A conversation with Scott Nally, director, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
OCJ: What is your experience in agriculture, and what are your general thoughts about Ohio’s agricultural industry?
Scott: My agricultural experience includes management positions with Rose Acre Farms and Perdue Foods. Ohio’s agricultural industry is very healthy, and the intra-agency cooperation has been refreshing.
OCJ: What is your experience in environmental management, and what led you to become the director of the Ohio EPA?
Scott: I have more than 20 years of experience in the field of environmental management. My private sector experiences have given me the opportunity to deal with environmental regulatory schemes from many states. Most recently, I was the assistant commissioner in Indiana before becoming director for Ohio EPA.
OCJ: Could you please describe the relationship between the Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA?
Scott: My relationship with U.S. EPA, both nationally and regionally, has been cultivated for many years. I have strategically positioned Ohio to take a leadership position on many issues. I personally sit on several influential committees and have asked my leadership team to place themselves on program specific committees. Ohio EPA has oversight of many federal regulations in Ohio, including several air and surface water pollution regulations. Our staff often works with our federal counterparts on issues such as emergency responses to spills.
OCJ: There is a lot of concern about nutrient runoff from agriculture and other sources impacting Ohio waters. What is EPA’s stance on this issue?
Scott: Nutrient impacts are a national concern (Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes). The long-term solutions will include participation from agriculture, cities/towns and businesses. Ohio EPA will help facilitate involvement from all stakeholders as we work through this complicated issue.
OCJ: What response is EPA recommending to Governor Kasich to help mitigate this issue as it relates to agriculture?
Scott: Ohio EPA, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio Department of Agriculture, has been working with Ohio’s agri-community to develop a list of recommendations to the governor and his policy team to implement short- and long-term solutions to reduce agricultural impacts to Ohio’s waters.
OCJ: Is there further research that needs to be done to determine exactly how agriculture is contributing to this problem, and if so, what?
Scott: There are research gaps that need to be fleshed out. For example, what are the impacts to tile management on Ohio’s waterways; how is dissolved phosphorus moving through the soil column; and what are the “best management practices” that can be implemented to reduce dissolved phosphorus from entering our lakes and adding to the blue green algae problems.
OCJ: Related to this, a lot of Ohio livestock farms have not been able to empty their manure storage in the best means possible over the past year because of the wet conditions. Now, some may need to do emergency applications this winter. What is EPA’s role in this scenario?
Scott: Ohio EPA will work with ODA and ODNR’s Soil and Water team to ensure that winter land applications of livestock manures are done in an appropriate manner. Practical approaches and common sense are necessary to address these issues.
OCJ: Switching gears a little, there also are water quality concerns surrounding the booming shale gas business in Ohio. What legitimate concerns exist, if any, regarding shale gas drilling and its environmental impact?
Scott: Pertaining to shale development in Ohio, Ohio EPA is working with ODNR on permit requirements related to air, drinking water, wastewater disposal and wetland/stream impacts. The interagency team is focused on addressing potential issues to eliminate or lessen their impacts.
OCJ: What environmental considerations should landowners have when considering leasing their mineral rights?
Scott: Ohio EPA will be working with ODNR and shale gas drillers to protect streams and wetlands and to ensure all required permit conditions are followed including air emissions. People also need to be mindful of their personal well water protection and to make sure their home septic systems are in good working order. Heavy equipment could potentially crush finger home septic systems.
OCJ: We’ll end on a lighter note. Rumor has it that one of your hobbies is diving and swimming with different species of sharks in their natural habitat. For most people, swimming with the sharks would be considered an unwelcome threat. However, you would disagree. Could you please explain?
Scott: Swimming with sharks puts the rest of life’s issues in perspective. Also, sharks are a key component to a healthy oceanic ecosystem and remind me of the importance of my daily job as director of Ohio EPA.