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Ohio Senate Can Add Even More Green Arrows to Budget Quiver

Ohio Environmental Council, June 3, 2013

Buoyed by Ohio Senate’s decision to add dollars to Clean Ohio & Healthy Lake Erie funds, OEC pushes for more “Cleaner, Greener Budget” priorities.

Also asks Senate to reject bad amendments on fracking, energy efficiency.

Buoyed by the Ohio Senate’s addition of funds for land and water conservation and Lake Erie clean up to the state’s proposed new two-year operating budget, Ohio’s leading eco group is pushing lawmakers to adopt even more “green” initiatives.

It also is warning Senators of risky budget amendments lurking about the Statehouse, include ones to OK the disposal of radioactive-laced oil and gas drilling wastes in Ohio landfills and to allow investor-owned utilities to backtrack on approved energy efficiency plans.

Ohio Senate bulks up Clean Ohio Fund and Healthy Lake Erie Fund

Last week, Senate leaders unveiled plans to direct the sale of $26 million in bonds for the Clean Ohio Fund and to add $600,000 to the Healthy Lake Erie Fund for stepped-up water quality monitoring and other efforts to quell the spread of toxic algae in Lake Erie and inland lakes.

The Ohio House already had recommended an additional $26 million in Clean Ohio funding. If both chambers’ plans are approved, it will max out the $52 million that remains unspent from the voters’ 2008 approval to borrow $400 million for Clean Ohio.

The Senate also proposed earmarking $500,000 for job development for bioscience and “green chemistry”—the development of goods without hazardous byproducts.

“The Ohio Senate has the chance to add even more ‘green arrows’ to its budget ‘quiver’ this week,” said Jack Shaner, OEC Deputy Director. “We hope Senators will continue to pour on the green and reject the lingering bad amendments.”

OEC pushes “Cleaner, Greener Budget”

In testimony last Friday, the OEC asked the Senate to:

  • Require ODOT to survey local transit agencies for long-term needs, including the costs and benefits of added public transportation services.
  • Bolster the meager budget of the Ohio Rail Development Commission, which helps fund railroad infrastructure improvements for the efficient movement of freight.
  • Establish a study committee to identify long-term funding options for the Clean Ohio Fund and brownfield clean up, as proposed by the Ohio House.
  • Approve several new controls on oil and gas drilling proposed by Gov. John Kasich, including prohibiting the treatment and discharge of fracking wastes into surface or ground water.
  • Give permission to the Ohio EPA to equip vehicles operated by its small emergency response corps with sirens and lights to enable faster, safer response to hazardous spills.

OEC exposes toxic amendments

The OEC also is asking the Senate to reject a handful of toxic amendments that have emerged in the budget debate, including:

  • A proposal by the Kasich administration—but so far rejected by the House and Senate—to allow the disposal in Ohio landfills of radioactive-laced wastes from oil and gas drilling.
  • A proposal by the House—but rejected by the Senate—to split the proceeds from oil and gas drilling in state parks between state parks and the Clean Ohio Fund.
  • A change proposed by the Senate to require a local transit agency to get the permission of a local community before expanding operations outside its territorial boundary.
  • Another change included in the Senate’s budget plan to allow the construction of a construction and demolition debris landfill within 500 feet of a state historic landmark.
  • An amendment floating in the Senate to let investor-owned utility companies backslide and ask utility regulators to water down energy efficiency plans already approved by the PUCO.

“Together, the Ohio House and Senate have made several solid strides toward a cleaner, greener budget. With a little more effort, our State Senators can make Ohio an even more attractive and sustainable place to raise a family and grow a business,” said Shaner.