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Testimony: 10 Points to a “Cleaner, Greener” Ohio Budget

Ohio Environmental Council, June 18, 2013

Submitted to the Ohio General Assembly Members and Staff, by Jack Shaner, Deputy Director, Ohio Environmental Council

The Ohio Environmental Council respectfully asks the Conference Committee and the General Assembly to vote for a cleaner, greener Ohio by supporting the following 10 improvements to the Operating Budget (House Bill 59). 

1. Clean Ohio Fund

A. $52M for Clean Ohio Fund – ACCEPT SENATE VERSION

B. State Park Drilling Revenue Sharing – REJECT HOUSE AMENDMENT

C. Legislative Study Commission on Clean Ohio Fund and Brownfield Funding – ACCEPT HOUSE AMENDMENT

Comment: With the Senate adding an additional $26M on top of the initial $26M added by the House, the General Assembly is poised to get the job done for full funding of Ohio’s premier land and water conservation fund.

Rejecting the House amendment to split state park drilling revenue between state parks and the Clean Ohio Fund and accepting the House amendment to identify long-term funding options for the Clean Ohio Fund would be another green bow in this already big green quiver.

2. Protect Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys from Toxic Algae

A. $300,000 per FY for Healthy Lake Erie Fund – ACCEPT SENATE VERSION

B. Lake Facilities Authorities – HOUSE & SENATE IN NEAR AGREEMENT

C. $285,000 per FY for OSU Sea Grant Program – HOUSE & SENATE IN AGREEMENT

D. $250,000 per FY for Heidelberg University Water Quality Lab – HOUSE & SENATE IN AGREEMENT

Comment: The House and Senate have added important funding options to the critical effort to protect the our Great Lake and inland lakes from the ravages of toxic blue-green algae, which threatens human health, wildlife, and coastal economies. Please accept the Senate’s additional funding.

3. Reservoir & Water Quality Protection

Prohibits local jurisdictions from enforcing restrictions on adjacent property owners mowing grass and vegetation in protective buffer strips next to water reservoirs and headwater streams – REJECT SENATE AMENDMENT

Comment: This excessive amendment will undercut local investments to protect drinking water and wildlife from soil erosion and nutrient pollution in reservoirs and certain headwater streams. It also will squander ratepayer dollars.

At a minimum, it should be rejected and studied in a separate bill – if not scrapped altogether.

4. Oil & Gas

A. Prohibition on treatment & discharge of oil& gas waste fluids into ground or surface water – ACCEPT SENATE AMENDMENT

B. Prohibition of road application of brine waste from shale gas wells – ACCEPT SENATE AMENDMENT

C. Notify landowner if oil gas company has reassigned lease to another company – ACCEPT GOVERNOR’S PROPOSAL

D. Allows the disposal of TENORM radioactive waste from oil gas drill cuttings in solid waste landfills – REJECT SENATE AMENDMENT

Comment: The General Assembly should accept the first three sensible proposals but not the fourth, all of which were proposed in the Governor’s Budget. Lawmakers should reject the controversial TERNOM provision, which would allow the disposal of the most radioactive-laced oil and gas drilling wastes – drill cuttings – to be disposed of in Ohio’s solid waste landfills.

At a minimum, the TENORM definition should be amended to follow the definition recognized by the US EPA, American Academy of Sciences, and American National Standards Institute, which categorizes waste – such as drill cuttings, which comprise some of the most radioactive of oil & gas wastes – as TENORM because when it is brought to the Earth’s surface, it increases the potential for human exposure.

The Senate amendment, instead, ignores this risk, recognizing only wastes that have been manipulated such that their radioactivity has been concentrated will be considered as TENORM. This effectively will categorize drill cuttings as NORM – thereby subjecting them to much less scrutiny, if any, and qualifying them for disposal in landfills that never were engineered to safely contain radioactive waste.

See the outside expert testimony at http://bit.ly/130tnC8 and related power point presentation at http://goo.gl/mNJXk.

5. Coal

Adopts Governor’s Budget proposal of $2.5M of GRF per fiscal for both regulatory oversight and miner safety – REJECT GOVERNOR’S BUDGET PROPOSAL

Comment: The House and Senate both accepted the Governor’s proposal to squeeze both of these critical efforts out of less funding; the mine safety program, alone, received $3M in the last FY!

The General Assembly, instead, should adequately fund these programs and should move the fiscal burden for regulatory oversight and mine safety off of general taxpayers and onto the industry that profits from mining – coal.

6. Ohio EPA Emergency Response

Rejects Ohio Environmental Council’s proposal to define Ohio EPA Emergency Response vehicles as “public safety vehicles”

Comment: Ohio EPA’s small (15) but hearty crew of emergency responders are on call 24/7/365 to respond to spills, leaks, and crashes involving hazardous materials. Yet their vehicles have no sirens or red lights. This slows their response to incident scenes and could put them in harm’s way at the incident scene, as Ohio’s “move over or slow down” does not apply to them.

Help Ohio EPA’s emergency responders more quickly reach the scene of a spill or crash involving hazardous materials. Amend ORC Sec. 4511.01 (E) definition of “public safety vehicle” to include OEPA’s Emergency Response Section vehicles.

7. Public Transportation & Freight Rail

A. Requires transit authorities to get prior permission from local jurisdictions before expanding transit service beyond current geographic territory – REJECT SENATE AMENDMENT

B. Rejects Ohio Environmental Council’s proposal to boost funding for ODOT Public Transit and Ohio Rail Development Commission and proposal to require ODOT to survey local transit authorities & MPOs for long-term operational and capital needs and projected costs and benefits of same.

Comment: Much opposition but no support exists for the Senate’s punitive amendment. Meanwhile, the General Assembly can give commuters and freight shippers more transportation choices by increasing stagnant state support and by directing ODOT to survey local transit agencies and MPOs about local pedestrian, bicycle, transit bus, and transit train needs for infrastructure and operating costs and benefits.

The Colorado DOT Division of Transit and Rail is doing just that; see http://goo.gl/KXwkp.

8. BioOhio

Earmarks $500,000 for the Bioscience Workforce Development Initiative – ACCEPT SENATE AMENDMENT

Green chemistry. It’s about engineering useful goods and services without toxic byproducts. The Senate’s green initiative can pay dividends for both jobs and the environment.

9. Public Records

Requires Department of Administrative Services to develop uniform standards for posting public information on public websites – SUPPORT SENATE AMENDMENT

Comment: Predictably accessible public records are useful public records. They help the public keep tabs on their government and hold it accountable.

10. Clean Energy

The Senate considered but did not adopt a draft amendment to enable investor-owned utility companies to request reconsideration of energy efficiency plans already approved by PUCO – FOLLOW SENATE’S LEAD AND DO NOT CONSIDER AMENDMENT

Comment: The Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee already is considering a broad array of issues related to Ohio’s clean energy standards. It is unnecessary, premature, and unfair to stakeholders who earnestly are engaging in Senate hearings to rush to a verdict now.