Governor Signs Senate Bill 2 Expanding Ohio EPA Role
Governor Kasich chose a deck at the Great Lakes Science Center overseeing Lake Erie to sign a new bill aimed at protecting the Lake. Senate Bill 2 will expand the power of the Ohio EPA but it’s also aimed at helping businesses.
Two years ago the governor signed Senate Bill 1 that will prevent the dumping of dredged river material into Lake Erie. Now Kasich has signed Senate Bill 2 to help may find a market for that sediment.
“We want to take care of our environment. We don’t want to worship it - but we want to be good stewards of it.”
The dumping ban came because the dredged material often contains toxins but under the new law the Ohio EPA would analyze and classify it for other uses.
Will Friedman of the Cleveland Port Authority says they handle 250,000 cubic yards of material each year.
“Instead of land-filling sediment as waste or worse yet – dumping it in the lake where it can contaminate the food chain and drinking water – we now harvest and sell much of it as a valuable construction commodity.”
It was a water crisis in Toledo 3 years ago that sparked a flurry of environmental laws, says Bill Stanley of the Nature Conservancy.
“The Toledo algae bloom certainly lit a fire under people and really stimulated a lot action. You hate to have a crisis like that but you say you don’t let a good crisis go to waste, right?”
The Trump Administration has been working to soften environmental protections including gutting the Clean Power Act that restricted the use of coal in power plants.
Trump has also proposed passing on more environmental responsibility to the states. Governor Kasich says he’s OK with that because Ohio “is empowered.”
“We’ll take whatever authority” says Kasich, “and look, their reversing the Clean Power [Act] was a good thing for the Midwest because we would have been crushed. But overall we need to take care of this environment as we are doing here in this state. “
The head of the Ohio EPA, Craig Butler, says Senate Bill 2 will help his agency police businesses that recycle construction and demolition waste. He called the ARCO company in East Cleveland – with its giant pile of construction debris next to a residential neighborhood -- “the poster child” for this issue.
“Somebody who was doing just enough to get under the law, was recycling some of this material and then walked away from the site. There was no financial assurance.
“We had to again go to the budget to find and ask permission from the legislature to spend $6m dollars to clean up that site, which is ongoing, starting last week.”
Senate Bill 2 also requires all public water utilities to undergo an inventory of their systems and have an emergency preparedness plan in place.