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Timber Talk 1/20/15

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, January 19, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Federal Policy and Legislation

Northern Long Eared Bat (NLEB) Update -
Last week, the US. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) announced that it will propose a rule under Section 4 (d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) exempting actions meeting certain conditions, such as forest management from "take” provisions if the species is listed as threatened. USF&WS has received considerable push-back from many sectors about severe consequences of actions if the NLEB is listed as endangered or threatened. To that end, a group of 13 Senators co-signed a bipartisan letter initiated by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) sent to USF&WS Director Dan Ashe urging the agency to take action that would minimize impact on businesses and the economy if an endangered listing is taken. The letter specifically requested the Director to make use of Section 4(d) rule and exempt forest and land management activities under certain conditions. With the proposed rule, there will be a 60-day comment period, starting on January 16, 2015 giving interested parties a chance once again to weigh in on this specific issue and the issue in general. It remains to be seen how the rule would be fully implemented, but here is a statement from the USF&WS: "For areas of the country affected by white-nose syndrome, the measures provided in the proposed 4(d) rule exempt take from forest management practices, maintenance and limited expansion of transportation and utility rights-of-way, removal of trees and brush to maintain prairie habitat, and limited tree removal projects, provided these activities protect known maternity roosts and hibernacula. The proposed 4(d) rule also exempts take as a result of removal of hazardous trees, removal of northern long-eared bats from human dwellings, and research-related activities. These measures are designed to protect northern long-eared bats when they are most vulnerable, including when they occupy hibernacula and during the two-month pup-rearing season from June through July. The greatest potential restrictions would be during these months, with reduced restrictions at all other times.”

Even with this news, there remains much to be concerned about any designation of the bat under the ESA. OFA will continue efforts to monitor and weigh-in as appropriate. Those wishing to file comments may do so at the USF&WS website.

Can Heavier Trucks Make Roads Safer?A news release issued by the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP) cited a report from the Maine Department of Public Safety (MDPS) that Maine’s road fatality rate was the lowest in 70 years and that part of the reason may be due to efforts in Maine to allow heavier trucks on specific highways. A MDPS system analyst indicated that the evidence from accident records may support an argument for heavier trucks on highways, bolstering proponents of the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA) who are pushing for truck weight reform on federal and US highways. With talks about the U.S. Senate looking at a new highway bill that could involve an increase in the gas tax, there is discussion among truck weight reform interests of see if a change in the truck weight law could be included in this bill.

At the Federal Level, Sen. Brown, Cong. Latta Announce Funding, Legislation On Toxic Algae - Ohio’s toxic algae issue is getting attention at the federal level too. Last week, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) announced USDA funding for water quality activities through the EQIP Program for Delaware and Clermont Counties. Money will be directed to the Soil and Water Conservation Districts to encourage practices with farmers and other landowners. U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) reintroduced the "Great Lakes & Fresh Water Algae Blooms Information Act” which would establish a comprehensive database of information on algae issues that would assist efforts to combat the problem.

Ohio Policy and Legislation

Has the Change in the Renewable Energy Law Hurt Business? Areport last week from the Pew Charitable Trusts says that the clean energy sector in Ohio has fallen significantly since the legislature modified the clean energy law. According to the report, in 2012, investment in the clean energy sector surpassed $700 million, then declined to $87 million in 2013 as debate on the clean energy law picked up. In 2013, Ohio had 693 megawatts of clean energy capacity, 62% from wind and 15% from hydro and solar power. Ohio ranked first in the nation in number of facilities manufacturing wind components and second in manufacturing of solar equipment. For those that remember, the new law postponed for two years the renewable energy standard requirements that had been put in place in 2008 with the Clean Energy Law was passed. It also eliminated a requirement for half the clean energy to be generated in Ohio and increased required setback distances for wind turbines. Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Chairman of the Public Utilities Committee who led the charge for changes in the law, takes issue with the report findings and says that it fails to examine the cost of compliance with the clean energy law. He asserts that consumers and ratepayers are subsidizing the growth of these industries. Recent PUCO testimony before the committee indicated that electricity rates for generation have increased 6-8% through 2013 due solely to clean energy law compliance costs. Much of the debate will continue until the committee established to review the standards issues its findings after the 2-year review.

Falling Oil Prices Could Affect Ohio Legislative Debate on Oil and Gas Severance Tax - With gas prices of $47 per barrel dropping to less than half the $110 per barrel as recently as last June, some are wondering if and how it will affect debate on the hotly contested oil and gas severance tax that has been discussed for some time. Although some national drilling companies have pulled rigs from eastern Ohio, ODNR indicates that the agency has not seen any significant decrease in permit applications. Industry spokespeople are indicating that the prices will impact discussions and create more push-back for any type of increase that is proposed.

House Speaker Rosenberger Priorities for the Coming Session - Last week, Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) outlined his priorities for House action in the coming session. Among them were bills focused on jobs, education, tort reform, and clean water, particularly picking up HB 490 from the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that did not pass the Senate before the end of last session.

Ohio Valley Veneer Featured in Industrial Sawmill Business Spotlight, International Forest Industries Magazine
In the December/January issue of the International Forest Industries Magazine,Ohio Valley Veneer and owner Ed Robbins (current OFA First Vice-President) was featured in a YouTube advertising produced by Wood-Mizer LLC. The video is accessed from the digital version of the magazine and can be found in the upper right portion of page 103, almost at the end of the publication. You can more quickly access the video directly on the YouTube page. Ed talks about his operation and the part the sawmill plays in his production.

FFA Review of Forestry Career Development Event (CDE) Competition
Last week, OFA participated in a review of the Forestry Career Development (CDE) competition held each year at Hocking College the first weekend in October. The event is a day-long competition of high school students who participate in FFA forestry classes at their school. Last year, more than 200 students from nearly 40 schools participated in the event. The review was an opportunity for industry and education representatives to look at the competition to insure that it remains relevant to industry needs and purposes. In addition to the review, Kevin Williams, Program Specialist in the FFA Agricultural and Environmental Systems, proposed to OFA an opportunity to become more engaged in forestry career development through FFA programs. He suggested an OFA credentialing for FFA students meeting certain forestry education requirements that they could hopefully parlay into future employment with forest product industry businesses. Kevin presented an existing credentialing model now in place with the Ohio Michigan Equipment Dealers Association (OMEDA) and FFA. OFA was interested and willing to talk more about the opportunity. Look for a future presentation at an upcoming Board meeting.

Ohio Safety Congress and Expo Registration/Deadline for BWC Group Retrospective Rating Program
is a news release concerning the upcoming BWC Ohio Safety Congress & Expo from March 31 to April 2, 2015 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Those interested in attending can register on-line. Also here is a news release from CareWorks Consultants, Inc., the third-party administrator for the OFA BWC Group Safety Rating Program, about the January 26, 2015 deadline for enrolling in the group retrospective rating program. Both news releases contain contact information if you want to know more about the offerings.

ECOFA February 2015 Newsletter
is the February 2015 Newsletter from the East Central Ohio Forestry Association. Take a look at it to get information about the recent Board and General Membership meeting on January 7, as well as information about coming events and activities.

2015 OFA Annual Meeting, Feb. 11-12. 2015; Embassy Suites Columbus-Dublin. Registration on-line at the OFA Website

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