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Ohio legislators appear ready to weaken environmental and energy regulations after months of lobbying by Akron, Ohio-based utility company FirstEnergy. The utility company argues the regulations, particularly energy efficiency standards that require customers use less electricity, cost businesses and customers too much money. But environmental groups and other supporters of the rules say FirstEnergy is just looking out for its own self-interests while putting up a front of caring about others. A study by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition found eliminating the energy efficiency standards would cost Ohioans $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years. State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s spearheading the regulation-weakening efforts, formally introduced his bill yesterday, and business groups say it’s a backdoor way to eliminate energy efficiency standards and the in-state renewable business by weakening them so much.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati on Tuesday announced it won a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of local efforts to draw down dirty energy production and replace it with clean sources. The Cincinnati area currently produces nearly 408 million kilowatt-hours through green energy sources, which is enough to cancel out nearly 60,000 cars’ emissions and meet 14 percent of the community’s purchased electricity use, according to city officials. To commemorate the award, Mayor Mark Mallory unveiled a Green Power Community sign at the Cincinnati Zoo, which installed solar panels on its parking lot in 2011 and became one of the region’s leading clean energy producers.Raw health insurance premiums for Obamacare’s online marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected, according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released less than one week before marketplaces open on Oct. 1. In Ohio, the average family of four making $50,000 a year will have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest “silver” plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax credits. Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to compare and purchase subsidized health insurance plans in the individual market. The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies. CityBeat covered outreach efforts for the online marketplaces — and Republican attempts to obstruct them — in further detail here.
Commentary: “Let Them Eat Nothing?”
The Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third party, yesterday endorsed Roxanne Qualls for mayor. The endorsement comes as little surprise to most election-watchers, considering the Charter Committee has endorsed Qualls four times over the years.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is displeased it couldn’t cover a private mayoral debate between Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley because the group hosting the debate closed its doors to the public.
Ohio Democrats yesterday made their endorsements for 2014: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for governor, former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper for attorney general, State Sen. Nina Turner for secretary of state, State Rep. Connie Pillich for state treasurer and Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell for the Ohio Supreme Court.
This infographic released by an anti-privatization group shows the negative impact of private prisons. CityBeat covered Ohio’s own privately owned prison and the problems it’s faced, including rising violence, in further detail here.
A federal grand jury charged a North Canton man for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Both candidates returned the campaign contributions after they became public in stories published by the Toledo Blade and The New Republic.
A 43-year-old Hamilton man allegedly used a poison-laced knife to stab his brother-in-law.
A supposedly sexist gorilla is getting kicked out of the Dallas Zoo after 18 years.
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
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).
Plan Cincinnati is expected to be approved by City Council Wednesday, according to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. The plan was unanimously approved by the Livable Communities committee last night. Plan Cincinnati, which is Cincinnati’s first comprehensive plan in 30 years, emphasizes the city’s urban center through new infrastructure, transportation options and goals to make downtown residents stay in the area. CityBeat previously covered the plan in greater detail here.
At the request of the sole Democrat on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, a vote on the 2013 budget is being delayed by one week. Commissioner Todd Portune asked Commission President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, for the vote delay to address funding to juvenile courts and plans for future financial stability. Hartmann agreed to the delay, noting consensus is important for budget issues. The budget won’t raise taxes, but it could put 150 Hamilton County employees out of jobs.
Wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of fluids used during the fracking process, will soon be popping up around Ohio again. The wells are the first to get state approval since earthquakes around Youngstown in December were blamed on nearby wastewater injection wells. It’s clear little — not even earthquakes — will stop Ohio’s fracking boom, but at what cost? It is generally accepted switching from coal to natural gas would bring down pollution that causes global warming, but some findings from Australia suggest problems still lay ahead. One study found an abnormal amount of greenhouse gases around an Australian fracking site. Methane leakage in particular is a problem at natural gas sites because over 100 years methane is 25 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Cincinnati home sales shot up in October, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors. The report paints a great picture for the city’s housing economy. Housing was one of the biggest sectors hit by the financial crisis of 2007-2008, so a recovery in housing is a sign the economic downturn could soon be a thing of the past.
University of Cincinnati researchers want to know if testing emergency-room patients for HIV makes sense. ER doctors worry about longer wait times, disrupted operations and possible interference with emergency services, but the health benefits could outweigh the negatives.
FirstGroup America is looking into moving from its Cincinnati headquarters. The company originally got a million-dollar tax incentive from the city for moving to downtown.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich hopes his rejection of Obamacare’s health exchanges will ignite some re-election fundraising. Kasich is up for re-election in 2014. Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace. With Kasich’s rejection, the federal government will manage Ohio’s exchange.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted finally had a good day in court on Saturday. In a reversal from the lower court’s ruling, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said ballots without proper identification should not be counted. It’s estimated that, at most, the ruling will affect about 2,000 votes.
A Dayton man allegedly robbed the same bank twice.
Behold, the greatest thing the internet has ever created: The Spice Kittens livestream.
With a nose cell transplant, paralyzed dogs are walking again.
What happens when tree-huggers go to school? You get “Green & Healthy Schools.”
ALLY: Alliance for Leadership and Interconnection is a “citizen’s group providing leadership coaching and strategic guidance for policy development and implementation of environmental sustainability programs.” According to their Web site. And their first significant action in 2004 was to begin the Growing Green and Healthy Schools Network.
Not long before Earth Day, Arbor Day and other green-focused days there’s a vast call for volunteers to do all kinds of thing from trash pick up to planting more green stuff. But after it’s all done, there’s little information provided about what was accomplished.
Do something other than veg out in front of the boob tube tomorrow night. Join a conversation about a topic on everyone’s mind: energy.
Tonight at 6 p.m. the Imago Earth Center (700 Enright Ave., Price Hill) kicks off its First Friday Conversations with a 20-minute video of Al Gore’s New Thinking on the Climate Crisis. Imago’s 2008-09 season features the year-long theme “Enhancing Earth by Getting ‘Off the Grid.’ ”
“Drawing on a broad understanding of ‘the grid,’ we’ll look at many aspects of unplugging from the current models of growth and consumption,” says an event announcement.
For more info, visit www.imagoearth.org or call 513-921-5124.
— Margo Pierce
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland will not run for governor in 2014. In a statement released today, the Democrat who previously served four years as governor did not give a reason for why he won’t run. But he did promise his wife and him will “continue to be politically active private citizens.” Strickland also touted his accomplishments as governor, including energy, health care, social services and property tax reform. In September, Strickland faced criticism from the left for pushing for the Democratic platform to include a mention of God and a proclamation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The platform amendment contradicts decades of U.S. foreign policy.
Hamilton County wants an efficiency review of the Metropolitan Sewer District. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel ordered the review. He says he expects “things at the Metropolitan Sewer District are being managed and operated in a highly efficient and effective manner,” but he wants to make sure. MSD is currently taking part in a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated upgraded system. CityBeat wrote about MSD’s green initiatives here.
Findlay Market might soon host Cincinnati’s first freestanding restroom. If it goes well, it could be the start of a much bigger city-wide project, and freestanding restrooms will be built all around downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The test facility is being touted by Councilman Chris Seelbach and other city officials as they seek to provide better access to restrooms throughout the city.
Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing a possible ethics investigation from the Ohio House of Representatives. The controversy was prompted by a recently filed lawsuit, which alleges Beck participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million.
Some local educators are supporting the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio. The rooms, which are enclosed spaces used to calm or restrain children who become violent, have come under criticism after an investigation from StateImpact Ohio and The Columbus Dispatch found the rooms were being abused for the convenience of staff. Ohio does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms, but that is likely to change in an upcoming Ohio Board of Education meeting.
On the bright side, Ohio has the 10th best education laws, according to a study from StudentsFirst. Overall, Ohio got a C-, making it one of the 12 states to get a B or C. No state received an A. StateImpact Ohio has more on the grade here. State officials probably understand how I felt when I dropped out of a college history class because the professor was too strict of a grader. Then again, state education systems are probably more important than Colonial History 101.
The Blue Wisp, home of the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is looking to renegotiate its lease. Over the holidays, restaurant hero and Blue Wisp manager Ed Felson told customers his jazz-themed restaurant and club is having financial problems.
The most emailed phrase while committing fraud at work is “cover up.”
One major problem with prolonged space missions: Humans become lazy and sleepy. It seems like being an astronaut isn’t different from any other job. Who can we rely on when aliens finally invade?
Construction to renovate the former IGA in Clifton's Gaslight district will come to a halt soon, and the future for the building remains uncertain; contractors told the Enquirer they'd finish working on the roof and then pull off the project. Steve Goessling, who purchased the property when it was vacated two years ago, says he plans on continuing to build out the building, but he doesn't have the $4.1 million he needs to make it happen. He recently hired Cassidy Turley to market the property to higher-end grocery chains.
It’s Monday, the most un-fun, unhappy day of the week. But smile: Here are 18 signs you’re doing better than you think.
The attorney general for the state of Missouri, Chris Koster, is talking about bringing back the use of gas chambers on death row inmates because he's worried about the state running out of lethal injection drugs.
Cincinnati had an entire month's worth of rainfall over the past week — 3.75 inches as of Sunday. The norm for July is 3.76 inches.
A near-record algae bloom is ensconcing the popular beaches of a coastal Chinese city with thick, bright green “sea lettuce,” as the locals call it. It’s not harmful to humans, but it does suffocate the marine life and kind of scares away tourists.
Two men with HIV now appear to now be virus-free after they received stem-cell transplants to treat their lymphoma.
Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute combed through 18,000 hours of deep-sea video footage and found the ocean seafloor around Monterey Bay is covered in trash.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has returned more than $100,000 in campaign contributions in response to an FBI investigation into 21 donors who had no record of giving to federal campaigns and many appearing to have low incomes. Mandel, a Republican, is running against incombent Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel's campaign treasurer Kathryn Kessler sent a letter to donors explaining that any contributions appearing to be under investigation would be refunded.
From The Toledo Blade:
Although the campaign provided a copy of the letter to The Blade, it would not explain the timing of the decision or how long it has been aware of the federal probe.
The Blade revealed the unusual pattern of contributions in August.
The company's owner, Benjamin Suarez, and 16 of his employees (plus some of their spouses) gave about $200,000 to Mr. Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth) last year. Each of those donors gave $5,000, the maximum allowable amount, to one or both candidates.
The Ohio Senate yesterday passed new fracking regulations, and the final version caused some environmental organizations to change their stance on the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club had both been neutral on the legislation until changes were made forcing anyone suing over chemical trade secrets to show current or potential harm, according to The Enquirer. The regulations are part of Kasich's new energy bill and easily passed both the Senate and House and is expected to be signed by Kasich soon.
Cincinnati Public Schools says it will apply for the latest available federal education grants, which amount to nearly $700 million. The grants are geared toward helping schools proceed with reform and innovation.
The John Edwards trial has entered day six of deliberations.
United Nations inspectors have reportedly found uranium in Iran enriched beyond the highest levels previously reported. One diplomat said the measure could actually be a measurement error, though the reading could also mean that Iran is closer to producing bomb-grade uranium than previously thought.
Scientists might be one step closer to creating birth control for men after U.K. scientists found a gene used to enable sperm to mature.
Facebook's initial public offering didn't go entirely as expected, and some investors are getting refunds after technical problems and other issues marred the company's first week of trading.
The Reds completed a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves last night, winning their sixth in a row and overtaking the St. Louis Cardinal for first place in the NL Central.
A coalition of groups participated in the "Clean Energy Day of Action" event Monday. Despite the heavy snowfall, attendees gathered on downtown's Fountain Square to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive clean energy and climate plan this spring.
The event -- part of the Cincinnati for Clean Energy Campaign -- was organized by members from the Blue Green Alliance, a partnership between environmental organizations and labor unions.