Wednesday, March 9, 2011

UPDATED Grendell expect ODNR will avoid merging with Agriculture

At least one member of the Ohio General Assembly’s majority party hopes the state’s natural resources department won’t take a severe body blow when the budget is announced Tuesday.

That is to say, a merger of the Ohio departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources is not anticipated, says state Sen. Tim Grendell, R-Chester Township.

If anything, Grendell says, the Natural Resources Department may pick up some additional duties now being handled by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Do expect, however, that the Kasich Administration will seek at some opportunity to drill for fossil fuels on such state-owned lands as parks and wildlife areas.

With all this being said, Grendell quickly notes, the Kasich Administration is keeping its budget and agency realignment plans very, very close to its political chest.

“I’ve met with the ODNR director (David Mustine) and I don’t expect that the department will be merged with Agriculture,” Grendell said. “But I do expect some duties from the OEPA going into the ODNR.”

Grendell did says as well that he isn’t so sure the Kasich team will take a machete to the Natural Resources budget though cuts are entirely likely.

“Natural Resources and Agriculture both have taken a lot of hits already that I can’t see how they can be cut much more,” Grendell said.

The thing is, Grendell says, the state’s parks, wildlife areas and watercraft operations are positives that add to the economy, not detract from it.

“There’s investing money and there is spending money, and things like parks and wildlife are investments,” he said.

As for drilling in state parks, wildlife areas and nature preserves, that idea likely will find flotation in the proposed budget, Grendell says.

Yet Grendell says it is his hope and expectation that any revenues thus raised within the purview of the Natural Resources Department.

In the end, however, its is Kasich’s job to propose and the legislature’s job to dispose, Grendell says.

“We’ll find out Tuesday when the governor announces the budget, but he is keeping it very close to his vest,” Grendell said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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