although the Senate will start hearings on SB 375, no vote is expected on the bill before the summer recess. The Senate Ways and Means Committee will review the bill. Although the House passed the measure increasing the severance tax on horizontally fractured gas wells to 2.5% of gross receipts, there is still considerable disagreement among interested parties and legislators on a final plan. The Governor would like to see a higher tax rate and some in the legislature would like to see a larger share of the revenues directed to local governments. Senator Bob Peterson (R-Sabina), chairman of the committee would like to take action before the end of this General Assembly but there is no guarantee that will happen.

Senate Passes SB 192, Invasive Plants Species - Last week, the Senate unanimously passed SB 192, Invasive Plant Species. This short bill gives sole authority to regulate invasive plant species to the Department of Agriculture. The authority includes identification of invasive plant species and establishment of prohibited activities. Among other things, this bill is an effort to prevent local governments and other entities from attempting to define invasive species and creating local ordinances governing them.

Senate Passes Mid-Biennium Review (MBR) Legislation (HB 483) Cutting Personal Income Taxes - HB 483, MBR legislation that the House and Senate have been working on for months, cleared the Senate last week along mostly party lines. Among a host of state policy actions that the bill addresses, it further cuts personal income taxes and also increases a small business tax deductions (increasing from 50% to 75% the deduction on the first $250,000 of income, starting in 2014). In total, the bill accounts for $402 million in tax reductions, all funded through current state cash flow. A number of largely Democrat-led amendments to the bill were rejected by vote, and included among them were proposals to raise minimum wages in Ohio from $7.95 to $10.10 and the restoration of the 12.5% property tax rollback and homestead exemption to all Ohioans.

Clean Energy Legislation (SB 310) Getting Push Back From Opponents/Amendment Increases Setback on Wind Turbines - SB 310, the bill that would freeze green energy and energy efficiency standards at current levels, had a difficult ride through the Senate and passed narrowly. It is now in front of the House Public Utilities Committee and green energy opponents are lining up hard to derail the measure. In spite of this, it appears that the bill will get both a committee and floor vote the last week of May. Current legislation requires that utilities get 12.5% of their electricity from renewable sources and consumption must be cut by 22%, both by 2025, with standards increasing gradually since the bill passed in 2008. Those wanting to freeze standards at current levels contend that the cost of electricity will become increasingly more expensive as the standards rise while green energy proponents believe that the market will be gutted by the proposed changes. A number of green energy, business, and religious groups are lobbying the House committee to gut the proposal. Meanwhile, an amendment was added to the bill that would require wind turbines must be 1,125 feet from neighboring property lines, whereas right now the distance applies to neighbors inhabited dwellings. Green energy advocates believe this change will gut the development of more wind turbines even more than proposed freeze on energy standards.

Bi-Partisan Support for HB 506, Emission Standards - Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) and Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) proposed legislation giving Ohio EPA officials more control over how Ohio would implement the rules to stay in compliance with federal air quality regulations on Ohio coal-fired power plants. Both legislators hope that the control will allow Ohio to maintain its energy supply portfolio that includes significant amounts of Ohio coal. The rules will set performance standards for carbon dioxide emissions for coal and natural-gas fired power plants. The federal rules are expected to be released June 1, 2014 with final rules in place by June 1, 2015.

State Controlling Board Denies DOF request for Equipment - The State Controlling Board, the legislative body charged with approving major purchases by state agencies, denied a request last week by the ODNR, Division of Forestry to purchase a skid steer and a molder/planer, together valued at $69,000. The money would have been redirected capital funds from the Lake White State Park dam rehabilitation project. The objection to the request was that ODNR had not considered partnering with other local state or public agencies to borrow the equipment. Senator Widener (R-Springfield) led questioning, which followed from an earlier meeting in which he voted against DOF purchasing an excavator track hoe, which the Board eventually approved.

ODNR Continues to Wrestle with Lake Erie Property Owners Over Waterfront Property Issue - In a class action court case that made it to the Supreme Court in 2011, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against ODNR finding that the natural shoreline when the Lake Erie level is "normal” is the legal property line for landowners. ODNR maintained that it was at the "high water” level and charged landowners rental fees for use of land below the high water mark. As a result of the Supreme Court ruling, ODNR is liable for damage payments to property owners for the rental payments charged the landowners, engineering and deed update costs, and punitive damages for trespassing. ODNR has not yet started making payments to the 14,000 property owners and is working through a legal appeal of the payment process. It is not yet determined what costs will be but a landowner group suggests that payments could exceed $1 billion.

BWC Considers Further Rate Cuts/Action on Court Case Decision Still Pending - The Bureau of Workers Compensation is reporting net assets at $9.2 billion and with that, it is considering another round of rebates, premium reductions, or other options that would benefit Ohio employers. BWC reports that its investment assets netted nearly a 10% return last year. This comes as the BWC Board already approved a 6.3% rate cut for private employers at its latest meeting, which will take effect July 1. This cut is on top of a 4% rate reduction in 2011, no change in 2012, and a 2.1% reduction in 2013. BWC Director Steve Buehrer reports that the administration has not yet decided whether to appeal the 8th District Court of Appeals ruling which upheld a ruling that said BWC wrongfully overcharged some employers to pay for discounts through the group-rating programs. The Director believes that there are still questions to be answered and is considering what action to take following the appeals court decision.

Updating an Ohio Forestry BMP Assessment
OFA was advised recently by the Division of Forestry that Ohio was awarded a grant from the U.S. Forest Service State and Private Forestry Program to complete an updated Ohio BMP Assessment. The project Assessing and Enhancing Forestry Best Management Practices in Ohio will be completed as a cooperative effort with the Division of Forestry. Ohio first completed a statewide forestry BMP assessment in 1999 but there has not been one since.

AF&PA Survey Indicates Paper and Paperboard Capacity Declined in 2013/Paper Recovery Continues Increasing
A survey by the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) indicates that capacity for paper and paperboard production declined by 1.1% in 2013, although there was great variation depending on grade category of paper.  Tissue paper capacity hit an all-time high in 2013 while contrarily, newsprint and printing papers have been trending down for some time. Containerboard capacity is responding positively after reductions due to the recession.  AF&PA further reports that 63.5% of U.S. paper consumption is recycled.  Since 1990 the rate of paper recovery has doubled.

Mill Fires
Within the last two weeks, there have been two mill fires that caused substantial or complete damage to sawmill facilities in Ohio. On Tuesday May 20, there was a fire at Travco Lumber Company in McArthur, Ohio that essentially destroyed the sawmill. The cause had not been determined and there were 6 fire departments that responded to the blaze. In the early morning of May 14, there was a fire at Trico Enterprises in Millersburg that destroyed the main sawmill and headrig. Fortunately, the fire was contained in the immediate building and the other site facilities were saved.

Forest Products Laboratory Spring 2014 Newsletter
The U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory for a long time has been a leader in forest products researched and has paved the way for the implementation of an incredible number of innovations in forest products.  Here is a copy of the newsletter and it has articles and information on the use of "nano” technology to create a cellulose based aerogel to clean up chemical and oil spills, research on termites, a training program for architects, engineers, and developers on the benefit of using wood as a building material, new "cradle-to-cradle” innovations in wood fiber products, and a new video on wood engineered forest products for residential construction.

Coalition for Transportation Productivity News
The Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP), of which OFA is a member, has been working on truck weight reform for several years, focusing on changing truck weight limits on federal highways through, primarily by changing the law through legislation. To that end, CTP is reporting that the appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development have three narrowly drawn provisions that would increase truck weights under special provisions on selected highways in Idaho, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. CTP is urging that members from affected states work to encourage passage of the bill as it could help set precedent for the passage of the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA) which would increase truck weights on federal highways across the country using 6-axle truck configurations.

Enforcement of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration CSA Program Varies Greatly by State
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) is reporting that its data shows the enforcement of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program which regulates commercial truck drivers and use, is applied unevenly by states which jeopardizes the effectiveness of the program. ATRI argues that with results that vary so much by state, it becomes very difficult for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to effectively run the program with meaningful results.

Fungus May Help Stop Spread of Invasive Ailanthus
Researchers in Pennsylvania have found that a naturally occurring fungus, Verticillium nonalfalfae, may become an effective bio-control to slow the spread of ailanthus, commonly called "Tree of Heaven.” An introduced species into Pennsylvania before 1800, ailanthus is now considered an aggressive invasive species occurring in most of the contiguous United States. Dying ailanthus were found in southwestern Pennsylvania in 2003, and researchers found that Ambrosia beetles were found in large quantities in the area. They speculated that the beetles were carrying a fungus that was affecting the trees, leading them to further work to isolate a cause for the mortality. More work is needed but so far tests with the verticillium fungus are proving effective. You can read an article on website about ailanthus and the fungus.

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid Treatment a Success in Hocking Hills
ODNR is reporting that its treatment efforts to treat Hemlock Wooly Adelgid at Hocking Hills State Park in 2013 have proven effective to the point that they cannot find incidence of the pest this year in the treatment location. The state used imidacloprid, an injected pesticide that kills the Adelgid, on 700 trees in the park. The adelgid has already been found in other Ohio counties so time will tell how well the treatment works at Hocking Hills and elsewhere.

SOFA June Newsletter
is the June 2014 Newsletter for the Southern Ohio Forestland Association. The newsletter contains information on SOFA activities, including a run-down of the most recent May general meeting. A special highlight that evening included special entertainment and performances by OFA’s beloved John Schmidt and his son John "Flip” Schmidt, accompanied by pianist Janet O’Brien and vocalist Ruthie Fuller. The 4 reportedly provided an outstanding performance and made a very special evening. A presentation was also provided by woodworker Tim Shoemaker who runs a business called the Shoemaker Tree Farm – Cabin Accents. He talked about his workshop and craft business and brought some of his creations which were offered as door prizes. The newsletter also has information on upcoming events and other outdoor topics.

Upcoming Events

OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 8-13, 2014, FFA Camp Muskingum
- Registrations are being taken and students can get information and register on-line. Scholarship money for camp is still available but may be restricted to students from specific counties or locations. Check with Gayla at the OFA office for details.

First Annual EA "Eddie” Robbins Memorial Golf Tournament, June 7, 2014, Dogwood Hills Golf Course - The first ever EA "Eddie” Robbins Memorial Golf Tournament will be held June 7, 2014 at the Dogwood Hills Golf Course in Pike County as a benefit fundraiser, the proceeds of which will be provided for scholarships to students from Pike County High Schools. This flyer has information on the tournament and is a request for sponsorships and donations to the event. Individuals and businesses can donate in different ways, including golf hole sponsorships, donations of items for an auction, or simply general donations to the event. Note the deadline on the flyer for making donations. This is a great cause in remembrance of the sudden loss of Eddie Robbins, son of Ed Robbins, last year.

Lumber Grading Short Course, June 9-12, 2014 - The short course is full! However, due to the demand for the class, another has been scheduled for August 25. See below for information on that class.

National Tree Farm Convention, July 17-19, 2014, Pittsburgh, PA - The National Tree Farm Convention is close to Ohio this year in Pittsburgh, PA. Those thinking about taking in the convention can get information for all the activities and programs by clicking on the link. It appears that convention-goers will have the chance to enjoy downtown Pittsburg, while concurrent sessions will covers such diverse subjects as controlling a forest policy agenda for the future, succession planning for your woodlands, reducing the impact of income taxes on forestry income, profitable timber marketing and harvesting, solar kilns and wood drying, lobbying for woodland owner programs, restoring American chestnut, golden eagles and eastern forests, the history of charcoal in eastern forests, invasive species, maple syrup production, and more. You can register on-line at this site.

Forest Heritage Festival, August 9, 2014, Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds

Lumber Grading Short Course, August 25-28, 2014
A second short course has been scheduled for later in the summer at the same location, Yoder Lumber Co., Inc. Buckhorn Sawmill. People have already started registering and you can do so on-line by following the link. The class is limited to 20 participants.

Lumberman’s Outing
, September 10, 2014, The Pines Golf Course (Orrville) and the Lost Birds Sporting Clays (Fredericksburg).

Paul Bunyan Show, October 3-5, 2014, Guernsey County Fairgrounds

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