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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Radical anti-abortion group Personhood Ohio tried
fundraising for its cause — to outlaw all abortions — by selling assault
rifles. CINCINNATI -2
by German Lopez
Medical marijuana may be on ballot, mayor reduces layoffs, budget hearing tonight
The Ohio Rights Group could be asking voters to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp statewide
in 2013 or 2014. The Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati says
drug approval should be up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
but that may not matter because polls so far shows medical marijuana
getting widespread approval from Ohio voters. The Ohio Rights Group
argues its amendment would help Ohioans by opening up better health
treatments and boosting the economy. Whether that will be enough to land
the issue on the ballot remains to be seen.Mayor Mark Mallory revised the city manager’s budget plan
to carry out less layoffs but more cuts to outside spending and
recreation centers. Mallory's changes will restore 18 firefighter
positions, 17 police positions, three inspector positions at the Health
Department and two positions at the Law Department, reducing the total
layoffs to 161, with 49 of those being police positions and 53 being
firefighter positions. But it will come with more cuts to third-party
agencies, including the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Center
for Closing the Health Gap and Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of
Commerce, and two closed recreation centers. The plan will also use
about $500,000 in recently discovered revenue. Mallory said the layoffs and cuts have to be made in part because of multiple outside factors, including reduced state funding and courts holding up the city's parking plan.The first hearing on the city's fiscal year 2014 budget proposals will be tonight at the Duke Energy Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. The public will be asked to give feedback on the budget plan put forward by the city manager and mayor, which would lay off 161 city employees, including cops and firefighters, to help balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit.CityBeat editorial: "Cincinnati's 1 Percent."The Ohio Department of Transportation has raised its estimated price for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project by about $10 million to $30 million after meetings with business owners in Cincinnati's uptown area. It's so far unclear how the project's costs will be divided between the city, state and federal governments. Originally, Cincinnati was looking to pay for its share of the project through its plan to lease the city's parking assets, but that plan is being held up in court.City
Council approved a resolution yesterday supporting a statewide ban on
injection wells used to dispose wastewater during the hydraulic
fracturing — "fracking" — process, a drilling process that injects
millions of gallons of water underground to unlock natural gas and oil
reserves. The injection wells are a vital part of a fracking boom that
has helped revitalize economies in Ohio and other states and could help combat climate change,
but environmentalists and health advocates are concerned about the
unintended consequences the wells could have on nearby water sources ("Boom, Bust or Both?" in issue of June 6, 2012).The Ohio House approved changes to the state's third grade reading requirement that will relax standards teachers must meet to provide reading instruction and tutoring services for young students. The current law requires teachers to have taught reading for at least three years, but the bill approved by the Ohio House would eliminate that requirement.Mayoral candidate John Cranley says choosing Cincinnati's next police chief should wait until the next mayor is elected in November.The Hamilton County Board of Elections sent two more voter fraud cases to the prosecutor, but the question remains whether the dozens of people who filed provisional ballots and absentee ballots are actually in the wrong — an issue that will be ultimately decided by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Top public safety issues are urging schools not to arm teachers to protect students from gun violence. CityBeat previously found that arming teachers is not supported by research.Ohioans, including CityBeat’s most dazzling staff member, apparently enjoy swearing.Before the IRS harassed tea party groups, it harassed gay rights groups.No further explanation necessary: "Police: Man used grenade to rob Hamilton bank."Scientists have created the first cloned human embryo.A new laser scanner can detect someone watching you from a kilometer away.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
A new interactive map shows hydraulic
fracturing, or “fracking,” is flourishing in U.S. areas where water is
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 German Lopez
City officials warn of budget cuts, budget woes pinned on Kasich, fracking causes earthquake
Yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler gave a ruling that effectively opened the parking plan to referendum, but city officials said the decision poses major fiscal and legal challenges to the city.
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the lack of
a parking plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance fiscal
year 2014’s budget in time for July 1, and City Solicitor John Curp said
the ruling, which concludes emergency clauses do not eliminate the
possibility of a referendum, greatly hinder the city’s ability to
expedite the implementation of laws. The parking plan, which was
previously approved by City Council, would lease the city’s parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund economic development projects,
but the court ruling means the plan must be put on hold at least until a
referendum effort is complete.
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes. In a statement, Chris Redfern,
chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “Make no mistake, the only
reason Cincinnati has been forced to debate firing hundreds of police
and firefighters is because Gov. Kasich cut tens of millions of dollars
to the city in his last state budget. As communities like Cincinnati
struggle to deal with the last round of cuts, Kasich’s at it again,
proposing to steal another $200 million from local communities to help
pay for tax giveaways to the rich. If Kasich gets his way and passes his
proposed handout to his friends, more communities across the state will
see layoffs, skyrocketing local tax levies, and deep cuts to schools.”
Kasich’s local government funding cuts have caused Cincinnati to lose
$40.7 million in state funding over two years, according to Policy Matters Ohio. CityBeat covered Kasich’s local government funding cuts here and his budget proposal here.
A study found a wastewater injection well used for fracking caused Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake.
The findings echo fears from Youngstown residents, who experienced an
earthquake early in 2012 that was pinned on nearby wastewater injection
wells, which are used to dispose of waste produced during the fracking process. CityBeat
covered fracking, the relatively new drilling technique that injects water
underground to open up oil and gas reserves, in further detail here.
In private budget news, a survey by Card Hub found Cincinnati residents have some of the nation’s worst budgeting habits.
In the 30-city survey, Cincinnati ranked No. 28 for budgeting habits,
ahead of only Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. Boston was ranked No. 1 in
The Port Authority is carrying out a demolition in Jordan Crossing that will pave the way
for $75 million in redevelopment. Mayor Mark Mallory described his
experience with the development, “This has been a source of frustration,
but also a source of hope. … This area is prime for job creation and
State legislators are once again trying to get student members of schools’ board of trustees the ability to vote
— a move that would empower students in public universities. The bill
was introduced last year, but it died a slow death after facing
opposition from administrators at Ohio University and Bowling Green
State University. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio State officials reportedly
support the idea.
A Sunday school teacher at a local church near Dayton was fired after declaring her support for same-sex marriage.
Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Meridian Bioscience Inc. were named among the country’s most trustworthy firms.
Headline: Man accused of using fake penis for drug test.
New national science education guidelines say climate change should be in classrooms.
Caffeine-addicted bacteria die if they get decaf. Scientists say they want to use the bacteria to clean caffeine-polluted waterways.
While state legislators overhaul Ohio’s energy industry, questions about the sustainability and safety of fracking go unanswered
2 Comments · Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Ohio's rush to embrace fracking has raised questions about the
sustainability and safety of the process during a time when legislators are
moving full-speed ahead with legislation that will regulate the
industry for the next 20 years — if it lasts that long.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has revoked
operating permits from D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating after they
were both discovered to have illegally dumped thousands of gallons of
fracking waste into a storm drain in Youngstown, which eventually
emptied into the Mahoning River. CINCINNATI -2
by German Lopez
LGBT supporter loses job, Terhar remains board president, local schools scrubbed data
A Purcell Marian High School administrator was fired
for declaring his public support for same-sex marriage. Mike Moroski,
who was the assistant principal at the Catholic school, wrote about his
support for LGBT equality on his personal blog.
Following the blog post, Moroski claims he was given an ultimatum by
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to resign or recant his statements. CityBeat covered same-sex marriage and the amendment that could bring marriage equality to Ohio here.
A board vote failed to remove State Board of Education President Debe Terhar from her position. In response, Ohio Democrats filed a lawsuit
seeking access to her cell phone and other records. Terhar has been
receiving heavy criticism for a Facebook post that compared President
Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. CityBeat wrote about Terhar’s ridiculous Facebook post here.
Cincinnati Public Schools and Winton Woods City Schools were among nine city school districts found to be scrubbing attendance data
by the state auditor. The school districts claim most the errors were
simple mistakes, not intentional manipulation of data. Both the auditor
and schools agree state policy is too confusing and must change.
The city of Cincinnati is beginning the process of sorting through construction bids for the streetcar. Three bids ranging from $71 million to $87 million have already come to light, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The bids could push up the price tag on the streetcar, but
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, cautions the process is barely starting. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.
Cincinnati is speeding up the demolitions of condemned buildings this year, particularly buildings near schools and family zones.
A new report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found
employment in the shale industry was up 17 percent in the first quarter
of 2012. Critics caution the jobs aren’t worth the risks —
pointing to a number of environmental and health concerns related to hydraulic
fracturing, or “fracking.” CityBeat wrote about fracking and its extensive problems here.
One in 25 students in Columbus schools are restrained or secluded.
The state’s lax seclusion policies have been under heavy criticism in
the past year following the discovery that school staff were using
seclusion for convenience, not just to restrain students.
On Wednesday, Metro staff will be holding a security
exercise meant to gauge counterterrorism capabilities. Metro bus service
will not be affected.
The Horseshoe Casino pays homage to Liuzhou, China — Cincinnati’s sister city of 25 years.
The chief curator resigned from the Cincinnati Art Museum.
A Cincinnati woman was charged with helping her daughter beat up a student during a classroom brawl.
Curiosity is officially the first robot to drill another planet.