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by Hannah McCartney 03.09.2012
Posted In: Environment at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
clean-air

Cincinnati Joins Clean Air Cities Campaign

Membership to help Cincinnati support regulations for healthier air

Cincinnati is the latest city to join the Clean Air Cities campaign, according to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, who spearheads the campaign. As a member, Cincinnati joins the likes of dozen other cities, including Seattle, Wash., Berkeley, Calif., Tuscon, Ariz. and Cambridge, Mass.

Cincinnati City Council passed a resolution on Wednesday to join the campaign as part of council's "Green Cincinnati Plan," which has also initiated the use of SORTA's hybrid buses, the Cincinnati Energy Alliance, implementation of LEED-certified buildings and the Electric Car Parking Initiative.

The Clean Air Cities campaign is a nationwide effort to urge cities to be proactive in speaking to the Obama administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the Clean Air Act to make worthwhile reductions in greenhouse gas pollution and slow global warming.  

The Clean Air Act is a federal law passed in 1970 that's designed to make sure U.S. citizens are breathing safe air; it requires the U.S. EPA to set forth national air quality standards to protect against harmful pollutants like ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead and particulate soot. With the standards, state governments are responsible for developing plans to meet the health standards by a given deadline. The Act also sets nationwide standards for other sources of pollution, including vehicles and power plants. Recently, large-scale polluters have lobbied for Congress to amend the Clean Air Act to mandate less stringent regulations on global warming emissions, and  legislation introduced in the House and Senate frequently fight to prevent the EPA's efforts to achieve healthful levels of pollutants in our air.

“We are making great strides toward a ‘greener’ city with our Green Cincinnati Plan. To continue to work tirelessly for improved air quality, we must also send a strong message of full support for the Clean Air Act to the EPA,” said Cincinnati City Council Member Laure Quinlivan in CBD's press release.

The EPA projected that in 2010 the Clean Air Act would save 23,000 lives and prevent 1.7 million asthma attacks and more than 68,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the act created benefits valued at $22.2 trillion in its first two decades; that's 42 times the amount invested in its regulations.

A 2011 report from Environment Ohio ranked Cincinnati the 16th smoggiest city in the United States, and a report commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force attributed 1,221 deaths in Ohio each year to pollution from coal plants. 

 
 
by German Lopez 01.21.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Health care at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
fernald

Study Finds Cancer Link Among Fernald Hourly Workers

Researchers tracked more than 6,000 workers through 2004; salaried workers fared better

More than 18 years later, Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center is in the news again. This time, a study found a correlation between higher rates of cancer mortality and hourly workers, with some evidence of radiation causing intestinal cancer.

The study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found salaried workers fared much better than hourly workers, and all-cause mortality was below expectations for them despite increased malignancies in blood, bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes and thymus cells. 

Hourly workers weren’t so lucky, according to the study. They had above-average cancer mortality rates in comparison to the rest of the U.S. population, but tests only provided evidence for a connection between hourly workers and intestinal cancer.

Previous studies also found a link between non-malignant respiratory disease and exposure to radiation, but the NIOSH study found no such connection. The discrepancy could be due to “improved exposure assessment, different outcome groupings and extended follow-up” in the NIOSH study, according to the study’s abstract.

The NIOSH study followed 6,409 workers who were employed at Fernald for at least 30 days between 1951 and 1985, following them through 2004.

Fernald was initially surrounded by controversy in 1984 when it was revealed that it was releasing millions of pounds of uranium dust into the atmosphere, causing radioactive contamination in surrounding areas. The controversy was elevated when Dave Bocks, an employee at the factory, mysteriously disappeared and was later found dead at a uranium processing furnace. Some suspected Bocks was murdered for allegedly being a whistleblower, but no evidence of foul play was ever officially recorded.

 
 
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 Hannah McCartney 08.24.2012
Posted In: Environment, Urban Planning, News, Neighborhoods at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
tuckers1

Tucker's Restaurant Could Claim Cincinnati's First Parklet

"Tiny park" could provide green space to drab Over-the-Rhine area

There's not much green in the area of Over-the-Rhine north of Liberty Street, where Vine Street still finds itself home to a slew vacant buildings, vandalism and littered sidewalks. You won't find trees; just the occasional wayward clumps of grass that manage to triumph through cracks in the concrete.

That's an odd dichotomy to correspond with a neighborhood claiming the largest area of historic Italianate architecture in the country.

As efforts to preserve historic landmarks across the neighborhood continue to flourish, others are taking notice of another key element in revitalization that's been neglected: the presence of a safe, green public space that could spark a type of interest in urban renewal more conscious of natural greenery and it. That's been achieved in the area of Over-the-Rhine south of Liberty Street with the expansive Washington Park, leaving its northern counterpart noticeably more drab.

That sentiment is what propelled a trio of designers and architects to mold a proposal for a parklet in front of Tucker's Restaurant, an iconic Over-the-Rhine greasy spoon that attracts both locals and tourists in a somewhat deserted portion of the neighborhood, bereft of the nearby Gateway Quarter's bubbly atmosphere.

Mike Uhlenhake, a local architect, was first introduced to the parklet concept in San Francisco, where the parklet was founded and now flourishes. A parklet is exactly what it sounds like: a small, urban "park" that typically only occupies enough space to displace two parking spots. They're praised as a way to offer a public, green gathering point in urban areas where parks or wildlife are especially lacking; they might include trees, fountains, sculptures or small cafe tables.  Uhlenhake sensed the need for something similar in the northern area Over-the-Rhine, which remains largely untouched by the mass renovation efforts taking place just blocks away.

"That stretch [of Over-the-Rhine] really seems to lack life. It feels empty, like no people are ever on the street ... it needs a more homegrown feel," says Uhlenhake. "A place like Tucker's really deserves something like this if they want it."

When the University of Cincinnati Niehoff Urban Studio and the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati held the D.I.Y. Urbanism Competition this spring, Uhlenhake teamed up with two members of Flourish Cincinnati, Michelle Andersen and Becky Schneider, to create a formal entry for the contest, which can be found here or nestled in the back of Tucker's Restaurant on the rear wall.

Their proposal earned the People's Choice Award, which granted them $250 toward implementing the parklet. They've since partnered with local artist Alan Sauer, who assisted in the creation of Tucker's plot in Cincinnati PARK(ing) Day 2009, which staged a tiny patio in front of Tucker's featuring live music and chalk art.

Today, they're all working on putting together a PowerPoint presentation to present to City Council, which would provide an overview of the parklet, design sketches and an outline of its benefits. Once presented, City Council would just have to agree to give up the two parking spots directly in front of Tucker's; although Uhlenhake isn't exactly sure how much the parklet will cost, he's confident fundraising efforts will be all that's needed to foot the bill. Tucker's customers have been the main point of support, he says — dozens have offered to pledge some kind of help to make the vision come true after seeing the plan on Tucker's back wall.

"
This really needs to be a community project. The more people we can get to help, the better."
 
 
by 08.11.2011
 
 

Green Group Plans Council Forum

A forum is planned to question Cincinnati City Council candidates on issues involving “green” building techniques, making the city more sustainable and other environmental topics.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 12 in the rear stage area at the Northside Tavern, 4163 Hamilton Ave. Before the forum begins, a networking session with candidates will be held at 5 p.m.

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by 11.14.2008
Posted In: Environment at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Covington Carbon Monoxide

City Ordinances in Covington, KY require every residential rental property in the city to be equipped with “at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in operating condition within 15 feet of every room that is used for sleeping purposes.”

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by Hannah McCartney 02.16.2012
Posted In: Environment, Ethics, News at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
schweine-lsz61

McDonald's Does Something Kind of Good?

Fast food conglomerate McDonald's isn't exactly known for its do-goodery for asses or animals. Despite the chain's greatest efforts, they just can't seem to catch a stroke of good PR. Just look at what happened when they launched their Twitter campaign, #McDstories, which ended up backfiring so severely that it's become the laughing stock of the professional PR world.

It's hard to feel too bad about their misfortune; they've done a pretty good job of creating controversy for themselves without any help, including their kind of hilarious, brazen ad released in France featuring a gay teenager (video below), the leak to the public that their "vegetarian" fries were actually fried in beef fat and, perhaps most notably, their bad rap for using suppliers with disregard for animal welfare. The list goes on. Remember the McRib story released last November? News broke that McDonald's pork supplier, Smithfield Foods, was subjecting pigs to excruciating pain and mistreatment. The news didn't exactly come as a surprise, but consumers took it seriously when the Humane Society filed a lawsuit against Smithfield.

Regardless, it seems McDonald's realizes its bad press is its greatest weakness, and they've made some solid efforts to  improve. Most recently, the chain announced it would be requiring pork suppliers such as Smithfield to phase out gestation stalls — pig-sized cages where pigs are confined, unable to move around or sometimes stand up. Their plan has some strong supporters, including the Humane Society. However, the plan hasn't set a deadline requirement; that means it could several years of red tape and stalling before any real progress is made.

Interestingly, frequent McRib eaters probably aren't generally the type to be concerned about whether or not the pig they're eating got to stand up during its last days. Perhaps McDonald's is interested in expanding its already massive consumer pool to include more meat-eaters concerned about the sources of their food. Or perhaps they've realized that it's feasible to treat animals even a little more humanely and still make a stupendous profits. Is it possible?

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 05.08.2013
Posted In: Energy, Environment, News at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
power_plant_pollution

Duke Energy Tops List of Worst Utility Company Polluters

Four Ohio energy providers earn spot on Pear Energy's "Dirty Dozen"

Cincinnati's main gas and electricity provider, Duke Energy, has scored a No. 1 ranking, but it's not exactly one you'll be wanting to clap your hands about.

Remember when we blogged a couple of weeks ago about how Greater Cincinnati has some of the worst air pollution in the nation? Yep, the American Lung Association's report, "State of the Air," gave us an "F" for ozone pollution, a "D" for 24-hour particle pollution and a "fail" for year-round particle pollution. That put us at the 10th worst spot in the country for year-round particle pollution and 14th worst for ozone pollution.

Solar and wind energy provider Pear Energy, which currently operates in all 50 states, released yesterday its "Dirty Dozen" compilation, a list of the 12 utility providers emitting the greatest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a type of greenhouse gas. CO2 emissions, of course, are the gunk released into our atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels like gas, coal or oil. Excess CO2 in our atmosphere is directly linked to global warming.

Coming from a company that wants to sell you energy itself, it's good to approach the list with a little skepticism, but the methodology seems transparent; according to the website, all rankings were determined by total CO2 emissions in 2010 of power producers with retail operations that have carbon intensities above the national average emissions rate (stats were sourced from Environmental Protection Agency data).

While Duke Energy was pinpointed as the nation's worst offender, several other Ohio energy providers also earned accolades, including American Electric Power (No. 2), NRG (No. 8) and First Energy (No. 11).

First Energy is the utility provider that in 2012 partnered with Duke Energy locally to bring Cincinnati an electric aggregation program, allegedly useful for both lowering electricity rates and increasing use of renewable energy sources with group buying power. Last month, CityBeat covered allegations that First Energy was focused on weakening energy efficiency standards under Ohio's Clean Energy Law, supposedly to protect prices from shooting up for its customers.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.27.2012
Posted In: Oil, Environment, News at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_fracking

ODNR Gives Out Record Fracking Permits

Agency authorized 36 permits in June, up from 20 in May

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is not being slowed down by critics of hydraulic fracturing. ODNR in June authorized 36 new permits for horizontal drilling wells used for the process also known as fracking, a record for ODNR, according to Friday's Hannah Report.

Carroll County was at the top of obtaining new permits with 11 total. Columbiana County followed with seven new permits, and Harrison County was third with nine. Chesapeake Energy Corporation obtained most of those permits, a total of 22.

CityBeat spoke with Carroll County Commissioner Jeffrey Ohler, a Republican, in June about the impact of fracking on his county. Ohler was generally skeptical of how many domestic jobs fracking had created in the county, and he said he was cautious about the long-term economic impact the influx of fracking activity could have in the area.

Critics claim fracking is too dangerous and its risks are too unclear. In a June 17 rally, environmentalist group Don’t Frack Ohio took over the Columbus statehouse asking state officials to put a stop to fracking. More than 1,000 attended the rally, according to the organization.

But some state officials, including Gov. John Kasich, say the process can be safe with regulations in place. In June, Kasich signed into law S.B. 315, which added new rules and regulations to the fracking process. Following that, Kasich signed an executive order on July 12 that strengthened state regulators with the ability to stop and impose new requirements on wastewater injection wells deemed risky or dangerous.

The wastewater injection wells were the most likely cause of recent earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio around New Year’s Eve. In response, Kasich placed a moratorium on deep wastewater injection wells in the area.

Fracking is a process in which millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to release oil and gas from rock formations. The water is then recycled and deposited in underground facilities known as wastewater injection wells.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 10.03.2011
 
 
seal_of_cincinnati,_ohio

Candidates On: The Future of the Environmental Justice Ordinance

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, “What is your stance on the city's Environmental Justice Ordinance? Should it be retained or repealed?”

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