Here is a quick update on some of the important changes that were or were not included in the Ohio Budget (H.B. 1) that impact environmentally related issues and Ohio EPA’s budget:
ERAC Deadlines- As discussed in my previous post, the Ohio Budget included mandatory deadlines placed on ERAC for making determinations on appeals filed before the Commission. Environmental groups wrote a strong letter to the Governor requesting a veto the ERAC deadlines. The Governor did not veto the provision, however it appears likely the language will be tinkered with in the Budget Corrections Bill.
Extension of Deadline for Construction after Issuance of Air PTI: All air permits for construction and installation of new sources in the State of Ohio include a requirement that the permit expires after eighteen (18) months if construction of the source has not been completed. An appeal of an air PTI can complicate financing efforts for projects. Banks may not provide financing while an appeal is pending. To address this and other issues associated with the construction deadline, the Budget Bill included new language that allows extension of that deadline for any of the following reasons (copy of amendment for exact language):
- Owner has undertaken a continuing program of installation or modification during the eighteen-month period
- Owner entered a binding contract for construction of the source within the eighteen month period
- Director of Ohio EPA issues an extension
- The air PTI is the subject of an appeal by a third party receives an automatic extension based upon the number of days the permit was under appeal
- Original permit is superseded by a subsequent air PTI
$1.25 increase in Solid Waste Tipping Fee to fund Ohio EPA: The municipal solid waste tipping fee was increased by $1.25 a ton which raises the total fee from $3.50 a ton to $4.75 a ton. Of the increase, .25 goes to ODNR for the Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The remaining $1.00 will go to Ohio EPA to support its programs.
The tipping fee increase was included, in part, to address a reduction in the amount of solid waste going into Ohio’s landfills. As the fee continues to increase, businesses will have a greater incentive to look for alternative ways to dispose of industrial waste other than sending it to a solid waste landfill. One such option is beneficial use of the material. Ohio EPA has yet to to release its second draft of the beneficial use rules, however, as costs of disposal increase interest in this option will rise.
Spending Authority Caps: While the Legislature agreed to restore the $1.25 increase in tipping fees, it failed to remove the spending caps that were placed on Ohio EPA fee accounts in the Senate. The practical ramification is that even though the accounts have fee revenue, Ohio EPA will be prevented from spending the revenue to support its staff and programs. Ohio EPA intends to seek removal of the spending authority caps through the Controlling Board. If Ohio EPA gets support from business groups it appears likely the caps will be removed and possibility of dramatic staff reductions appears unlikely.
Rejection of the Expansion of Renewable Energy Projects- Ohio has one of the broadest definitions for what qualifies as "renewable energy source" for purposes of meeting the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Efforts were rejected to expand the definition to include burning of solid waste.