The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week continued hearings on Senate Bill 2, legislation brought to the General Assembly by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The Ohio Chamber participated in interested party meetings last year and submitted testimony to lawmakers in both the House and Senate highlighting our support for the bill’s effort to improve Ohio’s environmental laws. The bill cleared the Senate unanimously and is now working its way through the House.
SB 2 writes into the law changes to the state’s Certified Water Quality Professional (CWQP) program sought by the Ohio Chamber. The CWQP program allows businesses to use experienced professionals to evaluate wetlands rather than having to rely on Ohio EPA regulators or outside consultants. To encourage the use of the program, the bill creates an expedited review process for all applications submitted by a certified professional. Since the creation of the program, the Ohio Chamber has sought to write into law a requirement that Ohio EPA establish a working group whose task would include advising Ohio EPA on the program’s rules and requirements.
The bill also addresses an issue critical to Ohio businesses: dredged material. Ohio is approaching the beginning of a ban on the dumping of dredged material into Lake Erie in 2020. The continued dredging of the lake and other navigable channels is essential for streams of commerce that rely on waterways for the delivery of raw materials and the export of finished products. Providing Ohio EPA with the ability to develop rules with the intent of spurring private sector business opportunities with dredged material, all while keeping our waterways open for business, is a high priority for the Ohio Chamber.
Finally, SB 2 introduces balance into the law’s treatment of blast furnace slag and steel slag by allowing these products to be commercially exchanged without being tagged as a hazardous waste and grants Ohio EPA flexibility to waive a water quality permit for projects already reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The House has scheduled additional committee hearings on SB 2 and passage by the full chamber is expected in the next several weeks.