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by German Lopez 05.02.2013
Posted In: News, Energy, Environment at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
Boom, Bust or Both?

Fracking Flourishing in Water-Stressed Areas

Interactive map shows Ohio counties are part of national trend

A new interactive map shows hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is flourishing in U.S. areas where water is already scarce — a potentially bad sign for Ohio counties that are allowing the water-intensive drilling process within their own borders.

The map from advocacy group Ceres shows northeast Ohio counties with fracking activity are made up of low, medium-to-high and high stress areas, with most of the identified fracking wells in medium-to-high and high stress areas.

The website explains Ohio's experience is actually better than the national trend: "In the map below, one can see that almost half (47 percent) of shale gas and oil wells are being developed in regions with high to extremely high water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the annual available water is being withdrawn by municipal, industrial and agricultural users in these regions. Overall, 75 percent of wells are located in regions with medium or higher baseline water stress levels."

Fracking is a relatively new drilling process that involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to fracture shale and reveal oil and gas reserves. CityBeat previously covered Ohio's fracking boom in further detail here.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.26.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Health, Environment at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio may allow open containers, Medicaid may be on ballot, pollution afflicts region

State Sen. Eric Kearney, a Cincinnati Democrat, introduced a bill in the Ohio Senate yesterday that would allow opened alcoholic beverages in “entertainment districts,” which must have populations of more than 50,000 within one-half mile by one-half mile. Kearney said Over-the-Rhine would be an ideal benefactor of the new bill. “Senate Bill 116 will promote tourism and business development across the state,” Kearney said in a statement. “By modifying Ohio’s law, this will provide an opportunity for developments such as the Over-the-Rhine Gateway in Cincinnati and The Flats in Cleveland to create an entertainment experience and attract more customers.”

Supporters of the Medicaid expansion say they may attempt to put the issue on the November ballot if the Ohio General Assembly fails to take action by fall. Republicans in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate have so far rejected Gov. John Kasich’s pleas for an expansion, instead moving toward asking the federal government for a Medicaid waiver that would allow the state to make broader reforms. At least 90 percent of the expansion would be funded by the federal government. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.

The Greater Cincinnati region and Hamilton County ranked among the worst in the nation in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report. The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, found Greater Cincinnati to be No. 10 worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 for ozone pollution. Still, the report did find overall improvement around the nation, with Greater Cincinnati making some advances in pollution reduction in the past few decades.

A new Ohio law going into effect today will require school coaches to acquire additional concussion awareness training. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross says the training will make it easier for coaches to identify symptoms of concussions and get help for students.

A University of Cincinnati study found it could be cost-effective to screen at-risk populations for hepatitis C.

A vegetarian lifestyle may fit some of CityBeat’s most beautiful employees, but Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble says pets need a more expansive diet.

Not only do they have multiple cultural traditions, but humpback whales also learn new tricks by watching their friends.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.25.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Energy at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
us epa

Greater Cincinnati Among Worst for Air Pollution

Report finds region 10th worst for year-round particle pollution

The Greater Cincinnati area and Hamilton County ranked poorly in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report, released April 24, with failing grades in a couple categories.

The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, gave the Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington region an “F” for ozone pollution, a “D” for 24-hour particle pollution and a “fail” for year-round particle pollution. The region ranked 10th worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 worst for ozone pollution.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County received an “F” for its overall performance, with an “F” in ozone pollution, a “D” in 24-hour particle pollution and a “fail” in year-round particle pollution.

But the report found overall improvement around the nation, with most cities reducing year-round particle pollution and days of high ozone pollution.

Despite its current standing, Greater Cincinnati has also improved in the past few decades. In comparison to 1996, the region has 16.9 fewer high ozone days per year. In comparison to 2000, the region has 19.9 fewer days of high particle pollution and a lower concentration of pollutants in the air throughout the year.

Exposure to ozone and other pollutants can damage lung tissue, putting Greater Cincinnati at a higher risk for respiratory disease.

Particle pollution occurs when the air is tainted by a complex mix of pollutants. Year-round exposure can lead to death and cancer, while 24-hour spikes in exposure can cause illness and even death under some circumstances.

To help combat the issue, the report makes policy recommendations to the U.S. EPA, asking for stronger regulations on various sources of pollution, including power plants, gasoline, cars and even wood smoke. The Clean Air Act, which was strengthened in 1990, gives the EPA the regulatory power necessary to hand down regulations on many of these issues, but funding more enforcement would likely require congressional action.

States and cities can also curtail air pollution by passing clean energy policies. Ohio began supporting clean energy when it passed its Clean Energy Law in 2008, but State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, is reviewing the law’s energy efficiency and clean energy standards and may ultimately weaken them (“How Clean is Too Clean?” issue of March 27).

In Cincinnati, the state standards have helped foster more solar energy developments, which Environment Ohio says could turn Cincinnati into the solar capital of the region (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).

More public transportation options can also help reduce air pollution. The advocacy group American Public Transportation Association says switching from private to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon footprint: “A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent and up to 30 percent if he or she eliminates a second car. When compared to other household actions that limit CO2, taking public transportation can be 10 times greater in reducing this harmful greenhouse gas.”

Cincinnati is currently pursuing plans to build a streetcar, but the project is being threatened by a major budget gap. The city is also planning to build more bike trails and other transportation options as part of Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.27.2013
Posted In: Environment, Development at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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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 German Lopez 02.15.2013
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

GOP questions Medicaid expansion, Qualls' streetcar concerns, council backs efficiency

State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion. Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that. Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate $1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal government.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through “intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems.

With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups.

Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2, according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge.

State Democrats and Republicans have some questions about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for EZPass users. Others are worried about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program.

The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act.

Dayton wants to help illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio.

A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars.

The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps.

In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.”

Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement.

A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.

Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Environment, Energy, City Council at 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

City Pushes Energy Efficiency Standards

Council resolution embraces Cincinnati’s past clean energy successes

With a resolution passed Wednesday, City Council is urging state legislators to maintain the energy efficiency standards that helped drive Cincinnati’s clean energy growth.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that suggested “a meaningful review” of the state’s energy efficiency standards, which were previously established by Senate Bill 221 in 2008 and Senate Bill 315 in 2012. In the memo, Seitz wrote he was open to freezing and weakening some of the established standards.

Environmental groups responded by calling on local governments to defend the standards. In Cincinnati, the call was picked up by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who touted the city’s past clean energy efforts in a statement: “Cincinnati has made great strides in energy efficiency by seeking cost savings while boosting our city’s green image. Energy efficiency is helping Cincinnati support a double bottom line of environmental and economic sustainability, and we endorse full implementation of our state efficiency law.”

The city estimates it saves $1 million a year on energy bills because of the law’s efficiency programs, which includes upgrades and weatherization projects.

Christian Adams, a clean energy associate of Environment Ohio, praised Cincinnati for passing the resolution in a statement: From efficiency to solar, Cincinnati [is] a state leader on clean energy, and it’s proving to be a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and the economy. If state lawmakers want to change our clean energy law, they should follow Cincinnati’s lead and double-down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.”

In a previous report, Environment Ohio claimed Cincinnati could become the solar energy capital of the region. CityBeat covered the report and Cincinnati’s — particularly the Cincinnati Zoo’s — success with solar energy (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).

 
 
by German Lopez 02.05.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Streetcar, Transportation at 12:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
traffic

Traffic Congestion Cost Cincinnati $947 Million

Cincinnati commuters spent an extra 37 hours on road due to traffic

Traffic can be awful — not just for drivers, but economies and the environment as well. A study released Tuesday by the Texas A&M Institute of Transportation found Cincinnati lost about $947 million in 2011 to delays on the road, coming in at No. 27 nationwide.

The Annual Urban Mobility Report also ranked Cincinnati No. 37 nationwide for extra time stuck in traffic, with the average Cincinnati commuter spending an extra 37 hours on the road in 2011. In comparison, the average Columbus commuter spent 40 extra hours in traffic in 2011, and the typical Cleveland commuter spent 31 extra hours. For all three cities, estimates were unchanged from 2010.

Traffic jams also have a major impact on climate change. According to the report, congestion caused cars to produce an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide nationwide, with Cincinnati commuters producing 421 million pounds.

The report shows why it’s important for governments to reduce traffic congestion with transit projects like the Cincinnati streetcar. In general, public transportation leads to less congestion by taking cars off the road as people use buses, streetcars and trains instead. But some cities have taken it even further. By adopting exclusive lanes for buses and streetcars, cities like San Francisco have made public transportation more attractive, which makes people more likely to forsake their own cars in favor of public alternatives.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.23.2013
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Anti-abortion agenda could return, budget group speaks up, Green Cincinnati update

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Health and Aging Chairman Lynn Watchman said anti-abortion legislation could come back in the current legislative session. That includes the heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and a plan to defund Planned Parenthood. CityBeat wrote about the anti-abortion legislation last time Ohio Republicans tried to bring it up here.

One Ohio Now, a group focused on the state budget, has a few requests for Gov. John Kasich. They don’t want an income tax cut when the revenue could be used to expand Medicaid and raise school funding. In other states, a Medicaid expansion correlated with better health results, and one study found expanding Medicaid could save Ohio money. More school funding could also make up for the last budget's massive cuts to education, which are explained on a county-by-county basis at Cuts Hurt Ohio.

While the state government is tearing down solar power initiatives, Cincinnati is working to update Green Cincinnati. Environmental Quality Director Larry Falkin told WVXU, “We’re broadening the plan to be not just focused on climate protection, but more broadly on all areas of sustainability.” He added, “It’s going to show us how Cincinnatians can live a better lifestyle using less resources.” The plan was originally drafted in 2007 and adopted a year later to prepare the city for changing environmental realities.

Last year was good for local home sales. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says home sales were at the highest levels since 2008.

A federal judge ended most of his court-mandated oversight of Ohio’s youth prisons last Friday. The ruling shows how much progress has been made in state youth facilities, according to Alphonse Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati lawyer representing juvenile inmates.

Ohio Democrats are now calling for Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar to resign. Terhar is facing criticism for comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler when she posted an image of Adolf Hitler on her personal Facebook page that read, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” 

Amy Murray is running for City Council. Murray was appointed to City Council in 2011 when Chris Monzel left and became Hamilton County commissioner. But she lost her seat in the 2011 election, which swept Democrats into City Council.

Cincinnati and Columbus airports saw a drop in traffic, but it seems Dayton International Airport more than made up for it.

The National Council of Teachers wants Ohio to make its colleges more accountable and selective.

An investigation into the massive accident on I-275 could take days. The accident, which is believed to have caused at least 86 cars to crash, led to the death of a 12-year-old girl.

Blockbuster still exists, and it’s shutting down stores and cutting jobs.

A smoke screen company wants to use its product to prevent more school shootings. The smoke screens fill up a room with non-toxic smoke on demand, which could obscure a shooter’s vision.

Update for any women looking to have a neanderthal baby: The Harvard scientist was only saying it’s a possibility someday.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.22.2013
Posted In: Education, Energy, Environment, Economy, News, Budget at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
debe terhar

Morning News and Stuff

Terhar compares Obama to Hitler, Cincinnati unemployment drops, Portman's deficit plan

Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar posted an image of Adolf Hitler on Facebook that said, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” But the Cincinnati Republican, who was referencing President Barack Obama’s gun control proposals, now insists she was not comparing Obama to Hitler. It’s pretty obvious she was, though.

Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.9 percent in November. The drop is largely attributed to a decrease in the civilian labor force, which could imply less people are looking for work or seasonal changes are having an impact. Whatever the case, the amount of people who are employed and unemployed both dropped. Hamilton County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in December, down from 6.4 percent in November, but that drop was also attributed to a declining labor force or seasonal factors. Greater Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from 6.4 percent, despite 2,600 less people working. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted rate was 6.6 percent in December, up from 6.5 percent in November, and the U.S. rate was 7.6 percent, up from 7.4 percent.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, suggested the Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act. The plan requires debt ceiling increases to be matched by an equal amount of spending cuts. Increasing the debt ceiling is essentially Congress agreeing to pay its bills. During the budget process and while passing other legislation, Congress agrees to a certain amount of spending. Increasing the debt ceiling just makes it possible for the president to pay those bills, even if it means surpassing a set debt level. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by May 18, the United States will default on its debts, plunging the country into depression. But the threat of destroying the U.S. economy has not stopped Republicans from using the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool to get the spending cuts they so badly want.

Public employees are avoiding changes to Ohio’s public pension system by retiring before the changes kick in. The changes make it so any teacher who retires before July 1 will get a 2 percent cost of living increase to their pensions in 2015. Anyone who retires after July 1 will not get the increase until 2018. After that, retirees will get a pension increase every five years. Experts are also expecting a rush of retirees in 2015, when age and years-of-service requirements for full benefits are set to gradually rise.

A new report found Ohio’s graduation rate is still improving. The U.S. Department of Education report found the state’s graduation rate was 81.4 percent in the 2009-10 school year, higher than the nation’s rate of 78.2 percent, and an increase from 78.7 percent rate in the 2006-2007 school year.

A study found a link between hourly workers at Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center and intestinal cancer. 

As Ohio cuts back its solar program, Canada is shutting down the rest of its coal-fired power plants by the end of 2013.

The Cincinnati Reds may get to host the 2015 All-Stars Game.

Scientists are rushing to build robots that save lives in disaster zones. Will John Connor please stand up?

 
 
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.

 
 

 

 

 
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