More than 12 Ohio experts in the field of agriculture and anaerobic digesters gathered in Columbus on the day after Independence Day to discuss the future of the technology and how the state could help the industry move forward.
This was the second meeting for the task force created under HB276 (Buchy-Gentile). In the first meeting, Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) outlined his expectations from the group and the kind of plan he wants in the end. (See The Hannah Report, 6/28/12.)
On Thursday, Hite told Hannah News he was encouraged by the second meeting and the kind of progress the group is making. "I'm sitting here thinking, 'This is exactly the way I wanted us to go,'" explained Hite.
The group met for more than an hour to discuss all the complexities that come with incentivizing and encouraging the use of anaerobic digesters.
Mel Kurtz, president of quasar energy group, delivered official testimony to the group on his company’s projects. They include a possible project in Grand Lake St. Mary's with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Kurt said the project would "demonstrate the impact of anaerobic digestion with nutrient recovery technology -- a technology that we anticipate replicating across the country." He also cited the complexity of the topic and that discussion of anaerobic digesters will involve more than just one element.
"When we consider the potential impact of anaerobic digesters, it is hard not to recognize that we are talking about much more than encouraging sustainable agricultural operations," Kurtz said. "We are talking about impacting Ohio's food processing companies, waste water treatment plants, manufacturing plants, public and private vehicle fleets, electric and natural gas utilities and Ohio consumers who benefit from all of these activities."
That statement set the tone for the majority of the meeting. The task force discussed what it would mean for the state if the General Assembly created a plan of action to help encourage anaerobic digesters.
Among some of the scenarios the group discussed is the possibility of revising the rules for discharging water. "One of the keys to really making this work is to be able to discharge the water once it's been processed," said Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Greenville).
The group had mentioned in the previous meeting that farmers were unable to dump water into waterways even though they met federal EPA standards.
Joe Logan, director of Agricultural Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council, joined the task force Thursday to present a new perspective.
"We like digesters. We like what they do we like their net impact to the environment. That said -- if you look at a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation), if you look at an agricultural production facility and the environmental issues that are associated with that -- those are primarily associated with phosphorus and nitrates coming from those agricultural operations, and we need to acknowledge right up front that the digesters really do not manage in themselves phosphorus and nitrate," Logan stated.
The group went on to talk about the different regulations now in place and more details on the anaerobic digester process.
Buchy joined the conversation to remind the task force that while it is discussing a complex issue, he didn't want to "get off the beaten path" but instead stick with ways it can assist the agriculture industry.
As the meeting concluded, Hite told the group he hopes to have a rough draft of a plan created for the task force to review and change at their next meeting. He said it was time to take all off the issues and condense it into something they can use. "Getting a lot of ideas is great. Gleaning that and coming up with a concrete plan of action is going to be the next step," he forecasted.
While it may be tough, Hite said he believes the group will come out of the meetings with a good plan.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on July 5, 2012. Copyright 2012 Hannah News Service, Inc.