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Testimony: Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Budgets

Ohio Environmental Council, April 12, 2013

Testimony on Substitute House Bill 59 (As Pending in Committee)

Submitted to the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee by Jack Shaner, Deputy Director, Ohio Environmental Council

Chair Amstutz, Vice Chair McLain, Ranking Minority Member Sykes, and Members of the Committee‐

Thank you for this opportunity to testify as an Interested Party on Substitute House Bill 59 (As Pending in Committee), the biennial State Operating Budget.

My name is Jack Shaner, and I am Deputy Director 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.

Today’s testimony briefly summarizes our thoughts on important changes to the budget and statutory laws controlling the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Department and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, as included in the Substitute Bill proposed by the Committee earlier this week.

For more extended commentary on the issues raised in our testimony today (and other issues that we previously raised), please see the written testimony that we previously presented to the House Finance and Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture and Development Subcommittee (http://www.theoec.org/testimony).

1. Natural Resources Funding

The OEC thanks the Committee for proposing to accept the Governor’s Budget proposed funding levels for the ODNR Divisions of:

  • Natural Areas and Preserves
  • Soil and Water Resources
  • Geological Survey
  • Oil and Gas Resources

The OEC especially thanks the Committee for proposing to restore funding for the Ohio Sea Grant program.

The OEC respectfully asks the Committee to once again consider restoring full funding in the ODNR budget for:

  • Heildlberg University Water Quality Lab
  • ODNR Office of Coastal Management>

Clean Ohio Fund – The OEC respectfully opposes the proposal in the Substitute Bill to help fund the Clean Ohio Fund with proceeds from oil and gas development in State Park land. We believe this proposal is well intentioned. However, for the many reasons we voiced during the debate over state lands drilling in 2011, we oppose commercial development of our state lands. As such, we respectfully oppose this provision and ask that it be removed.

2. Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Regulatory Oversight

404 Permits – The OEC thanks the Committee for proposing to reject the Governor’s Budget proposal to authorize the Ohio EPA to seek permitting authority from the USEPA to issue Clean Water Act Sec. 404 permits.

TNORM – The OEC thanks the Committee for proposing to reject the Governor’s Budget proposal to allow TNORM (radioactive) waste materials from oil and gas development to be disposed of in certain solid waste landfills in Ohio. To be fair, we believe the Governor’s proposal did include at least one worthy provision, namely to require the industry to test the radioactive level of TNORM materials proposed for disposal. Further, there remains a regulatory gap when it comes to proper monitoring, testing, and disposal of radioactive material from horizontal drilling operations. This issue deserves a full scientific and technical deliberation in separate legislation. 

Oil and Gas Severance Tax – The OEC is disappointed that more consideration was not given to our proposal to increase the severance tax on oil and gas production and, instead of tax relief, direct the revenue for regulatory oversight, enforcement, and environmental protection, including hiring more state inspectors and Ohio EPA emergency responders, plugging additional orphan wells, and helping fund local needs such as local responders. We continue to believe that these areas are not adequately funded, and that the industry that profits from oil and gas development should not be allowed to externalize these costs to society.

Brine Disposal – The OEC respectfully opposes the proposed removal of the following provisions of the Governor’s Budget and asks the Committee to reinsert them:

  • prohibition on disposal of treated waste in surface waters
  • prohibition on brine disposal on local roads of brine from horizontal wells
  • landowner notice of lease sales and transfers

These were modest but worthy and common-sense reforms and we are disappointed that they have been removed.

Coal Regulatory Funding – The OEC respectfully opposes the Substitute Bill’s acceptance of the Governor’s Budget proposal to fund $2.5M in coal regulatory and mine safety operations with GRF funds and oil and gas severance tax revenues, rather than severance taxes and fees on the coal mining industry.

Ohio EPA Response Capability – The OEC will continue to press for improved funding and tools to improve the Agency’s ability to respond to environmental emergencies (spills, leaks, etc.) and will pursue these efforts in the Senate.

Thank your for attention and for considering our perspective.