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Energy announced Thursday night that it will help fund a campaign to raise private and government money to replace the outdated Brent Spence Bridge.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.
The final ratification of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact came Oct. 3 when President Bush signed the joint resolution of Congress. The law is now on the books, even though some in Ohio who support Issue 3 – the constitutional amendment to guarantee property owners the right to reasonable use of their land (see my news article "No One Owns Water") – claim passage is needed to enact the law.
“The compact provides a comprehensive management framework for achieving sustainable water use and resource protection,” according to a pres release from the Council of Great Lakes Governors. “The eight Great Lakes states reached a similar good faith, agreement with Ontario and Québec in 2005, which the provinces are using to amend their existing water programs for greater regional consistency.”
The compact includes the following points:
Economic development will be fostered through
sustainable use and responsible management of basin waters.
In general, there will be a ban on new diversions of water from the basin but limited exceptions could be allowed in communities near the basin when rigorous standards are met.
Communities that apply for an exception will have a
clear, predictable decision making process, standards to be met and,
opportunities to appeal decisions. These processes and standards do not
exist under current law.
states will use a consistent standard to review proposed uses of basin
water. The states will have flexibility regarding their water management
programs and how to apply this standard.
Regional goals and objectives for water conservation and efficiency will be developed, and they will be reviewed every five years. Each state will develop and implement a water conservation and efficiency program that may be voluntary or mandatory.
There is a strong commitment to continued public involvement in the implementation of the compact.
For more information, visit www.cglg.org.
— Margo Pierce
Ingenuity, creativity, the determination to succeed – this is the stuff of innovation that people brag about when advances in technology or positive change are highlighted. Finding a solution for an impossible situation ups the value of these bragging rights, but what drives it all is the unshakable motivation to get to a new solution.
Remember when car manufacturers balked at the idea of making cars that would get – gasp – 30 miles to the gallon? Innovation was forced on the automobile industry because they were content to remain with the status quo, regardless of consequences. Reliance on coal and other fossil fuels is the current equivalent to status-quo complacency and Ohio ranks at the top, or bottom, of the list of a dangerous status quo – coal ash.
New coal plants proposed for Ohio will rank the Buckeye state the eighth highest polluter because of the plants would add 3, 711,616 tons of new coal ash waste.
“According to a new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the 15 states that would be the biggest polluters — the “Filthy 15”— have proposals for 54 coal plants and would create nearly 14 million tons of dangerous waste,” says a press release from the council. “Proposed coal plants across the United States would produce nearly 18 million tons of dangerous waste, including toxic metals, each year. Nearly 130 million tons of coal waste from existing plants is being produced annually, most of which is disposed of in largely unregulated landfills, ponds and other locations, posing serious public health and environmental risks.”
In conjunction with the new analysis, NRDC has released a new Web site that includes a state-by-state breakdown of the total amount annually of waste, including toxic metals, from existing and proposed plants. Go to: http://www.nrdc.org/energy/coalwaste.
Others with the distinction of being included in the Filty 15 are, in order, Texas, South Dakota, Florida, Nevada, Montana, Illinois, South Carolina, Ohio, Wyoming, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, Georgia and West Virginia.
“Coal waste poses a large and unnecessary risk to people’s health and the environment, and we need to act before another Kingston disaster strikes,” says Peter Lehner, executive director of NRDC, “The EPA took a big step forward this week by announcing it will regulate coal ash, but they need to quickly examine how coal waste is handled and ensure proper management and disposal are in place at all new plants.”
The EPA recently announced it will finally begin to regulate coal ash. The action is too late for Kingston, Tennessee where 1 billion gallons of coal ash contained in a storage pond flowed through a breach in the walls into local waterways in December 2008. However, many states currently allow coal waste to be dumped, without oversight, into poorly constructed ponds, landfills and even abandoned mines.
“There are cleaner, safer and more sustainable energy choices available,” said Lehner. “America should be moving toward energy efficiency and renewable energy sources that will drive our economic recovery and meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”
The EPA identified 24 sites in 13 states that are known or suspected to be contaminated by coal ash. Toxic metals—like arsenic, mercury, lead, and other toxic substances – are frequently found in coal waste. Serious public health risks to people, especially children, include cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems, damage to the nervous system and kidneys, and learning disabilities.
Take a few moments to visit the Web site and learn about the impact these proposed coal power plants will have. Then write to your state representatives and demand that alternative and safer forms of energy be found – force innovation with your voice!
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and 10 other individuals and organizations filed a letter today asking the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to strengthen its rules for wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater produced during fracking.
NRDC says the tougher regulations could prevent more incidents like the earthquakes experienced in Youngstown, Ohio around New Year’s Eve. The earthquakes were linked to wastewater injection wells in the Youngstown area.
Tougher regulations could also prevent water contamination,
according to the letter. Recent investigations have found that
wastewater disposed in injection wells might be seeping through the ground
and leaking into the surface or contaminating nearby water sources. But Heidi Hetzel-Evans, spokesperson for ODNR, says regulators have not recorded any groundwater contamination from Class II injection wells in Ohio since ODNR took over the program in 1983.
The structure of injection wells is also a concern. In the letter, the organization calls for tougher injection well standards that ensure the wells can withstand corrosive effects from fluids deposited in injection wells and any hydraulic pressure experienced during the dumping and storing process. With these standards, it would be much more difficult for wastewater to leak through the wells.
The letter includes additional recommendations that ask for clearer minimum standards, more water tests, checkups on wells, more protections for landowners near injection wells, and more. The full recommendations can be read in the letter here.
The call for more regulation is largely in response to new rules that Gov. John
Kasich signed in with an executive order on July 12. Hetzel-Evans defended the current rules by pointing out they are flexible yet often stronger than minimum requirements from the Environmental
Hetzel-Evans has not been able to see the full suggestions in the letter yet, but she says one of the strengths of the current rules is that they don’t burden operators with unnecessary tests. She cited the example of some wells being way too shallow for earthquake activity to be an issue. Seismic testings in those wells would serve no purpose, she says.
Cincinnati City Council recently banned wastewater
injection wells within city limits. But ODNR has received no permit
requests for wastewater injection wells in southwestern Ohio.
Hetzel-Evans says southwestern Ohio’s geology makes any shale drilling
and wastewater injection wells unfeasible.
Ohio ranked No. 8 among states for solar jobs in 2013, with solar employment growing to 3,800 from 2,900 over the year, according to the Feb. 11 census report from the Solar Foundation.
Still, the state actually dropped five spots to No. 23 in per-capita rankings, which measure the amount of solar jobs relative to a state’s overall population.
The U.S. solar industry employed more than 142,000 Americans in November, representing an increase of nearly 24,000 over the year, according to the Solar Foundation. At nearly 20 percent growth, the solar sector grew more than 10 times faster than the overall economy, which on average increased employment by 1.9 percent.
Advocacy group Environment Ohio applauded the latest numbers.
“The sun is an unlimited energy source that could provide all of our energy without the air and water pollution associated with coal, oil and gas,” said Christian Adams, state associate at Environment Ohio, in a statement. “This report shows that the solar industry is putting people to work to meet a growing percentage of our energy needs with a pollution-free energy source that has no fuel costs.”
Environment Ohio praised Cincinnati in particular. In 2012, Cincinnati became the first major city in the nation to support 100 percent renewable energy through electric aggregation. Last year, City Council adopted a motion to put solar panels on one in five city rooftops by 2028 and develop new financing programs to support the goal.
In a 2012 report, Environment Ohio found Cincinnati could become the solar capital of the region and lead a boom of solar jobs.
Under a 2008 state law, utility companies must meet benchmarks that require them to get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, biomass and solar, and save 22 percent of electricity through new efficiency efforts by 2025.
A 2013 report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found the law will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014 and 2025.
Pressured by Akron-based FirstEnergy and the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is currently looking for ways to weaken the renewable energy and efficiency standards. The renewed effort comes after attempts to dismantle the law by State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who often compare Ohio’s energy law to Stalinism, failed to gain support.
Meanwhile, Environment Ohio says the state should actually increase its standards to help combat global warming and boost renewable energy jobs.
Cleveland officials are apparently trying to outlaw flash mobs, describing them as violent, unruly terrorizing of communities and family-friendly events. That's not how AT&T presents them in this cell phone commercial.
Ohio’s fracking boom might not be living up to the hype. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources originally estimated that 250 fracking wells would be built by the end of the year, but only 165 have been completed and 22 are currently being built. The disappointing results are being blamed on low natural gas prices and a backlog in work needed to connect wells to customers. Maybe the state’s claim had as much basis as Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s claim that the state’s fracking boom would be worth $1 trillion.
By killing the heartbeat bill and a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, apparently declared a war on babies, according to anti-abortion groups. Niehaus is term-limited, so he will not be in the Ohio Senate in the next session, which begins next year. Incoming senate president Keith Faber already said the heartbeat bill could come up to vote in the next Senate session. CityBeat previously wrote about Ohio Republicans’ renewed anti-abortion agenda.
Between 2011 and 2012, Cincinnati had the 12th best economic performance in the United States, according to a Brookings Institute study. Out of the 76 metropolitan areas looked at, only Dallas; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Pittsburgh have recovered from the recession, and 20 areas lost more ground throughout the year.Media Bridges, Cincinnati’s public access media outlet, is the latest victim of the 2013 budget proposal from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. The budget plan suggests slashing $300,000 from the organization’s funding. When coupled with state funding cuts, Media Bridges is losing $498,000 in funding, or 85 percent of its budget. Tom Bishop, executive director of Media Bridges, compared the cuts to a “meteor” hitting Media Bridges’ budget. The city says cuts were suggested in part due to public feedback.
The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is pushing the public to speak out against $610,770 in cuts to human services funding in Dohoney’s proposed budget. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council have already agreed to continue 2013 funding at 2012 levels, but homeless advocates want to make sure the funding, which largely helps the homeless and low-income families, remains. The group is calling for supporters to attend City Council meetings on Dec. 5 at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Corryville Recreation Center.
It’s commonly said Cincinnati is Republican territory, but after the latest elections, that’s looking more and more false.
The University of Cincinnati is stepping up safety efforts around campus. The university held a summit to gather public feedback on possible improvements in light of recent incidents in and around campus. Beginning in January, UC will increase patrols by 30 percent.
Crime around Columbus’ Hollywood Casino has ticked up. Could Cincinnati face a similar fate when the Horseshoe Casino is up and running? A Washington Post analysis found casinos bring in jobs, but also bankruptcy, crime and even suicide.
Results equal funding. That’s the approach Gov. Kasich is taking to funding higher education, but Inside Higher Ed says the approach is part of “an emerging Republican approach to higher education policy, built largely around cost-cutting.” Kasich’s approach is meant to encourage better results by providing higher funds to schools with higher graduation rates, but schools with funding problems and lower graduation rates could have their problems exacerbated.
Josh Mandel, state treasurer and former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, insists his big loss in November does not make him a political has-been. Mandel will be pursuing a second term at the Ohio treasurer’s office in 2014. Mandel lost the Senate race despite getting massive amounts of funding from third parties — Democrats estimate $40 million — to support his campaign.
The auto industry is still chugging along with impressive numbers from November.
Gas prices moved down in Ohio this week.
One geneticist says people are getting dumber, but he doesn’t seem to have much to back his claims up.
The study, released by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), claims methane emissions given off during natural gas production are as low as half of what the EPA is estimating. The study arrived just in time for a June 19 congressional hearing in which industry officials are testifying in defense of natural gas production and fracking, a relatively new drilling process that involves pumping thousands of gallons of water underground to break up shale formations in order to release natural gas and oil.
The nonprofit environmental group Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) has questioned the methodology behind the study. One criticism is that the study only covers 20 out of hundreds of oil and gas operators. This makes the study “statistically invalid,” according to Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering at Cornell University and a member of PSE.
Ingraffea also says questions for the study were framed poorly. In one example, he pointed out that the study gave survey-takers, which work within the oil and gas industry, EPA estimates of methane emissions. Given the industry’s interest in making sure methane emissions are low, this could have “coached” survey-takers into giving lower estimates, according to Ingraffea.
Ingraffea says he would have preferred a study that randomly samples a larger number of operators from all over the country with more objective questions. That, he says, would have produced much more credible results.
Ingraffea also emphasizes that the data from this study is made up of estimates derived by mathematical equations, not any actual measurements taken from the field.
“No one, with one exception, has actually gone out into the field and made measurements,” he says.
The one exception is a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that was published February in the Journal of Geophysical Research. The NOAA study measured Colorado gas wells in an attempt to get more accurate data than what the EPA and the industry have been providing. The measurements showed methane emissions were at least twice as large as what the EPA was previously estimating, leading NOAA researchers to conclude the EPA is greatly underestimating emissions, a stark contrast to the API/ANGA study.