Ohio Environmental Council, March 14, 2013
Submitted to the Ohio House Agriculture & Development Subcommittee by Trent A. Dougherty, Managing Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council
Chairman Derickson, Ranking Minority Member Ashford, and Members of the Subcommittee,
Thank you for this opportunity to testify as an Interested Party on House Bill 59 (As Introduced), the biennial Operating Budget.
My name is Trent Dougherty, and I am Director of Legal Affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council. The OEC is a network of more than 100 local and statewide environmental‐conservation organizations and several thousand citizen members. Our mission is to secure healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home.
Yesterday, my colleague, Jack Shaner testified on the land and water management divisions of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). I will concentrate my testimony, today, on the bill’s reformation of the regulatory operations of the ODNR with respect to oversight of oil and gas and coal extraction, and those of the Ohio EPA.
Division of Mineral Resources Management
While much of the debate in Ohio has been on Oil and Natural Gas extraction, there is still coal being mined in much of eastern Ohio.
The legacy of unregulated impacts from coal mining can still be witnessed in the land and water resources of that region. Only with a strong and scientifically sound regulatory program, can landowners and coalfield communities feel secure that the quality and quality of their water resources and subjacent support of their land will be maintained. This is why it is of great concern to us that ODNR’s Division of Mineral Resources Management is facing such drastic cuts in the proposed budget.
What is more, an even larger cut is being “off-set” with the transfer of General Revenue Fund (GRF) dollars. Specifically, HB59’s Temporary Law Section 333.30. That provision stipulates that the $2.5M/yr GRF appropriation >for the “Coal and Mine Safety Program” is for the Mine Safety Program and the Coal Regulation Program.
SB 181 (128th GA) required the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to transfer $2.28M of the interest earned on the Coal-Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Fund (Black Lung Fund) to the Strip Mine Administration Fee Fund, to support ODNR’s Coal Regulatory Fund. SB 181 stipulated that the transfer was to occur prior to December 31, 2010.
Subsequently, HB 153 (129th GA) allowed for the transfer of $3M of interest earned on the Black Lung Fund to ODNR for the support of the Mine Safety Program and an additional $1.5M to be transferred to ODNR’s the coal mining administration and reclamation reserve fund (coal regulatory program).
Further, the Ohio Senate removed a proposed $0.08/ton energy resource extraction fee on coal, as proposed in House Bill 1 (128th GA), which would have sustainably funded the Coal Regulatory Program through a fee on active coal mining companies.
The removal of this proposed fee left a funding gap for the coal regulatory program and the mine safety program, as they would have been supported through the extraction fee on coal.
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