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Weekly News 6.11.12

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Weekly News 6.11.12

  • OFA Weighs in on the Proposed Lacey Act Amendments - Last week, OFA was asked by a consortium of forestry associations and businesses, under the lead of the Hardwood Federation, to co-sign a letter (note that the final letter had 58 signatures) to Congress opposing proposed legislation (HR 3210, The RELIEF Act of 2012 and HR 4171, Freedom from Over-criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012). The situation is complex, but I’ll be as brief as I can. The Lacey Act combats trafficking in illegal plants and animals and covers the movement of illegal timber into the United States. The proposed amendments stem from an incident several years ago affecting Gibson Guitars and the import of allegedly illegal wood and the resulting heavy-handed enforcement by the USDA. On the surface, the proposed legislation looks appropriate and well intended. However, a deeper look among the coalition indicated that the legislation may in fact cause more harm than good. OFA was provided a very short time frame to decide on co-signing the letter due to a pending committee hearing. OFA finally elected to co-sign. Many thanks to the OFA Board members for weighing in with their opinion and helping to sort out a position. It appears that that the House Natural Resources committee passed an amendment to HR 3210 submitted by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) that would significantly modify the Lacey Act by limiting the wood declaration to "solid” wood, providing an "innocent owner” defense in civil forfeiture cases, and limiting foreign law application to laws for the protection, conservation, and management of plants. There will be a conference call this week to discuss the latest action and get feedback from business interests. According to AF&PA, Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) assured them that the committee would address the concerns of the coalition prior to full House action.
  • Legislation and Policy
    1. Last week, Governor Kasich signed Substitute HB 508 which is a package of dozens of changes and tweaks to numerous tax laws in Ohio, which is intended to streamline Ohio’s tax code and eliminate extra burden on businesses. There were changes to a number of areas including the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT), sales and use tax, personal property tax reimbursements, corporate franchise tax, tax administration, new community authorities, and the accountancy board. You can read a Legislative Services Commission analysis and summary on line. It is lengthy, but it is arranged to make it easy to find analysis on specific tax components.
    2. Lt. Governor Mary Taylor says that coal will continue to play an important role in the state’s energy portfolio along side oil and natural gas. Lt. Governor Taylor made the comments to the Ohio Coal Association at an annual meeting. Ms. Taylor reassured the association that the Common Sense Initiative will insure that state regulations over the industry will remain reasonable and responsible and not overly burdensome on businesses.
    3. Interested in seeing more information on how US citizens’ voting record? The Census Bureau has posted a Voting Hot Report: State Level Maps and Graphs on Voting. If you click on the website shown in the news release, you can pull down information on a state-by-state basis to see Americans’ voting and registration information.
  • Environmentalists Target Muskingum Watershed Conservancy (MWCD) District Over Mineral Leasing and Water Sales - Recently, some environmental groups have taken issue with the MWCD leasing a large portion of its lands for gas leasing and selling water to drillers for fracking operations. Environmental groups recently protested at MWCD headquarters against a water sale of11 million gallons to Gulfport Energy Corp., withdrawing from Glendening Lake. The groups also believe that fracking near the reservoirs risk spills and leaching of chemicals. MWCD recently leased 3,700 acres at Leesville Lake to Chesapeake Energy Corp. for a $21 million signing bonus and 20% royalty while a 6,000 acre lease near Glendening Lake last year netted a $15.5 million bonus and 16% royalty with Gulfport. Some of the payments will be used to retire debt and for capital needs. MWCD indicates an $80 million backlog of deferred maintenance. Officials also indicate that pending future revenues from leasing, there is a possibility that the controversial tax assessment on property owners instituted over the past several years may eventually be reduced. In follow-up news from late last week, MWCD Executive Director John Hoopingarner put a moratorium on water sales for fracking until the District can update its water supply policy, which will take information from an independent water-availability study which is now under way.
  • PUCO Workshop on Combined Heat and Power - On June20, PUCO will host the second in an ongoing series of workshops for industrial boiler operators and owners to learn about how combined heat and power (CHP) can help them meet changing US EPA Clean Air Act regulations. The workshop will take place from 10 AM to 4 PM at the PUCO offices on 180 East Broad St. in Columbus. The workshop will also be webcast live for those who can’t make the workshop in Columbus. The workshop will focus on CHP Case Studies and will include a presentation by Dale Allard, Chief Engineer of the CHP Wood Biomass Facility at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center. You can register for the workshop on line at the PUCO website.

  • Wood Packaging Material (WPM) News from the Appalachian Hardwood Center Those in the wood packaging industry know that APHIS has elected not to regulate domestic WPM for invasive species based on the recommendations of a risk assessment published in May 2011. Based on that determination, Jeff Slahor, Research Instructor from the Appalachian Hardwood Center is asking the WPM industry for input on a project on best management practices he is working on that would assist WPM manufacturers to maintain or expand their market position. He briefly describes the project and asks for industry members and other interesed parties to give him feedback on the project.

  • Lumber Grading Short Course a Success; Another Possible Class Late Summer - Last week, OFA with the generous support of Yoder Lumber Co. as host facility, held a 4-day Lumber Grading Short Course at Yoder’s Buckhorn facility. There was a full class of 25 who went through the training from NHLA instructor Barry Kibbey. As it turned out, we had received even more inquiries from potential attendees for the class. We are looking into the possibility of another 4-day short course at the end of August. In addition, we are also considering a one-day walnut short course that would be separate from the 4-day course but immediately following on a Friday. Let us know if you have people who would be interested in either. We will put word out as soon as details are available.

  • OSU Extension Ohio Woodlands Online - You can find the summer issue of the OSU Woodland Steward newsletter Ohio Woodlands online at the Extension website. The issue contains articles on the new OSU Forest Products website, white oak wood, the many facets of fungi, an ALB update, and the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative.
  • Public Perception Puts Pressure on Biomass - Here is an article from Ken Norris, Contributing Editor, Pulp and Paper International on what has happened to woody biomass as an energy source. Just a couple years ago, biomass was a very big commodity in Ohio and it appeared to be on the threshold of major use. According to Mr. Norris, that has changed in large part to changing public perception on the large-scale use of wood for energy production. You can read his article to get his take on what he thinks has happened to the promotion of biomass energy.
  • USDA Uses Dogs to Find ALB - Here is an interesting story from the Cincinnati Enquirer that describes how the USDA has started using trained sniffing dogs to detect trees and products infested with Asian Longhorned Beetle.

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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