YOUNGSTOWN House passes nature issue
Valley legislators want the area to benefit from the proposed environmental cleanup and preservation bill.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Ohio House unanimously passed a $400 million bond issue for brownfield cleanup and farmland and green-space preservation, sponsored by an East Liverpool Republican.
Besides the local sponsorship, the bill has attracted considerable interest from Mahoning Valley legislators and community leaders hoping it can be used to clean up area sites including 1,400 acres of former Republic Steel property east of Center Street on the Youngstown-Campbell line.
"Empowering local communities is the cornerstone" of the bill, said state Rep. Charles Blasdel, R-3rd, the bill's sponsor.
The bill provides $200 million for brownfield cleanup, $175 million for green-space preservation and $25 million for farmland preservation.
Discussion slated: Members of the Mahoning Valley's delegation to the state Legislature will meet at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Kent State Trumbull Campus to discuss the bond issue and how this area can obtain money for brownfield site redevelopment.
The House approved the bond issue bill Tuesday. It has been referred to the Senate Energy and Environment Committee for hearings.
To obtain brownfield money, local communities would submit applications to local public works integrating committees and the committees will prioritize the area's top six projects to send to the state Clean Ohio Council for approval, Blasdel said.
The process is similar to the distribution of Ohio Public Works Commission funds to 19 districts in the state.
The green-space money also will be divided among the 19 districts in the state, Blasdel said. The farmland money will be administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Local legislators and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber have expressed concern that Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati will receive the lion's share of the bond issue. Blasdel and Gov. Bob Taft have said in the past that the Valley will not be left out when money is allocated.
Amendment failed: The bill passed after state Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat, failed to get an amendment included that would have allowed the state to seek reimbursement from the party responsible for polluting an industrial site being redeveloped, if that party could be found.
State Rep. Nancy Hollister, a Marietta Republican whose Energy and Environment Committee recommended the bill for passage, said the provision was unnecessary.
Environmentalists complained that an amendment the committee put in the bill last week takes away from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency the authority to sign off on a final cleanup and gives that power to certified professional contractors who would oversee the work.