by German Lopez
71 days ago
Another LGBT battle could reach court, Cranley crafts parking plan, fracking tax bill revised
A federal court in Cincinnati could soon decide whether
married same-sex parents should be recognized by Ohio on their
children’s birth certificates. Civil rights attorney Alphonse
Gerhardstein filed the lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples who
married outside the state and an adoption agency that helped one of the
couples adopt a child in Ohio. The lawsuit argues leaving one parent
unnamed perpetuates harmful social stigmas and potentially endangers a
child’s life by making it more difficult for a parent to get his child
help in case of emergencies. Although opponents of LGBT rights argue allowing gay couples to adopt hurts children, the research suggests widespread discrimination and same-sex parents’ limited rights are the real threats to gay couples’ sons and daughters.Mayor John Cranley is crafting a new plan to upgrade
Cincinnati’s parking system while retaining local control. Under the
drafted plan analyzed by The Business Courier, the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority would issue $25 million in bonds backed by
parking revenues. To pay for the new costs, parking meter rates in
neighborhoods — but not downtown — would increase by 25 cents per hour
to 75 cents per hour, and the city would hire more officers to increase
enforcement. The new parking meters would take credit card payments, but
smartphone payments currently aren’t in the plan.A revised version of the Ohio House’s fracking tax bill
increases the severance tax on oil and gas companies but cuts the income
tax more and directs funding to areas most affected by the state’s oil
and gas boom. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of
gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock
oil and gas reserves. Following its widespread adoption, the United
States, including Ohio, began pumping out natural gas at record levels.
But critics worry the technique could pollute and contaminate
surrounding air and water resources. CityBeat covered fracking in greater detail here.As a result of the harsh winter, Cincinnati’s winter
shelter for the homeless has been extra busy this year. Some City
Council members appear to be considering a more standardized funding
plan for the shelter, which traditionally relies largely on private
funding.The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade will take a slight detour this year to avoid streetcar construction.No surprise here: Ohio is among the worst states for funding transit projects.Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland want to know what it
would take to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, which will
name the GOP’s presidential candidate.Fixing food deserts alone won’t make people eat healthier, a new study found.A Los Angeles newscaster mixed up Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne.Astronomers say they found the oldest known star in the
universe. At more than 13 billion years old, the star is about three
times the age of the Sun.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
77 days ago
New parking deal soon, warden denies botched execution, fracking tax bill under works
Mayor John Cranley appears to be working on another
parking deal to upgrade Cincinnati’s parking meters, although the
mayor’s office says this plan won’t give up control of the city’s parking
meters to a private entity. At the same time, it seems the deal won’t
produce a large lump-sum like the defunct parking privatization plan
did. Cranley and other opponents of the old parking plan have long said
that, even without privatization, the city’s parking meters need to be
upgraded to accept credit card payments, among other modern features.The warden who oversaw Dennis McGuire’s 26-minute,
seemingly painful execution says it went “very well.” The execution, the
longest since Ohio restarted use of the death penalty in 1999, drew
international attention, particularly because many blamed the long time
to kill on the state’s use of a cocktail of drugs never tried before in
the United States. The warden’s statements essentially reject those
concerns. Still, state officials say they’re conducting a third review
of McGuire’s execution in particular, which is apparently uncommon. CityBeat covered the execution in further detail here.An Ohio House bill could boost funding to local
governments affected by the fracking boom by hiking the severance tax on
oil and gas companies. Fracking is a drilling technique in which
millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground
to unlock oil and gas reserves. Its widespread use has spurred an
economic boom across the country, including northeast Ohio. While it’s
boosted the overall economy, it’s also raised environmental and
displacement concerns, particularly in areas where the boom is most
active. CityBeat covered the fracking boom in further detail here.In response to complaints about slow snow plowing, the
city tweeted, “We’ve got 2,800+ lane miles to clear. It’s going to take
some time. Please, go slow & be patient today as our crews work
’round-the-clock.”In light of yesterday’s “debate” over evolution and biblical creationism, here are four things the anti-science crowd denies.An Ohio Senate bill would prohibit sales of e-cigarettes
to those younger than 18, but some anti-smoking activists worry the
bill’s classification of e-cigarettes as an “alternative nicotine
product” instead of a tobacco product could loosen regulations on the potentially
cancer-causing product.Meanwhile, CVS plans to stop selling tobacco products as it focuses more on health care.Ohio’s standardized tests for grades 3-8 could be delayed after winter storms forced so many school closings.The Cincinnati Fire Department is looking into the
possibility of using drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — in the future
through a partnership with the University of Cincinnati.A Salvadoran newspaper used a drone to cover a presidential election.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
86 days ago
Elections board could move, bill allows armed teachers, fracking waste could move on river
The Hamilton County Board of Elections plans to decide
today whether it will move its offices and early voting from downtown to
Mount Airy. The two Democrats on the board argue moving the offices
would push early voting away from public transportation options and
the city’s core, while the two Republicans claim it’s “good government”
because the Mount Airy site consolidates county services with the
coroner’s office and includes free parking. In the event of a tie
between Democrats and Republicans, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a
Republican, will break the tie. Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, proposed
an alternative site downtown on Thursday, but at least one Republican
county official said it wasn’t enough to meet the county’s needs.One of the Republicans on the board resigned as the city’s lobbyist to avoid a conflict of interest prior to
today’s vote.The Republican-controlled Ohio House last week approved a
bill that would allow school boards to designate school employees to
carry concealed firearms and prohibit school boards from releasing the
names of those employees. Republicans argue the proposal will help make
schools safer against would-be shooters. But several studies indicate
more guns lead to more gun-related violence. A 2009 ABC News special also
found even trained gun-wielders fail to properly react in the event of a
shooting.Fracking waste could soon move through barges on the Ohio
River, depending on an incoming decision from the U.S. Coast Guard.
During the fracking process, drillers pump millions of gallons of water,
sand and chemicals underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. But some
of that water returns to the surface, and that wastewater needs to be
dumped somewhere. Oil and gas companies support the allowance of river
barges as a potentially cheaper transportation option for the
wastewater. But environmentalists, emergency response experts and other critics argue a spill on the Ohio River could cause widespread damage
as toxic wastewater flows down a river many communities tap into for
drinking water.Citing research from Pennsylvania fracking sites, some
advocates argue Ohio officials should take another look at whether
radiation from Ohio’s fracking operations is affecting surrounding
landfills and aquifers.Work at The Banks continues despite a debate over buildings’ heights.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center significantly improved outcomes for teens with asthma, according to a Pediatrics study.Warning: Some Ohioans have been targeted by utility bill scams.Ohio gas prices remained relatively steady at the start of the week.Popular physicist Stephen Hawking argues there are no black holes, but other physicists appear skeptical of Hawking’s claims.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
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
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.
recommends Ohio work to build stricter financial and regulatory
“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
CityBeat covered the fracking boom and its effects on Ohio in further detail here.
by German Lopez
City debt outlook worsens, Port apologizes for email about parking memo, fracking tax fails
It may become more expensive for the city to issue debt after Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond rating.
The credit rating agency pinned the blame on the city’s exposure to
local and state retirement systems, as well as the city’s reliance since
2001 on one-time sources to balance the operating budget. Still,
Moody’s does give the city some credit for its economically diverse
population and recently stabilized earnings tax, despite docking the city for bad socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s CEO Laura Brunner is apologizing to the public and council members
following the exposure of an email that implied she was trying to keep a
critical parking memo away from public sight. Brunner says she was just trying
to buy time so she could directly show the memo to the Port Authority’s
board before it was reported by news outlets, but she acknowledges that
her email was ill-conceived and came off as an attempt to stifle
transparency. The memo suggests Cincinnati is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Port Authority and several private operators, but the Port Authority and city officials argue the memo is outdated and full of technical errors.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report detailing political contributions from oil and gas companies
that may have helped bring down a state “fracking tax,” which was supposed to
raise state revenue from Ohio’s ongoing oil and gas boom. Apparently,
many of the Republican legislators who staunchly opposed the oil and gas
severance tax also took in a lot of money from the same companies who
would have to pay up. The tax proposal was effectively dead on arrival,
even with the hyperbolic support of Republican Gov. John Kasich. Fracking is an
extraction technique that pumps millions of gallons of water underground
to free up oil and gas. CityBeat covered its effects on Ohio in further detail here.
Water utility leaders are meeting in Cincinnati this week to discuss sustainable business models.
In Cincinnati, water usage has dropped while expenses to treat water
and waste water have escalated, causing the Metropolitan Sewer District
to take in less money. The conference will discuss models that can
adjust around this trend while keeping rates low for customers.
The owners of The Hanke Exchange, a collection of buildings in Over-the-Rhine, say occupancy is going up
as a result of the promise of the Cincinnati streetcar. The property is
now at 84 percent occupancy rate, up from 28 percent three years ago.
Dayton and Cincinnati will hold rallies Saturday showing support for Trayvon Martin,
the unarmed black 17-year-old who was killed by George Zimmerman last
year. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder by a jury last Saturday.
Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general, was confirmed to direct the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the top agency that will regulate the financial institutions that played a role in causing the Great Recession.
The Hamilton County Young Democrats are hosting a free event
today to meet Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner, who’s also running for
secretary of state next year against Republican incumbent Jon Husted.
If the sun suddenly went out, humanity could take a few weeks to die out and perhaps live in Iceland.
by German Lopez
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 Hannah McCartney
Posted In: News
at 11:18 AM | Permalink
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.
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The first in a series of nine events in
cities across Ohio, culminating with a rally at the Columbus statehouse,
kicked off in Cincinnati last week to protest the use of fracking
across the state of Ohio.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Among other things, Friday, April 20 marked the two-year
anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which leaked nearly
5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico before the well
was plugged. Disturbing accounts of deformed aquatic life have recently
surfaced, including fish plagued with mysterious ulcers, eyeless shrimp
and crabs missing legs.