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by Kevin Osborne 09.24.2011
 
 
seal_of_cincinnati,_ohio

Candidates On: The Planned Streetcar System

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, Do you support or oppose the city's streetcar system as currently planned and financed?

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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.

 
 
by 12.19.2008
Posted In: Business, News, Social Justice at 05:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Congressman: Cintas Settlement 'Despicable'

Two prominent Democratic congress members say a $3 million settlement between Cintas Corp. and federal workplace safety regulators is insufficient because it downgrades the severity of the company’s violations and gives it two years to install new safety equipment.

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by 06.19.2009
Posted In: 2009 Election, Mayor, Republicans at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)
 
 

Wenstrup Questions Mayor's Travel, Bodyguard

This week’s issue of CityBeat features an interview with Dr. Brad Wenstrup, the physician who’s the Hamilton County Republican Party’s mayoral candidate.

Wenstrup, who turned 51 on Wednesday, is an orthopedic surgeon who lives in Columbia Tusculum and is an Iraq War veteran. This is his first run for political office.

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by 07.11.2009
Posted In: Media, Financial Crisis, Business at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 

Enquirer Layoffs: The Aftermath

CityBeat has held off on posting the names of some people we've heard have been laid off from The Cincinnati Enquirer pending better verification, but we can now confirm two more departures.

 Assistant Business Editor Randy Tucker and Obituaries Writer Rebecca Goodman have left the newspaper's staff. Tucker was a victim of the layoffs; it's unclear whether Goodman was laid off or chose to leave since she recently graduated from law school.

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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 12.03.2008
Posted In: News, Community, Media, Financial Crisis at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Bloodletting at The Enquirer

As expected, the ax fell quickly at The Cincinnati Enquirer this week as its parent company demands mass layoffs before year’s end.

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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 12.29.2008
Posted In: Financial Crisis at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Wikipedia needs to "wiki" fundraising

All Wikipedia wants for Christmas is cash. In yet another terrifying display of our crashing economy, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is petitioning for donations.  Here's his open letter:


Dear Reader,

Today I am going to ask you to support Wikipedia with a donation. This might sound unusual: Why does one of the world's five most popular web properties ask for financial support from its users?

Wikipedia is built differently from almost every other top 50 website. We have a small number of paid staff, just twenty-three. Wikipedia content is free to use by anyone for any purpose. Our annual expenses are less than six million dollars. Wikipedia is run by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which I founded in 2003.

At its core, Wikipedia is driven by a global community of more than 150,000 volunteers - all dedicated to sharing knowledge freely. Over almost eight years, these volunteers have contributed more than 11 million articles in 265 languages. More than 275 million people come to our website every month to access information, free of charge and free of advertising.

But Wikipedia is more than a website. We share a common cause: Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's our commitment.

Your donation helps us in several ways. Most importantly, you will help us cover the increasing cost of managing global traffic to one of the most popular websites on the Internet. Funds also help us improve the software that runs Wikipedia -- making it easier to search, easier to read, and easier to write for. We are committed to growing the free knowledge movement world-wide, by recruiting new volunteers, and building strategic partnerships with institutions of culture and learning.

Wikipedia is different. It's the largest encyclopedia in history, written by volunteers. Like a national park or a school, we don't believe advertising should have a place in Wikipedia. We want to keep it free and strong, but we need the support of thousands of people like you.

I invite you to join us: Your donation will help keep Wikipedia free for the whole world.

Thank you,

Jimmy Wales


Good luck, Jimmy. "Wiki" is about as household as "Google" at this point. We internet-ophiles would miss you dearly.

 
 
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.

 
 

 

 

 
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