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by German Lopez 04.25.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Energy at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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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 Andy Brownfield 08.28.2012

Romney/Mandel Event Mandatory For Miners?

Romney campaign, Murray Energy dispute who made call to close mine for event

Earlier this month presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared at a coal mine in Beallsville, Ohio to denounce President Barack Obama’s “war on coal” against a powerful backdrop: hundreds of coal miners dusted with the black powder that their work entails.

But what wasn’t made apparent at the time is that those workers were pulled from the mines prematurely and not paid for the time they didn’t work.

According to emails and phone calls received by WWVA-AM West Virginia talk show host David Blomquist, miners said they were told that attendance at the Romney event would be mandatory and unpaid.

As first reported by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland on Tuesday, mine owner Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” He said that people who did now show up to the event, which organizers say drew 1,500 miners and family members, were not penalized for their absence.

Blomquist said during the radio show that current and former employees had called and emailed him saying they feel they were forced to go, had to take off a day without pay and a roll call was taken, which caused some employees to believe they would lose their jobs if they didn’t show up.

“Just for the record, if we did not go, we knew what would happen,” Blomquist read from an email he had received. “It is wrong what we were made to do because of the outcome if we don’t.”

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Murray Energy Corp. founder Robert Murray attended the Tuesday breakfast hosted by the Ohio delegation to the Republican National Convention. Murray told the newspaper that the decision to close the mine was made at the request of the Secret Service.

Murray disputed the report that miners weren’t paid for the day, saying they were compensated for the hours they spend underground, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The mine was re-opened for a second shift at 4 p.m.

“They were all there voluntarily,” Murray said of the miners who attended the Romney event, which was also attended by Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman and Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel.

“You don’t pay people to go voluntarily to a political event. If I would’ve paid them you would be saying you want it the other way. This is all a bunch of nonsense,” Murray told The Dispatch. Federal law prohibits the paying of private employees to attend a political event.

Murray blames layoffs at some of his mines on Obama’s policies. His companies have had a history of environmental and safety violations, and its Political Action Committee has held fundraisers for and donated to Republican causes.

Romney’s Ohio campaign spokesman disputed that the Secret Service had the mine shut down, telling The Dispatch in an email that “It was Murray Energy’s decision to close the Century Mine, not the campaign’s or the Secret Services.” His comment echoes what Murray CFO Moore said on the radio show, that management wanted to attend the event and they couldn’t have miners underground without management present.

For his part, radio host Blomquist took issue with the fact that the miners lost out on a full eight hours of pay because of a political event.

“My whole point is that nobody should be pressured into attending anyone’s political event,” he told The Plain Dealer. “If they shut the mine down, why should they lose a day’s pay? There are some guys that just want to go to work, feed their family and go home.”

by 06.17.2010
Posted In: Environment, Business, Climate Change at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boehner's Ties to BP

Just as the White House is criticizing one Republican lawmaker for apologizing to BP, it's been revealed that a local GOP leader has extensive stock holdings in BP and other oil companies.

The Associated Press is reporting that U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-West Chester), the House minority leader, bought dozens of stocks in December including shares in BP, Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhilips and Occidental. Each of the stocks is valued between $15,001 and $50,000, according to annual financial disclosure reports released Wednesday.

Read More

by Hannah McCartney 06.08.2012
Posted In: News, Environment at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Watershed Conservancy District Stops Water Sales to Frackers

Lack of information, understanding of industry spurs halt

Ohio environmentalists and conservationists won a small victory in the fracking industry today when Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District decided to halt all water sales from Ohio's largest contained watershed to drillers in the oil and gas industry.

Environmental groups have expressed concern that the watershed's water supply could be sold for use in fracking, a fairly new drilling technique in which thousands of gallons of chemical-laden water are shot into the earth in order to fracture shale and free natural oil and gas. Critics of the process say more research is needed on the technique to fully understand fracking's long- and short-term environmental and economic effects. (Read CityBeat's June 6 cover story, "Boom, Bust or Both?" about Ohio's fracking industry, here.)

The decision to postpone the sales will be held until data is received in a water-availability study that's currently underway. Pending analysis of the study's results, MWCD plans to update its water supply policy to help deal with interested clients in the future.

“We believe strongly that it is in the best interest of the public we serve and the conservancy district to not entertain any water supply requests until this study has been completed and the MWCD has had an opportunity to update its water supply policy for review, public discussion and consideration of the MWCD Board of Directors,”said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary in a press release.

The MWCD will honor its preexisting agreement to provide Gulfport Energy Co. with 11 million gallons of water from Clendening Lake in Harrison County.

by Kevin Osborne 01.06.2012
Posted In: News, Environment, Business at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Driehaus Wants Hearing on Fracking

A Cincinnati-area legislator is calling for an Ohio House committee to hold a public hearing about the alleged link between fracking and ground tremors.

State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Price Hill) wrote a letter today asking that a public hearing be held during the next meeting of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The meeting isn’t currently scheduled but likely will occur sometime later this month or in early February.

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by Hannah McCartney 03.21.2012
Posted In: Environment at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

City's Expanded Recycling Program Proving Successful

Nearly 19,000 tons of waste were diverted in 2011

It's always good news when a multi-million dollar investment turns out to reap more than it sows. So it goes with the city of Cincinnati's 2011 $3.6 million investment in its expanded recycling program.

According to a report delivered to City Council's strategic growth committee, 18,880 tons of waste were diverted from Rumpke landfill in 2011.

The expanded recycling program featured three key changes, including doling out recycling carts to every household eligible for curbside recycling, the highly successful Recyclebank incentive program and switching pick-ups to every other week instead of weekly.

According to Sue Magness, Recycling Coordinator for the city of Cincinnati's Office of Environmental Quality, the jump marks a 75 percent increase in household recycling participation since prior to the expansion's implementation; the city earned 20,000 new recyclers during the transition.

Cincinnati reached an all-time recycling low in 2007, when only 10,850 tons were recycled. Since then, rates have been slowly increasing, says Magness, thanks to strong local proponents and a serious focus on easing the process of recycling.

The numbers are encouraging, says Magness, but she's confident rates could continue to increase with higher community awareness and education. "Based on waste audits, we know what 60 percent of what's going into the landfill is recyclable," she says. "That's 32,000 tons that people are still putting in the wrong can."

The popular Recyclebank program, according to Magness, has proven to be the a strong ally in increasing recycling rates. The average recycler, she says, earns about $250 in coupons and savings just by recycling. Promoting multi-family recycling and continuing to improve recycling technologies will help. The next big step in boosting participation? Instituting a pay-as-you-throw program in every Cincinnati municipality.

She admits it's a lofty goal — and likely far off from actually being implemented in Cincinnati — but it's also one that's proven most effective in the 8,000 communities across the country that currently have such programs in place. "Just like with other utilities, when you have to pay to use something, you're more cautious. Here, you can consume, consume, consume and throw away as much as you want with no penalty."
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 Kevin Osborne 02.17.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Duke Energy announced Thursday night that it will help fund a campaign to raise private and government money to replace the outdated Brent Spence Bridge. It will cost about $2.3 billion to replace the span, which carries traffic from I-75 and I-71 over the Ohio River.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig said
an audit to determine methods for improving the Police Department’s efficiency is continuing. Among the latest recommendations, the department will no longer seek accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and that response of a recent shift to 10-hour workdays has been positive.

Three development groups
have submitted proposals to Covington officials, each vying to be selected to reshape that city’s riverfront area. One of the proposals, drafted by Corporex Realty & Investment and Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment, involves refurbishing the Waterfront Restaurant and creating a floating boardwalk, marina and wharf.

A Cincinnati police officer assigned to the Drug Abuse and Resistance Education (DARE) program
was suspended without pay this week after she was charged with tampering with records, securing writings by deception and forgery. Sandra Johnson, 38, allegedly said she taught DARE classes and got paid for them when she didn’t. DARE is among the programs being ended by Chief Craig; he has called it ineffective.

In news elsewhere,
German President Christian Wulff resigned from his position today as head of state amid mounting criticism over a home loan scandal. Wulff has been plagued by allegations since mid-December over his connections to wealthy businessmen, initially over an advantageous home loan from a friend's wife. He then faced claims he tried to hush up the story, as well as reports of free vacations accepted from friends.

The Obama administration’s newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
wants to begin monitoring and regulating debt collectors and credit bureaus for the first time. Richard Cordray, the agency’s director, said he wants to ensure people aren’t subjected to abusive practices.

An influential group of scientists issued a report this week
pressing U.S. officials to tighten regulations of so-called “fracking” operations to reduce environmental and health risks. The independent review of fracking by professors at the University of Texas in Austin said that the development of shale gas was "essential to the energy security of the U.S. and the world,” but added the process needs more oversight.

The recent brouhaha over a new federal rule that requires insurance coverage of birth control for women reveals that
the Roman Catholic Church has lost its influence in U.S. politics, some observers said. An AlterNet article noted that even though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops remains opposed to a compromise rule pushed by President Obama, many other Catholic groups — including the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Catholic Health Association — are ignoring the conference and accepting it.

Police in Fort Worth, Texas, have arrested 16 students in
a major drug bust at Texas Christian University, a conservative evangelical institution. The drugs involved included marijuana, ecstasy pills, a powdered form of ecstasy commonly called “molly” and prescription drugs such as Xanax, hydrocodone and Oxycontin. Four football players were among those arrested.

by German Lopez 07.18.2013
Posted In: News, Fracking, Environment at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Boom, Bust or Both?

Report: Ohio’s Fracking Protections Fall Short

Environment Ohio finds taxpayers could be forced to pay millions for cleanups

A report released today suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation.

The report from advocacy group Environment Ohio looks at the costs related to “fracking,” an extraction technique that involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to unlock oil and gas reserves.

Recent technological advancements have spurred a boom in fracking, leading to hundreds of new wells in Ohio and thousands more around the nation.

When oil and gas companies obtain a permit to build a fracking well, they typically have to provide some financial assurance to the state in case something goes wrong. In Ohio, that assurance comes through bonds and specific insurance requirements.

If a well operation is completed without a problem, the cost of the bonds is returned to the operator. If something goes wrong, the company has to fix the mess before it gets its money back.

But Environment Ohio finds companies in Ohio only have to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well. That’s not enough for a company to fear the financial consequences of a disaster, which means it could act recklessly with little disincentive, according to the report.

The report says that could pose a huge cost to taxpayers: Simply reclaiming a well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Actually paying for damages, such as contaminated groundwater and ruined roads, can cost millions.

Under normal circumstances, private and public entities could sue for the damages, but that’s unrealistic if a well operator goes bankrupt or is otherwise unwilling or incapable of paying.

Another potential problem: The bond payments are only held by the state until a well is plugged and the site is reclaimed to the satisfaction of state operators. That doesn’t account for health and environmental damages that can surface after a drilling operation ends, according to the report.

The issues are further compounded by loopholes, which allow companies to avoid bonding requirements altogether if they prove they hold a certain amount of in-state assets. Environment Ohio calls it an exceedingly easy test to meet.

In what it calls common sense reforms, Environment Ohio says the state should impose more assurances for longer periods of time. The organization favorably cites other states that require $250,000 in upfront bonds — much higher than Ohio’s $5,000. For companies, that would mean a much higher financial hurdle when taking on a fracking project, but the high cost could provide a powerful incentive to avoid dangerous risks.

The report also finds that insurance requirements in the state are weak, with operators required to fulfill a $5 million liability cap regardless of whether they’re running one well or 100.

The organization recommends Ohio work to build stricter financial and regulatory safeguards.

“At a minimum, Ohio needs an adequate severance tax to fund impacts on communities and provide a cushion for long-term risk management,” said Wendy Patton, director at left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement released by Environment Ohio.

An oil and gas severance tax was suggested by Republican Gov. John Kasich to pay for income tax cuts, but Republican legislators rejected the proposal.

The report’s findings were not exclusive to Ohio. It also found issues and suggested solutions for other states and the federal government, including a similar call for stronger bonding requirements on federal lands.

CityBeat covered the fracking boom and its effects on Ohio in further detail here.

by Danny Cross 07.06.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Steve Chabot’s self-righteous attempt to block federal streetcar funding found new criticism yesterday, as The Enquirer spoke to several credible sources who say his amendment is broad enough to affect federal funding for transportation projects beyond the streetcar, including bus lanes or ferries.

Mayor Mark Mallory and 3CDC representatives were scheduled to kick off a grand opening celebration of Washington Park at 10 a.m. this morning. The $48 million renovation includes an underground parking garage, concession building, dog park and concert space. A rally against the renovation and displacement of residents was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. CityBeat’s Mike Breen blogged away yesterday about the park’s scheduled weekly music series. 

It’s going to be another sucky hot weekend in Cincinnati.

U.S. hiring is being weak again.

Walgreens is buying mass drug store chains, preparing to cash in on that ObamaCare money. 

Brad Pitt’s mom wrote a pro-Mitt Romney, anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage letter to the editor of a Missouri newspaper. Brad, for the record, is pro-gay marriage and donated to the 2008 anti-Proposition 8 campaign in California. 

I have given much thought to Richard Stoecker’s letter (“Vote for Mormon against beliefs,” June 15). I am also a Christian and differ with the Mormon religion.

But I think any Christian should spend much time in prayer before refusing to vote for a family man with high morals, business experience, who is against abortion, and shares Christian conviction concerning homosexuality just because he is a Mormon.

Any Christian who does not vote or writes in a name is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama — a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer, and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage.

I hope all Christians give their vote prayerful consideration because voting is a sacred privilege and a serious responsibility.

First they were telling us that the Higgs boson is the building block of the universe. How Professor Peter Higgs says he has no idea what the discovery will mean in practical terms. Come on, Higgs!

Apparently 250,000 people are going to wake up without the Internet on Monday. 

Scientists believe they’ve created the most realistic robot legs ever.