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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 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 Hannah McCartney 02.27.2013
Posted In: Environment, Development at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
269632_200060063376630_3656678_n

Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden Could Be Forced to Relocate

Main Street spot is being eyed for CitiRama 2014

Leaders of a quiet Over-the-Rhine civic garden that harvests produce like peaches, tomatoes, garlic and blackberries to sell at Findlay Market are worried they could be forced to relocate after calling the same spot home since 1998.

CitiRama, a partnership between the Cincinnati Homebuilders Association and the city of Cincinnati that holds annual or biannual home shows on chosen urban plots of land, has proposed that the lot at 1718 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, which currently houses the Eco Garden project (run by local nonprofit Permaganic), be amended to instead house the site for its next event, which would force the garden to relocate.

The Livable Communities Committee yesterday was presented a memo submitted by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., recommending that the Eco Garden lot, which is currently subletted to Permaganics for its Eco Garden program by the Civic Garden Association (CGA), be relocated to a larger area so the site can be procured for CitiRama
.

The parcel of land is actually owned by the city of Cincinnati, but the city leases a number of parcels to the CGA for their use. According to the memo, the lease between the city and the CGA expires in 2015, but grants the city the power to terminate the lease at any time if another use for the land arises.

The area containing the Eco Garden has been targeted as the next CitiRama site by the city’s Department of Community Development (DCD), the main controller of the property. According to Dohoney’s memo, should the Eco Garden be forced to move elsewhere, the DCD would fund the garden's startup and relocation costs.

For Angela Ebner, executive director with Permaganic, that’s not a sufficient compromise, but she’s hopeful the parties can reach an agreement by demonstrating that the Garden's OTR existence is actually of value to CitiRama, which is seeking out forward-thinking potential homeowners invested in fostering positive urban cultural experiences.

“We think they’re (CitiRama) interested in working with us because we think they’re interested in working with that demographic of eco-friendly people. I’m pretty certain they’ll be accepting of the fact that we do a really good job of reflecting the needs and values of people in the community,” she says.

CitiRama's events are designed to attract potential homeowners and developers to pinpointed plots of land in hopes of  reviving urban areas with new housing opportunities, but there's also a heavy focus on sustainability. The most recent CitiRama event, which opened at Virginia Place in Northside (located at the intersection of Virginia and Chase avenues), took place in Sept. 2012.

The Eco Garden exists to “create experiential learning opportunities for inner-city youth to cultivate self-reliance, job skills and an entrepreneurial aptitude by cultivating a market garden to grow fresh, healthy vegetables and herbs for direct sales at Findlay Market," according to a Permaganic Facebook post. They recruit local at-risk teens for a unique job readiness program, which allows the teens to work in the garden in exchange for a stipend.

Supporters of Permaganic and the Eco Garden are concerned that moving the garden would cause disrupt not just to the crops that have grown for the past several years, but also the fabric of the neighborhood, particularly the at-risk neighborhood youth who see the space as a "home away from home."

Ebner and supporters are currently waiting for word from the city in hopes of moving forward on a compromise.

“We want a green, peaceful, healthy world for everyone’s children,” says Ebner. “That’s the bottom line.”

 
 
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 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 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 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.

Read More

 
 
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 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.”

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 10.24.2012
Posted In: News, Environment, Economy at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
green_for_all

Group Pushes Green Water Infrastructure

Annual conference promotes sustainable urban water programs

Ohioans might not give it much thought outside of paying the water bill, but better water infrastructure can make cities more efficient, healthier and cleaner. That’s why Green For All, a group that promotes clean energy initiatives, is now focusing on cleaner, greener water infrastructure.

A little-known green conference took place in Cincinnati Oct. 15-17. The Urban Water Sustainability Leadership Conference was in town on those three days, and it brought together leaders from around the U.S. to discuss sustainable water programs for cities. The conference mostly focused on policy ideas, success stories and challenges faced by modern water infrastructure.

For Green For All, attending the conference was about establishing one key element that isn’t often associated with water and sewer systems: jobs. Jeremy Hays, chief strategist for state and local initiatives at Green For All, says this was the focus for his organization.

Hays says it’s important for groups promoting better water infrastructure to include the jobs aspect of the equation. To Hays, while it’s certainly important for cities to establish cleaner and more efficient initiatives, it’s also important to get people back to work. He worries this side of water infrastructure policies are “often left out.”

He points to a report released by Green For All during last year’s conference. The report looked at how investing the $188.4 billion suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manage rainwater and preserve water quality in the U.S. would translate into economic development and jobs: “We find that an investment of $188.4 billion spread equally over the next five years would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million jobs.”

To accomplish that robust growth and job development, the report claims infrastructure would have to mimic “natural solutions.” It would focus on green roofs, which are rooftop areas with planted vegetation; urban tree planting; rain gardens, which are areas that use vegetation to reduce storm water runoff; bioswales, which are shallow, vegetated depressions that catch rainwater and redirect it; constructed wetlands; permeable pavements, which are special pavements that allow water to pass through more easily; rainwater harvesting, which uses rain barrels and other storage devices to collect and recycle rainwater; and green alleys, which reduce paved or impervious surfaces with vegetation that reduces storm water runoff.

The report says constructing and maintaining these sorts of programs would produce massive growth, especially in comparison to other programs already supported by presidential candidates and the federal government: “Infrastructure investments create over 16 percent more jobs dollar-for-dollar than a payroll tax holiday, nearly 40 percent more jobs than an across-the-board tax cut, and over five times as many jobs as temporary business tax cuts.”

Hays says the jobs created also don’t have barriers that keep them inaccessible to what he calls “disadvantaged workers”: “A lot of these jobs that we’re focused on in infrastructure, especially green infrastructure, are much more accessible. 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.”

Beyond jobs, Green For All supports greener infrastructure due to its health benefits. Hays cited heat waves as one example. He says the extra plants and vegetation planted to support green infrastructure can help absorb heat that’s typically contained by cities.

Hays’ example has a lot of science to stand on. The extra heating effect in cities, known as the urban heat island effect, is caused because cities have more buildings and pavements that absorb and contain heat, more pollution that warms the air and fewer plants that enable evaporation and transpiration through a process called evapotranspiration. The EPA promotes green roofs in order to help combat the urban heat island effect.

Hays says green infrastructure also creates cleaner air because trees capture carbon dioxide and break it down to oxygen. The work of the extra trees can also help reduce global warming, although Hays cautions that the ultimate effect is probably “relatively small.”

But those are only some of the advantages Hays sees in green infrastructure. He says green infrastructure is more resilient against volatile weather events caused by global warming. With green infrastructure, storm water can be managed by systems that collect and actually utilize rainwater to harvest clean water. Even in a world without climate change, that storm water management also reduces water contamination by reducing sewer overflow caused by storm water floods, according to Hays.

However, green infrastructure is not without its problems. Hays acknowledges there are some problems with infrastructure systems that require more year-over-year maintenance: “The green and conventional approach is more cost effective over time, but the way you have to spend money is different. So we need to look at the way we finance infrastructure, and make sure we keep up with innovative technologies.” 

Specifically, green infrastructure relies less on big capital investments and more on ongoing maintenance costs. Hays insists the green infrastructure saves money in the long term with efficiency and by making more use out of natural resources, and the Green For All report supports his claim. But it is more difficult to get a city or state legislator to support long-term funding than it is to get them to support big capital expenditures, Hays says.

Education is also a problem. To a lot of people, the green infrastructure on rooftops and other city areas might seem like “pocket parks,” says Hays. But these areas are nothing like parks; they are meant to absorb and collect rainwater. If the public isn’t educated properly, there could be some confusion as to why the supposed “pocket parks” are flooded so often. Providing that education is going to be another big challenge for public officials adopting green infrastructure, according to Hays.

So what, if anything, is Cincinnati doing to adopt these technologies? In the past, city legislators have looked into rainwater harvesting systems, but not much information is out there. On Thursday, CityBeat will talk to city officials to see how Cincinnati is moving forward.

 
 

 

 

 
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