The Ohio Environmental Council sees some positive items in the state’s proposed two-year operating budget bill being discussed in the legislature; but there are also potential damaging amendments.
Jack Shaner, deputy director of the OEC, said Monday he’s pleased with plans unveiled in the Senate to direct the sale of $26 million in bonds for the Clean Ohio Fund and add $600,000 to a fund for increasing water quality monitoring and stemming the spread of toxic algae in Lake Erie and inland lakes.
The House of Representatives had previously recommended an additional $26 million for Clean Ohio funding.
If the House and Senate recommendations are both approved, it would allocate the entire $52 million balance over two years from the Clean Ohio bond program approved by voters five years ago.
Shaner said the OEC also supports a Senate proposal to earmark $500,000 to promote job development in the bio-science field and the development of goods without hazardous by-products.
He said the Senate has an opportunity to add more “green arrows to its budget quiver.”
In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Shaner requested:
-New controls on oil and gas drilling, including prohibiting the treatment and discharge of fracking wastes into surface or groundwater.
-Increasing the budget of the Ohio Rail Development Commission, which helps fund rail infrastructure improvements.
-Requiring the Ohio Department of Transportation to survey local transit agencies for long-term needs, including the costs and benefits of additional public transportation service.
Shaner’s testimony also addressed OEC concerns about the disposal of wastes that are designated Technically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) from oil and gas drilling in landfills.
“The OEC strongly urges the Senate to follow the House’s lead by rejecting this amendment and pledging, instead, to consider it in a stand-alone bill to enable robust scientific inquiry and debate,” his testimony says. “We appreciate the fact that the Administration acknowledges that a problem exists. But we strongly believe the proposed solution is a bad solution that will risk the release of radioactive materials to the air and water and will make Ohio a magnet for radioactive-tainted waste from the oil and gas industries, both in- and out-of-state.”