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Weekly News 1.24.12

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Weekly News 1.24.12

  • Update - NPDES Permits for Logging Roads. We have previously reported about a Ninth Circuit Court decision requiring NPDES permits for logging roads in the Pacific Northwest. In additional news:
    1. There is pending action before the US Supreme Court to hear an appeal of that decision, filed by a coalition of national and state forestry organizations. OFA was one of the organizations which asked to be included in an "amicus brief” reference that appeal. Late in the year, the Supreme Court asked the US Solicitor General for a review of the appeal, which legal experts believe is a very important step leading to eventual court review.
    2. In the meantime and also late in the year, Congress extended for one year the non-point source exemption for logging roads through the Omnibus Appropriations Bill (HR 2055), which means that landowners and logging companies in the Pacific Northwest states will not have to go through the NPDES permitting process prior to logging activities.
    3. Finally, in response to the potential impact of nationwide requirements for NPDES permitting on logging jobs, two North Carolina State University Forestry Professors, Fred Cubbage and Robert Abt, estimated administrative and economic impacts of NPDES permit requirements on logging roads in the US South. Here are "Bullet Points” summarizing the impacts. They are eye openers. Even though the estimates are for the southern states, I believe the estimated costs and impacts, particularly on a "per landowner” and "per acre” basis are appropriate for Ohio and the northeast. If you look at the "bullets,” make sure to read both pages as the authors identify the assumptions they used to make the estimates.
  • Boiler MACT Update. Recently, US District Court Judge Paul Friedman vacated the EPA stay of the March 2011 Boiler MACT rules, which makes the rules effective again. In response to that, EPA Director Lisa Jackson indicated that her agency will provide temporary relief to businesses impacted by the new rules by not enforcing them for the near term. However, this only provides short-term relief. Efforts continue to work through Congress to get the EPA Regulatory Relief Act passed. Here is the letter from Director Jackson to Senator Ron Wyden on the no-enforcement provision.
  • Shooting Incident with Logging Company in Ross County. It was reported this week in the Chillicothe Gazette that someone fired a gun at loggers in an apparent boundary dispute on a logging job in Ross County. The logging company in question is a Master Logger and the complaining landowner had contacted the OFA office to complain that his boundary trees were being cut. Here is the article that describes the incident, during which an employee for the logging company was injured.
  • Logging Accident in Hocking County. This past week, there was a logging accident in Hocking County in which a logger was hit by a falling. Here are two articles from the Logan Daily Newspaper in Hocking County reporting on the accident. The local EMS from Hocking County responded to the accident and the logger was then Lifeflighted to Columbus. The injured logger is employed by Gambill Logging and Chipping of McArthur.
  • Potential Legislative Action on Ohio Workers Comp Program. It was reported last week that the Republican caucus in the House is interested in taking up legislation to improve the Workers’ Compensation Program which include creating incentives for the health partnership program, improving return-to-work rates, and encouraging employer participation in risk-management, safety, and wellness programs. There is also interest in doing more study on the controversial proposal of allowing private insurers to sell workers’ comp policies in Ohio. On the last point, it appears there are no plans to move ahead with privatization legislation at this point. There will only be more study on the proposal.
  • Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) Found in Ohio. Here is another one. The HWA was found on Shade River State Forest in Meigs County by Division of Forestry staff and recently confirmed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. This is the first time HWA has been detected in naturally occurring hemlock trees in Ohio. You can read more here.
  • Inquiry on CAUV rate on Forest Land. Interest on forest land property tax rates through CAUV and the Ohio Forest Tax Law have heightened of late. It appears that more landowners are asking questions of County Auditors about getting CAUV consideration on land that is now set up under periodic or permanent conservation easements. For example, the Columbus Dispatch reported recently that the County Auditor had initially denied CAUV consideration on a property that had been signed up for the Wetland Reserve Program under the Farm Bill, since the land was no longer in production agriculture. Legislators in the Ohio House are now looking at the CAUV law to see what can be done to allow landowners to continue receiving the tax abatement while putting the land into a conservation land-use. In other action, an OFA member reported that a county auditor was over estimating the land value on his forest land under CAUV, estimating not on the forest land rates under CAUV but rather on soil productivity rates, which the auditor maintains the higher of the two rates applies. It was reported at the recent Forest Stewardship Committee meeting that some of the members of the committee are also working with Ohio House members to address the conservation easement issue under CAUV. Stay tuned to see if this issue picks up any momentum.
  • Woody Biomass Information. A report from Wood Resources International LLC (WRI) indicates that US woody biomass prices have dropped the last 3 years, but are still higher than they were 5 years ago. Even more, the northeast US has the strongest biomass prices of any region in the US. For the most part, low prices have been the result of lower prices for fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, in addition to reduced energy demand. In addition Kilwa Biomass, an organization that promotes the use of woody biomass for energy, has developed CBAT (Community Biomass Analytic Tool) which identifies biomass resources and the quantity of biomass for any county in the Country. Here is a press release that describes the new tool. I attempted to find the tool on the Kilwa Biomass website but could not immediately retrieve it, as it appears to be in a "beta” test at this point. It will be interesting to see what kind of information it contains on wood producers within Ohio.
  • OSU Extension "2012 Ohio Woodland, Water, and Wildlife Conference”. OSU Extension will be holding its annual Woodland, Water, and Wildlife Conference on March 6, 2012 at the Mid-Ohio Conference Center in Mansfield, OH. In formation on the conference with on-line registration can be found at this link. Topics on woodland management include wood deterioration, first detector training for plant diseases, American elm restoration, Asian Longhorned Beetle, and woodland values from environmental services. There are also a series of sessions on wildlife and water topics.
  • Arkansas Forestry Commission Lays Off Employees. Here is a link to an article describing actions of the Arkansas Forestry Commission in response to declining revenues from reduced timber sales.
  • Pennsylvania Governor Fires Head of Citizen Advisory Council for Forests and Parks. It is being reported that Pennsylvania Governor Corbett recently fired the Executive Director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Citizen Advisory Council. The news article indicates that budget concerns may have been the reason for the Governor’s actions, but one of the Council members believes the action is related to administrative efforts to pre-empt public oversight of plans to increase shale drilling on state forests and parks in Pennsylvania. Through actions in the recently passed Ohio budget, the Ohio legislature gave ODNR authority to expand mineral exploration on state parks. However, Ohio created different oversight mechanisms for new drilling activities.

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