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Weekly News 3.25.13

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Ohio Forestry Association

Weekly News 3.25.13

In this issue:

Ohio Legislative News

  • Am. HB 12 – Eliminates the licensed operator requirement for boilers directly fired with gas, oil, gas-oil, electricity or stationary steam engines that comply with standards established by the Board of Building Standards - The House passed an amended bill that changes standards whereby licensed operators are not required under new standards prescribed in the law. Thus, under the bill, a low pressure steam boiler or power boiler that has more than 360 square feet of heating surface (expressed as 30 horsepower under current law) may be operated, or a stationary steam engine may be operated at more than 30 horsepower, by an individual not licensed under the Boiler Law if the requirements specified in the rules adopted by the Board under the bill are satisfied. Currently the law requires that a low pressure boiler of more than 30 HP must be operated by someone licensed as a steam engineer, high pressure boiler operator, or low pressure boiler operator.
  • BWC ordered to pay $859 million in Group-Rating Case - A Cuyahoga County trial court ruled that the Ohio BWC must refund $859 million to 264,000 employers for excessively charged premiums. The decision came from a class action lawsuit filed by 7 employers that premium rates for non-group employers were excessive, and in effect subsidized the lower rates for group participants. BWC maintains that it has acted properly with the group rating program and plans to appeal the decision of the Common Pleas Court.
  • Transportation Budget Passes - The ODOT Budget passed the conference committee last week and was voted on by both the House and Senate and moved it on to the Governor’s office for his signature. Removed from the bill was the provision to raise commercial GVW to 90,000# from the current 80,000# limit. On the controversial issue about turnpike bonding which is included in the bill, the legislature agreed to direct at least 90% of the bond money to projects in northern Ohio projects (north of Route 30). Finally, the speed limit on 4-lane state highways would increase to 70 mph from the current 65 mph. Trucks fueled by compressed natural gas will be allowed to exceed GVW limits by 2,000#.
  • Senate Panel Reviews Clean Energy Law - A panel of the Senate Public Utilities Committee reviewed and debated the renewable energy requirements per the 2008 law that established renewable energy standards in Ohio. According to the law (SB 221, 127th General Assembly) 12.5% of Ohio’s electric generation must come from renewable energy sources by 2025. Many witnesses, both pro and con on the standards have provided testimony to the panel. No conclusions or proposed changes have yet come from the discussions.
  • Budget Tax Reform Proposals Continue to Draw Intense Review and Pushback - Work continues on the tax reform package proposed by the Kasich administration in the budget bill. There appears to be consensus among legislators to go with the Governor’s proposed residential and small business income tax reductions. However, changes to the state sales tax codes, particularly those that expand services to be taxed are getting little support. Legislators are working to come up with other ideas to offset lost revenues from the income tax reductions. The proposed increase in gas and oil severance taxes may be a dead issue among legislators.

US Supreme Court Upholds US EPA Policy of Non-Point Source Exemption for Logging Roads - The forestry and forest products industry are cheering the recent ruling by the US EPA to overturn the Ninth Circuit Court ruling requiring NPDES permits on logging roads. Emails were abuzz late last week with the good news that the Supreme Court agreed with long-standing Clean Water Act policy that exempted logging roads from point-source permitting requirements. As has been reported in past weekly reports, OFA joined a host of other state and national forestry and industry organizations in the filing of two amicus briefs on the court case on behalf of those opposed to the Ninth Circuit Court ruling. The Pacific Legal Foundation provided the necessary legal work. If you want to read more about the decision, you can take a look at the Opinion document on Decker v Northwest Environmental Defense Fund although it is long and written in typical "legal” fashion. For a more brief and simple explanation, read the Pacific Legal Defense Liberty blog written by Daniel Himebaugh who worked on the case. Of particular note in the blog statement is the discussion that the Court agreed with EPA’s traditional view that timber harvesting was not an "industrial activity” similar to those in facilities such as sawmills. Further, it upheld the long-standing position that logging roads are "non-point” sources of pollution, exempt from NPDES permits. Finally, a particularly important part of the opinion is that the Supreme Court agreed that there is extensive programs at the state level covering logging road activities and thus federal permitting was redundant and duplicative. A welcome victory for the good guys!

Insurance for Sawmills - OFA has been hearing reports of sharply increasing rates for sawmill insurance. Some comments that have been reported are:

  • Substantially increasing rates on large value and frame unprotected mills and pallet shops, with rates increasing as much as 70%;
  • Elimination of 2-year rate guarantees
  • Increasing deductibles such that sawmill owners are required to obligate more of their own assets;
  • Tightening of loss control requirements;
  • Some carriers are contemplating withdrawing from the sawmill and pallet manufacturing markets.

If any members are experiencing or hearing of the same concerns, please don’t hesitate to pass those along to OFA.

Ohio Logging BMP Evaluation Grant Proposal - OFA is cooperating with the ODNR Division of Forestry, OSU Extension, and the Ohio SIC to seek a grant to complete an update and evaluation of the Statewide Logging BMPs. A comprehensive statewide BMP assessment has been completed only once in Ohio and that took place in 1999. With 14 years since the last assessment, updated information is needed to determine the effectiveness of current BMP use in the state. Grant funding is being requested from both the US Forest Service and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) grant program.

Wood Education and Research Center (WERC) March 21 Update - The most recent update from WERC can be found here. This issue contains information on issues such as woody biomass technical assistance, workshops on urban wood utilization; biomass and bioenergy; heat treatment of firewood and logs using steam and vacuum (May 21, Princeton, WV); a biomass grants program; an update on the housing market for January, 2013; an Update on Wood Markets for February, 2013; the new European Union Timber Regulations website and Forests website; a US Forest Service publication on the forests of the Northern United States, which includes Ohio; and a list of archived webinars on a number of topics.

Upcoming Events:

  • BMP Training, April 4, 2013, 8 AM, Tappan Lake – still plenty of room to register!. For Master Loggers needing certification; you can register on-line.
  • CSAW Level 1 Training, April 5, 2013, 8 AM, Tappan Lake – registration is currently full. Call OFA for updated information (614) 497-9580.
  • Forest and Wood Products Export Conference, April 25, 2013, OSU Endeavor Center, Piketon, Ohio. Here is a press release and flyer on the event. The conference will run from 9 am to 2 pm and will include a lunch and handout materials. There is a $25 registration fee. Call OSU Extension for registration: Jennifer Warfe, 740-289-1605, ext. 301 or email: Keynote Speaker will be Michael Snow from the American Hardwood Export Council.

Ohio Forestry Association is managed by Offinger Management Company, a member of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), "Charter-Accredited" Association Management Company member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and a member of the Association Management Company Institute (AMC Institute).

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