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by Kevin Osborne 04.26.2012
Posted In: News, Environment, Family at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
pollution

Cincinnati is 8th Worst for Air Pollution

Lung Association: Region is slowly improving

Cincinnati and Hamilton County fared poorly on a national list of places with polluted air that was released Wednesday.

The Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington metropolitan region ranked as the eighth-worst for air particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association.


Meanwhile, Hamilton County was given an “F” grade for its number of high ozone days, and a “D” grade for air particle pollution by the Lung Association.

The rankings were included in the group’s “State of the Air 2012” report. The annual air quality report grades cities and counties based, in part, on the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to alert the public to daily unhealthy air conditions.

The 13th annual report uses the most recent, quality-controlled EPA data collected from 2008-10 from official monitors for ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread types of air pollution. Counties are graded for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels. Also, the report uses the EPA’s calculations for year-round particle levels.


Generally, the report found that air quality in America’s most polluted cities was at its cleanest since the organization’s annual report began 13 years ago. This year’s report details the trend that standards set under the Clean Air Act to cleanup major air pollution sources — including coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, and SUVs — are working to drastically cut ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot) from the air. Despite this progress, unhealthy levels of air pollution still exist and in some parts of the nation worsened.


More than 40 percent of people in the United States live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health. That means more than 127 million people are living in counties with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution that can cause wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks or premature death.


The Cincinnati region ranked 21st for high ozone days out of 277 metropolitan areas. Also, it ranked 39th for 24-hour air particle pollution.


Still, the region is improving. The region has had 19.4 fewer high ozone days annually on average since 1996, and 10 fewer high-particle pollution days since 2000.
 
 
by Danny Cross 02.16.2012
 
 
monsanto lede

Monsanto Is Pissing a Lot of People Off

You poison one little French farmer and all hell breaks loose. Giant chemical-maker Monsanto yesterday announced it plans to appeal a Monday ruling that one of its herbicides in 2004 poisoned French farmer Paul Francois, who says inhaling a Monsanto weedkiller led to “memory loss, headaches and stammering”(coincidentally, these are the same symptoms of the accidental hangover™).

In addition to the French farmer being pissed enough at the company for giving him a hangover when he was trying to work his farmland, there are about a million other people officially declaring themselves as against Monsanto via “Millions Against Monsanto,” an organic consumers association that campaigns for “health, justice, sustainability, peace and democracy.” If you accept the possibility of Monsanto obstructing even a majority of these five concepts, it’s easy to believe the company has enemies from a lot of different backgrounds.

That’s why Monday’s ruling by a French court finding Monsanto legally responsible for poisoning Francois and ordering it to compensate him has enlivened a bunch of angry activists.

Millions Against Monsanto offers a wealth of content documenting the agricultural biotechnology corporation’s government ties, tendencies to take small dairies to court, refusal to compensate veterans for Agent Orange and getting their nasty chemicals in normal people’s water supplies. (Wikipedia is hilariously filled with references to things like dumping toxic waste in the UK, Indonesian bribing convictions and fines for false advertising.) Even 'ol boy Obama has gotten caught up in the mix with charts like this one circulating on Facebook:

The latest news out of Millions Against Monsanto is the moving forward of a California ballot initiative to require mandatory GMO labeling that polls show has 80 percent support. According to the site:

"A win for the California Initiative would be a huge blow to biotech and a huge victory for food activists. Monsanto and their minions have billions invested in GMOs and they are willing to spend millions to defeat this initiative. California is the 8th largest economy in the world. Labeling laws in CA will affect packaging and ingredient decisions nation-wide. The bill has been carefully written to ensure that it will not increase costs to consumers or producers."

Back in France, our friendly farmer will have to wait a while for whatever compensation poisoning amounts to, as Monsanto says it will appeal the ruling. According to The Washington Post: Monsanto spokesman Tom Helscher says the company does not think there is “sufficient data” to demonstrate a link between the use of Lasso herbicide and the symptoms Francois reported.

"We do not agree any injury was accidentally caused nor did the company intentionally permit injury," Helscher said. "Lasso herbicide was ... successfully used by farmers on millions of hectares around the world."
 
 
by Jeff Cobb 10.23.2009
Posted In: Environment, Public Policy at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Guest Editorial: Climate Change Steps Crucial

(*In conjunction with the group 350.org, Cincinnati will be one of dozens of cities worldwide on Saturday that hosts an International Day of Climate Action event. The local event will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fountain Square. Activist Jeff Cobb, of Climate Change Advocates of Cincinnati, outlines why the effort is important.)

The most important meeting in the history of humanity is the climate change treaty meeting in Copenhagen this December. As hyperbolic as it sounds, it is being said more often and more stridently by thousands of scientists the world over specializing in climate change.

Read More

 
 
by 11.24.2008
Posted In: Environment at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Should Poorer Cincinnatians Be Protected from Pollution?

Environmental Justice is about keeping already polluted neighborhoods from having to accept more polluting neighbors – usually industry, not a family of 12 or more. The myth that jobs will be lost and businesses will choose other locations (taking their precious tax dollars with them) is one of several objections used to support placing polluting companies in “overburdened” areas.

Read More

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.24.2012
Posted In: Science, Public Policy, Environment at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
asian-carp-invasion

Carp Attack!

Obama administration gives $50 million to protect Great Lakes from invasive Asian Carp

Coming soon to a Great Lake near you: giant, evil fish out for blood. OK, hopefully not, but it's possible, wildlife experts say, if the new plan to control Asian carp, a pesky freshwater fish with a penchant for destroying some of the U.S.'s greatest natural water habitats, doesn't end successfully. 

The fragile ecosystem of the Great Lakes is nothing to be tampered with, and the Obama administration is taking steps to make sure it's not. On Thursday, officials announced that $51.5 million would be invested this year to protect the Great Lakes from the destructive Asian carp.

In case you're wondering, these aren't the same gentle giants that are swimming around in your local pond
these babies grow up to as large as 110 pounds and are capable of eating up to 20 percent of their body weight each day. To put that in perspective, for a 150-pound human, that's 30 pounds of food a day. That's not even Takeru Kobayashi material. There are three species of Asian carp that are considered invasive and a severe threat to the Great Lakes: the bighead, silver and black carp. These species eat plankton, algae, mollusks, mussel and sturgeon in large quantities, which strips the ecosystem of food sources for other types of fish. Think Lake Placid of the carp world.

Say they're just fish, but beware: Asian carp have caused whiplash, broken jaws and noses. Concussions and severe boat damage are some of the "charges" alleged by boaters caught off guard. The fish literally "jump" as high as 10 feet in the air, causing swarms of volatile flying fish. Not kidding.

The money will implement strategies to control the fish, including DNA testing, underwater cameras, trapping and netting, scent testing to "lure" the carp to a capture area, development of an acoustic water gun to scare carp from endangered areas and poisons to directly target Asian carp without harming native species.

What's most interesting about the investment is that we're the ones who brought these fish foes to U.S. waters in the first place; they were imported from Southeast Asian in the '70's to control algae in water treatment facilities and farm ponds. Not surprisingly, the species escaped confinement and found their way into the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers. The Illinois River is also connected to the Great Lakes system. Should the carp invade the Great Lakes system (it's possible some already have), scientists say it could cause up to $7 million in damages to the fishing industry, not to mention adversely impacting the Great Lakes' tourism industry by detracting from the safety of recreational lake activities.
 
The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee advises people who come across Asian carp to freeze the fish in sealed plastic bags and immediately contact their state's Department of Natural Resources or Environmental Conservation.  


 When Asian Carp Attack:




 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.05.2012
 
 
quinlivan

Council Approves Resolution Asking for Fracking Control

Cincinnati asks state to overturn law preventing cities from regulating oil and gas drilling

Cincinnati City Council continued its effort to prevent a controversial method of drilling for oil and gas by passing a resolution on Wednesday asking the state to allow the city to make its own regulatory laws.

The resolution expresses council’s dissatisfaction with the Ohio Legislature for granting “special privileges to the oil and natural gas industry” and asks it to repeal any laws that pre-empt local control over drilling.

The resolution targets the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” which uses chemically-laced water to free up natural gas trapped in shale formations underneath Ohio.

Fracking opponents worry that the chemicals used in the fluid — which companies aren’t required to disclose — can be toxic to people and animals.

Prior to the council vote, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan held a news conference on the steps of City Hall.

“I believe local officials should have a say on all matters related to potentially hazardous activities such as fracking,” Quinlivan said in an emailed statement. “I urge my colleagues to send a strong message to the Ohio Governor, the Ohio Legislature, and Cincinnati residents by passing this resolution.” 

A 2004 state law puts regulation of oil and gas drilling under the state’s purview, preventing municipalities from regulating drilling on their land.

Copies of the resolution will be sent to Gov. John Kasich and members of the Ohio General Assembly elected from the Cincinnati area. The resolution comes after Ohio recently lifted a moratorium on new injection wells, which shoot wastewater deep underground for storage. 

There had been a temporary ban on new wells almost a year ago after seismologists said an injection was to blame for 11 earthquakes around the Youngstown area.

City council in August passed an ordinance to band injection wells within city limits. Because the injection well ban doesn’t mention drilling, council hoped it wouldn’t clash with the state law preventing local regulation of oil and gas drilling.

 
 
by 11.07.2008
Posted In: Environment at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Pesticides, Fertilizer, Old Batteries, Used Motor Oil

This is the kind of junk people store in the garage, the basement or under sinks because they don’t know what to do with it. Most often they get dumped into the trash if they’re disposed of at all. It is possible to safely discard of this kind of hazardous waster, but it takes a specialist.

The Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District’s offers free household hazardous waste drop-off sites to take care of the toxins. A press release says they take“Pesticides, fertilizers, cleaners, automotive fluids, solvents, thinners, prescription drugs, pool and lawn chemicals, paint, batteries, fire extinguishers, stains, mercury, propane tanks, fluorescent bulbs, driveway sealer and thermostats.”

But the drop sites will close for the year on Nov. 22.

“To participate, residents must show proof of Hamilton County residency,” says the press release. "Since the program began on March 1, approximately 5,735 households have participated in the event, bringing in approximately 417 tons of household hazardous waste for proper disposal.”

For more information about the FREE Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program, call 513-946-7700 or visit www.hamiltoncountyrecycles.org.

Locations & Times:

Environmental Enterprises, Inc.

4650 Spring Grove Avenue

Environmental Enterprises, Inc.

10163 Cincinnati-Dayton Road

Tuesdays: 2 – 6 p.m.

Wednesdays: 2 – 6 p.m.

Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

The program will re-open on March 14, 2009.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield and German Lopez 08.01.2012
Posted In: News, Development, Environment at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
 
 
quinlivan

Council Approves Ban on Injection Wells

Quinlivan outlines danger of fracking waste injection in afternoon press conference

Without much fanfare but with supporters looking on in the Losantiville Room in Union Terminal, Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance on Wednesday banning the injection of wastewater underground within city limits.

“I’m proud to be on the first City Council to ban injection wells,” said Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who submitted the ordinance to council.

“I want to give props to the solicitors … who have come up with a very unusual thing in City Council — a one page ordinance.”

The ordinance, which passed unanimously after being voted out of committee on Tuesday, is aimed at preventing the injection of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, under Cincinnati. Its injection has been linked to a dozen earthquakes in northern Ohio.

Opponents also worry that the chemicals in the water, which is used to drill underground to free up gas and oil, can seep into drinking water. Oil and gas companies aren’t required to disclose which chemicals they use.

It’s unclear if the city’s ban on wastewater injection would hold up against a 2004 state law that gives the state of Ohio sole power in regulating oil and gas drilling. That regulatory power also extends to Class 2 injection wells.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Quinlivan cited a ProPublica story that said between 2007 and 2010, one well integrity violation was filed for every six wastewater injection wells.

She says data like this makes it clear injection wells are too dangerous.

Food and Water Watch organizer Alison Auciello spoke in support of the City Council ordinance at the news conference.

“We’re pleased City Council has moved swiftly for the protection of its citizens,” Auciello said.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has received no injection well permit requests for southwestern Ohio, but Auciello says the legislation is a good preventive measure.


Heidi Hetzel-Evans, a spokesperson for ODNR, says it wouldn't be feasible to build injection wells in southwestern Ohio due to the region's geology.


"It's safe to say oil and gas drilling has no direct impact on southwestern Ohio," Hetzel-Evans says.


Auciello says more bans like the Cincinnati ordinance are necessary in Ohio. She says she’s concerned that Ohio is being turned into a dumping ground as massive amounts of wastewater from Pennsylvania are brought to Ohio due to a lack of regulation.


Auciello also echoed calls from environmental groups to ban fracking in Ohio. However, fracking supporters — including Gov. John Kasich — insist the process can be made safe with proper regulations.

This story was updated to reflect City Council's afternoon vote.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.25.2012
Posted In: News, Environment, Economy at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
tony parrott

City Agencies Working Toward Green Infrastructure

New water infrastructure seeks to be cheaper, more sustainable

As cities rush to solve major problems with water infrastructure, newer technologies are being touted by city agencies as cheaper, cleaner solutions. In two different local projects, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) and a City Council task force are looking into green ways to solve the city’s water needs.

On Wednesday, CityBeat covered some of the benefits and downsides of green water infrastructure. According to the report reviewed Wednesday, green water infrastructure is cheaper and does create a boon of jobs, but it faces some funding and education problems. However, it was unclear how the green ideas would translate into Cincinnati.

Tony Parrott, executive director of MSD, says despite the challenges, green infrastructure is clearly the cheaper option. The organization is partnering with local organizations to adopt a series of new projects — among them, green roofs, rain gardens, wetlands — to meet a new federal mandate that requires MSD to reduce the amount of sewer overflow that makes it into local rivers and streams.

“That is a very costly mandate,” he says. “Our belief is that green infrastructure and sustainable infrastructure will allow us to achieve a lot of those objectives a lot cheaper than your conventional deep tunnel systems or other gray type of infrastructure.”

Of course, conventional — or “gray” — infrastructure still has its place, but adopting a hybrid of green and gray infrastructure or just green infrastructure in some areas was found to be cheaper in MSD analyses, according to Parrott.

Plans are already being executed. On top of the smaller projects that slow the flow of storm water into sewer systems, MSD is also taking what Parrott calls a “large-scale approach to resurrect or daylight former streams and creeks that were buried over 150 years ago.” This approach will rely on the new waterways to redirect storm water so it doesn’t threaten to flood sewers and cause sewer overflow, Parrott says.

The programs are being approached in a “holistic way,” according to Parrott. MSD intends to refine and reiterate on what works as the programs develop. However, that comes with challenges when setting goals and asking for funding.

“We think that if you’re going to use a more integrated approach, it may require us to ask for more time to get some of these projects done and in the ground and then see how effective they are,” Parrott says.

If it all plays out, the ongoing maintenance required by the green approach could be good for the local economy, according to Parrott: “With the green and sustainable infrastructure, you’re creating a new class of what we call green jobs for maintenance. The majority of those jobs are something local folks can do as opposed to the conventional process.” Additionally, the green jobs also tend to benefit “disadvantaged communities” more than conventional jobs, according to Parrott.

The argument is essentially what Jeremy Hays, chief strategist for state and local initiatives at Green For All, told CityBeat on Wednesday. Since the green jobs require less education and training, they’re more accessible to “disadvantaged workers,” according to Hays: “They require some training and some skills, but not four years’ worth because it’s skills that you can get at a community college or even on the job.”

While MSD fully encourages the use of rain barrels, recycling will not be a top priority for MSD’s programs. Instead, that priority goes to the Rainwater Harvesting Task Force, a City Council task force intended to find ways to reform the city’s plumbing code to make harvesting and recycling rainwater a possibility.

Bob Knight, a member of the task force, says there is already a model in place the city can use. The task force is looking into adopting the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) in Cincinnati. The code will “prescriptively tell” architects and engineers how to design a rainwater harvesting system. In other words, IGCC would set a standard for the city.

Deciding on this code was not without challenges. At first, the task force wasn’t even sure if it could dictate how rainwater is harvested and recycled. The first question Knight had to ask was, “Who has that authority?” What it found is a mix of local agencies — Greater Cincinnati Water Works, MSD and Cincinnati Department of Planning — will all have to work together to implement the city’s new code.

The task force hopes to give its findings to Quality of Life Committee, which is led by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, by the end of November.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 08.08.2013
Posted In: Energy, Environment, Ethics, News at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
first energy

FirstEnergy Penalized $43.3 Million for Overcharging Customers

Company overpriced renewable energy credits purchased from affiliate company

On Wednesday the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio unanimously ruled that Akron, Ohio-based energy supplier FirstEnergy Corp. must credit its Ohio customers $43.3 million for overcharging for renewable energy credits (RECs) from 2009-2011 that it purchased from its affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions.

RECs are tradable, non-tangible energy credits that represent proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity has been sourced from an eligible renewable energy resource. First Energy Solutions is an energy generator and supplier, while First Energy Corp. is an electricity distributor, which means that it sources its electricity from elsewhere, which requires them to issue bids seeking the most competitively priced energy from a supplier such as First Energy Solutions.

According to the First Energy Corp. website, First Energy Solutions is the competitive subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. Both suppliers are based in Akron. An audit conducted by Exeter Associates Inc. revealed that FirstEnergy Corp. paid 15 times more than any other company in the country to purchase the RECs from FirstEnergy Solutions, and FirstEnergy Corp. passed that overcharge onto consumers. 

In a copy of the order issued yesterday by the PUC obtained by CityBeat, it states that, "The Companies contend that, given the nascent market, lack of market information available to the Companies, and uncertainty regarding future supply and prices, the Companies' decisions to purchase in-state RECs were reasonable and prudent."

In summary, FirstEnergy contends that because it was scrambling to find a way to meet the state's Clean Energy Law requirements, it had to buy these RECs no matter the cost, and that there are no legal specifications within the Clean Energy Law that requires RECs be purchased or sold at market price; and that the costs issued to them, and subsequently, customers, weren't unreasonable.

The Ohio Consumers Counsel, however, says that there were cheaper alternatives available and that FirstEnergy should have checked with the PUC prior to paying 15 times more for RECs than any other country had in the past. If they'd rejected the exorbitant bids, says OCC, and instead consulted with PUC and OCC, they could have come up with a solution to prevent from charging customers excessively high rates.

In June 2012, FirstEnergy Solutions was the winning bidder in Cincinnati's energy aggregation program, which is supposed to allow us to receive lower "aggregate" rates for buying in bulk. At the time, FirstEnergy touted the merits of its "100 percent green" energy supply, sourced from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable resources. The bid was expected to save homeowners around $133 annually.

What enabled FirstEnergy to provide the "clean" energy was its use of a system with non-tangible renewable energy credit (RECs) that each represent proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity has been sources from a renewable energy resource.

Purchasing the credits from its subsidiary allows FirstEnergy Corp. to meet the state's renewable energy standard, which requires that by 2025 all Ohio utility companies provide at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable resources.

Because the lawsuit issued by the PUC examines only the amount paid for RECs during compliance periods between 2009 and 2011, Cincinnati customers who switched to FirstEnergy Solutions last June should not be affected, although the FirstEnergy arms' ambiguous behavior, says Dan Sawmiller, a Sierra Club member who manages Ohio's Beyond Coal campaign, is a likely indicator that the company may be engaging in other unethical practices related to consumer transparency. 

The company has not been devoid of controversy in the past. In March, CityBeat reported on state environmental groups' concerns with the movement to lower requirements for defining renewable energy and energy efficiency; FirstEnergy was part of the bloc working to weaken Ohio's Clean Energy Law in hopes of keeping corporation costs low. FirstEnergy was also chastised by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in 2009 for distributing and charging customers for energy-efficient light bulbs without receiving customers' authorization.

Sawmiller commended the PUC for fining First Energy, although he suggests the fine is likely modest for the actual damages. He still expresses concern about the need for corporate separation between the two FirstEnergy arms. "
The commission left much to be desired in terms of transparency, leaving customers in the dark about what types of renewables are being provided, where are they coming from and at what cost," says Sawmiller in Sierra Club's press release.

 
 

 

 

 
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