Ohio Supreme Court chambers
COLUMBUS — Counsel for Colerain Township and for the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill gave oral arguments February 7 on the subject of whether or not the landfill should be designated a public utility and thus exempt from local zoning authority. All seven justices posed questions during the 38 minute hearing, many of them to clarify possible consequences of overturning a lower court’s decision to award the landfill public utility status and the powers of various agencies regulating the landfill. The Ohio Township Association, groups of Ohio townships, county commissioners and local solid waste management districts, and the State of Ohio have filed Amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs supporting the position of Colerain Township.
– Melissa K. English, Development Director, Ohio Citizen Action
Michelle Aini, left, and Tish O'Dell are facing a defamation lawsuit filed by Duck Creek Energy for saying that the company's road de-icer uses polluted water from gas drilling operations.
CLEVELAND — “Two local activists and an energy company are battling over allegations that the company uses toxic ‘fracking’ water in its road deicer.
Duck Creek Energy Inc. of Brecksville has filed a defamation lawsuit against Tish O’Dell and Michelle Aini, asking the court to prohibit them from describing AquaSalina as ‘a product of fracking’ or environmentally unsafe. Duck Creek seeks $1 million in punitive damages in its complaint in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
The defendants, members of a group trying to block drilling in Cuyahoga County suburbs, filed a counterclaim for $1 million last week. The women say Duck Creek is trampling their free speech rights.
The battle highlights how fracking has become a contentious issue moving swiftly into Ohio courts.”
— Alison Grant, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Read the whole story: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/03/deicer_not_fracking_water_duck.html
CLEVELAND — “Jeers…to Peter Tien, the consultant who finally has run out of chances to design a workable trash-to-energy plant for Cleveland. Tien has a couple of weeks to bill the city for work already done on a $1.5 million contract that has now been canceled. If he botches that as badly as he fouled up his work on the plant, he might end up paying the city.”
— editorial board, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Read the whole story: http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/03/cheers_jeers_126.html
— Maude L Campbell, Cleveland Scene Magazine
Of all the health dangers that disproportionately impact black children, air pollution might be the worst
WASHINGTON, DC — “Here is the reality: African American children are far more likely to develop asthma than get a bullet to their heads. In 2008, African Americans had a 35 percent higher rate of asthma than Caucasians. A study revealed that one-quarter of the children in New York City’s Harlem have asthma. The following national statistics are even more jarring:
African American children have a:
• 260% higher emergency room visit rate.
• 250% higher hospitalization rate.
• 500% higher death rate from asthma, as compared with white children.
Why? One likely reason is that 68% of African-Americans (compared to 56% of whites) live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant—the distance within which the maximum ill effects of the emissions from smokestacks occur.”
— Dominique Browning, Time Magazine
Maybe it’s those big bins, but we’re recycling more than ever, and it’s paying off
CINCINNATI — “Cincinnatians are recycling more than ever.
The city’s residents recycled more than 18,000 tons last year – 31 percent more than in 2010. That’s the biggest increase since the city started recycling in 1989, and it meant almost $1 million more for the city’s struggling operating fund.
Last year was the first full year for people to use the 64-gallon carts to wheel their recyclables to the curb every other week. The carts were controversial when the city bought them – council Republicans objected to spending the $3.8 million – but now 70 percent of city households are filling them with recyclables every other week.
…The 64-gallon carts seem to be the biggest incentive, as less than a quarter of recyclers signed up for Recyclebank. That’s despite the fact that Recyclebank offers, among other perks, a coupon for a free Graeter’s sundae. Recyclers sign up online for Recyclebank and earn points to spend on coupons for things like magazines, $5 off at City Barbecue and $25 off $125 at Kmart online.
It doesn’t matter which incentive worked best, said Larry Falkin, director of the city’s Office of Environmental Quality, just that something did.
Roughly every ton of trash not thrown in the landfill means about $100 for the city.”
— Jane Prendergast, Cincinnati Enquirer
Read the whole story: http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20120328/NEWS01/303280160
MEDINA COUNTY — “A grass-roots anti-fracking group wants to be a part of Medina County’s Earth Day events on April 21, but organizers have told the Concerned Citizens of Medina County they are not welcome.
The pulling of the welcome mat has upset the group.
A Medina County committee that oversees the Earth Day festivities says the anti-fracking group is too controversial and too political to be part of the event.
…In an email, committee spokeswoman Shelley Tender said, ‘At this time, we feel it is too controversial a topic and we do not want to appear as if we are endorsing any one opinion about the issue.’
Others involved said they feared the anti-fracking group would detract from the family-friendly event.”
— Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal
Read the whole story: http://www.ohio.com/news/local-news/fracking-opponents-unwelcome-at-medina-county-earth-day-events-1.287353
NEW YORK, NY — “The Spruce No. 1 mine project in Logan County, W.Va., would have covered 2,278 acres and ruined six more miles of high-quality streams. It received a final permit to proceed from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. Lawsuits followed, and, in January 2011, the E.P.A. revoked the permit on grounds that the mine would cause unacceptable environmental damage. The E.P.A. had blocked corps projects before. But this was the first time it had rescinded an approved mining permit and was part of the administration’s broader campaign to limit mountaintop mining by reviewing old permits and tightening standards for new ones.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the agency had resorted to ‘magical thinking’ in claiming that the Clean Water Act gives it the power to retroactively rescind a permit. But Section 404 of the law gives the agency broad authority to protect water quality, including the ‘withdrawal’ of permits ‘whenever’ it determines that they will have an ‘unacceptable adverse effect’ on the environment.
The E.P.A. rightly interpreted these words to mean that it had clear authority to claw back a badly misguided decision that would do even more damage to West Virginia’s streams and landscape. We trust that a higher court will read it that way as well.”
— editorial, New York Times
Read the whole story: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/28/opinion/clean-water-and-the-spruce-mine.html?_r=2&partner=rssnyt&emc=rssa
COLUMBUS — “A plan that would make oil and gas companies name the chemicals used to ‘frack’ Utica shale wells would be the toughest in the nation, Ohio Department of Natural Resourcesofficials said today, though it would let some compounds remain secret.
Full disclosure of chemicals used in fracking has been a hot topic and not only in Ohio. A disclosure plan contained in an energy policy bill that got its first hearing in the Legislature this morning is toughest, agency director James Zehringer said, because it would require oil and gas companies to report every chemical used in a well, not only when it’s fracked, but from the moment drilling begins to a time years later when the well is spent and plugged.
The bill would allow companies to keep specific chemicals deemed proprietary or trade secrets confidential, requiring only a general description of its chemical class. There can be hundreds, if not thousands, of specific chemicals in a class.
In cases of emergencies, firefighters and doctors would be able to demand specific info on all chemicals, including the proprietary ones.”
— Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch
Read the whole story: http://www.dispatch.com/content/blogs/science-environment/2012/03/best-in-nation.html
Back row: Christina Vasquez, Toby Bischoff, Lynn Rooks, Heather Stout, Brandon Nebeker, Ann Knotek, Nathan Rutz. Front row: Eric Dwyre, Rowan Kelley, Gwen, and Caelen.
CLEVELAND — ”When I found out about Cleveland’s proposed waste-to-energy plant, I wanted to know more. It didn’t take much research to realize that those in charge didn’t know what they were doing or were deliberately ignoring the facts.
The city and Cleveland Public Power like to argue that the only real opponents of this project are rabid and impractical environmentalists, mainly from ‘organizations.’ I definitely care about the environment, but I don’t belong to any such organization. But none of this even matters if you’re focused on the facts: The plan is built on a house of cards.
CPP and the city chose to do business with consultant Peter Tien; he and his promises have proven to be untrustworthy. They claimed this was neither an ‘incinerator’ nor a ‘major’ pollution source; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proven otherwise. They were, initially, wooed by visions of becoming a waste-to-energy headquarters for the entire country; that proved not to be viable. Hired consultants handed them a less-than-glowing feasibility report on the proposed project; they, excitedly, went ahead anyway.
If this is the way the city performs ‘due diligence’ in all of its planning, we need much more transparency and citizen involvement in Cleveland.”
— Ann Marie Knotek, Letter to the editor-Cleveland Plain Dealer
Read the letter here: http://blog.cleveland.com/letters/2012/03/clevelands_waste-to-energy_deb.html
CLEVELAND — “After receiving several drafts of reports laden with errors and ambiguous calculations, the City of Cleveland has fired the consultant responsible for designing a proposed trash-to-electricity plant.
…In February, the city made public a letter to Peter Tien, declaring him and his company to be in default of an agreement with the city to provide services necessary for the initial design and permitting of the proposed waste-to-energy plant. The letter cited delays, deficiencies and discrepancies in a draft design memorandum and gave Tien 10 days to correct them.
In the most recent letter, Withers points out that Tien’s analyses consistently estimate that the plant will bring the city more than $40 million in annual revenue –though numbers on which that calculation is based change from draft to draft.
In one version posted online by the environmental group Ohio Citizen Action, Tien projects the city would make $132,000 a day from the sale of electricity. In a later draft, that figure was changed to $15,840.
Tien’s reports never explain how he arrived at the city’s estimated revenue. And a simple calculation of the numbers provided in his latest draft shows that figure at about $34.5 million.”
— Leila Atassi, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Read the whole story: http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2012/03/cleveland_fires_waste-to-energ.html
Katie Stiel of Environment Hamilton explains how to measure lichens that indicate air pollution levels
TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA — Eva and her neighbors weren’t happy about the wet cardboard and sewage odors coming from Atlantic Packaging in the Scarborough neighborhood of Toronto, Canada. Scarborough neighbors worked with Toronto Environmental Alliance on a Good Neighbor Campaign to solve the problem. Over sixteen months of actions including citizen odor and noise reports, meetings with neighbors and local officials, Atlantic Packaging spent $4 million to upgrade their processes and pollution controls to fix their odor and noise problems.
Sixteen Ontario neighbors converged March 23 and 24 for training and to exchange ideas and tactics to tackle environmental problems in their own communities. A Kingsville Ontario neighbor, Gail Stiffler, is dealing with the Canadian greenhouse industry. She says the industry is “completely unregulated, they’re allowed to burn anything – coal, woodchips, garbage pellets – and no one knows about it.” The conference gave her ideas, like a community letter writing campaign, and concrete examples of tactics that have worked for other communities to prevent pollution.
Emily Alfred and Heather Marshall of Toronto Environmental Alliance, and Linda Gasser and Katie Stiel of Environment Hamilton told stories of two campaigns. The first is the successful campaign with Atlantic Packaging in Toronto, Ontario and second, the ongoing struggle with Arcelor-Mittal Defasco in Hamilton, Ontario. These stories showed the principles of community organizing, citizen testing, and interest negotiation in action. The Good Neighbor Campaign approach was developed by Ohio Citizen Action, and works to bring neighbors and companies together to find creative solutions that are good for both sides.
— Nathan Rutz, Cleveland campaign organizer, Ohio Citizen Action
GRANGER TWP — “Mark Mangan held a metering device near his backyard well and listened to an alarm go off.
It registered one hundred percent ‘LEL,’ or lower explosive level.
‘That means, if we light a match right now,’ Mangan said, ‘it’ll go boom.’
Mark and his wife, Sandy, have no idea how big or small such a possible explosion may be.
But they blame the drilling of two nearby oil and gas wells a few years ago.
‘It’s a beautiful spot,’ Mark said of his rural home, ‘but now, I just want to get the hell out of there.’
The two wells in question have since been ‘fracked’ – that is, highly-pressurized chemicals have been injected into the ground to help with the recovery process.
But the Mangans blame the initial drilling for their problems, and say they quickly contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) about the issue.
‘We thought they were going to be an advocate for the people,’ Sandy Mangan said.
ODNR declined to do an on-camera interview, but said in a statement that it had conducted “extensive testing” and has ‘conclusively determined’ that the Mangans’ water problems are ‘not related to those (oil and gas) wells.’”
— Bill Shell, Fox8 Cleveland
Read the whole story: http://fox8.com/2012/03/26/i-team-fracking-controversy-hits-medina-county-homes/
“Cleveland Public Power has clearly designed its air pollution permit to take advantage of a loophole to avoid stricter air pollution regulations, and this is something that we cannot risk for our city.”
EASTLAKE — “FirstEnergy Corp.’s coal-fired power plant in Eastlake may have a second chance and avoid closing in September after the corporation announced its intent to look at new technology options.
FirstEnergy Generation Corp., a subsidiary of FirstEnergy, filed an application for a feasibility study that will look to see how the addition of four combustion turbines would affect the site, and the energy needs of northern Ohio.
A reliability analysis by PJM Interconnection determined that retiring the coal-burning units would negatively impact the area, particularly in peak events when many customers are running air conditioning on hot days.”
— Caitlin Fertal, News Herald
Read the whole story: http://news-herald.com/articles/2012/03/27/news/doc4f71c01002d89063305335.txt
COLUMBUS — “A state bill backed by Gov. John Kasich that would make oil and gas companies disclose ‘fracking’ chemicals still would keep some of the compounds secret.
…A review of 84 fracturing products listed at the Natural Resources website in November found that 11 contained at least one chemical deemed “proprietary.”
Identified chemicals include naphthalene, which destroys red blood cells, and ethylene glycol, which can damage the kidneys, nervous system, lungs and heart.
Listing fracking ingredients represents just one of many changes Natural Resources officials want to make. They expect a drilling boom in Ohio’s Utica shale, similar to Pennsylvania’s, where more than 5,270 Marcellus shale wells have been drilled since 2006.
The bill would make drillers report groundwater and surface water sources they would tap to help frack wells.
State fees charged on out-of-state shale-well wastewater injected into Ohio disposal wells would increase from 20 cents to $1 per barrel.
It’s unclear how much support the fracking bill has among Senate Republicans, who control the chamber.”
— Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch
Read the whole story: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/03/27/bill-allows-some-hiding-of-fracking-chemicals.html