0 Comments · Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Fracking, the controversial process to used to release
natural gas for collection, drives the narrative of the new Gus Van Sant
film, written by co-stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, but the issue,
which widens the already cavernous divide between Democrats and
Republicans, never truly takes center stage.
Recaps of six cover stories people talked about in 2012
1 Comment · Thursday, December 27, 2012
CityBeat covered a variety of topics in 2012. Here are the stories that really stuck through, from the former pit bull ban to the Anna Louise Inn to private prisons.
by Andy Brownfield
Cincinnati asks state to overturn law preventing cities from regulating oil and gas drilling
Cincinnati City Council continued its effort to prevent a
controversial method of drilling for oil and gas by passing a resolution
on Wednesday asking the state to allow the city to make its own
The resolution expresses council’s dissatisfaction with
the Ohio Legislature for granting “special privileges to the oil and
natural gas industry” and asks it to repeal any laws that pre-empt local
control over drilling.
The resolution targets the controversial practice of
hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” which uses chemically-laced water to
free up natural gas trapped in shale formations underneath Ohio.
Fracking opponents worry that the chemicals used in the
fluid — which companies aren’t required to disclose — can be toxic to
people and animals.
Prior to the council vote, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan held a news conference on the steps of City
“I believe local officials should have a say on all
matters related to potentially hazardous activities such as fracking,”
Quinlivan said in an emailed statement. “I urge my colleagues to send a strong message to the Ohio
Governor, the Ohio Legislature, and Cincinnati residents by passing
A 2004 state law puts regulation of oil and gas drilling
under the state’s purview, preventing municipalities from regulating
drilling on their land.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to Gov. John Kasich
and members of the Ohio General Assembly elected from the Cincinnati
area. The resolution comes after Ohio recently lifted a
moratorium on new injection wells, which shoot wastewater deep
underground for storage.
There had been a temporary ban on new wells almost a year
ago after seismologists said an injection was to blame for 11
earthquakes around the Youngstown area.
City council in August passed an ordinance to band
injection wells within city limits. Because the injection well ban
doesn’t mention drilling, council hoped it wouldn’t clash with the state
law preventing local regulation of oil and gas drilling.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) has officially
come out against Gov. John Kasich’s plan to tax oil and gas production.
The move from the Republican-leaning agricultural group is yet another
blow to Kasich’s tax plan, which raises the severance tax on the
oil-and-gas industry to pay for a cut to Ohio’s income tax.
by German Lopez
Qualls to run for mayor, city budget proposal raises taxes, local fracking control demanded
It will soon be official. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will announce her mayoral campaign on Thursday at 10 a.m. Qualls has already announced her candidacy and platform on her website.
Qualls will be joined by term-limited Mayor Mark Mallory, which could
indicate support from the popular mayor. Right now, Qualls’ only known
opponent is former Democratic city councilman John Cranley, who has
spoken out against the streetcar project Qualls supports.
As part of City Manager Milton Dohoney’s budget proposal, anyone who lives in Cincinnati but works elsewhere could lose a tax credit. The budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rollback and moves to privatize the city’s parking services, which Dohoney says is necessary if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs.
The mayor and City Council must approve Dohoney’s budget before it
becomes law. City Council is set to vote on the budget on Dec. 14.
Public hearings for the budget proposal will be held in City Hall
Thursday at 6 p.m. and in the Corryville Recreation Center Dec. 10 at 6
Vice Mayor Qualls and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan are
pushing a resolution that demands local control over hydraulic
fracturing, or “fracking,” activity. But the resolution will have no
legal weight, so the state will retain full control over fracking
operations even if the resolution is passed. Qualls and Quinlivan will
also hold a press conference today at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall to discuss
problems with fracking, which has come under fire by environmentalist
groups due to concerns about air pollution and water contamination
caused during the drilling-and-disposal process.
Greater Cincinnati hospitals had mixed results in a new round of scores from Washington, D.C.-based Leapfrog Group.
In an effort to comply with cost cutting, the Hamilton County recorder is eliminating Friday office hours.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for feedback for the Tristate’s transportation and economic plans.
This year’s drought is coming to an end in a lot of places, but not southwest Ohio.
The Ohio Senate passed a concussion bill that forces student athletes to be taken off the field as soon as symptoms of a concussion are detected.
As the state government pushes regulations or even an outright ban on Internet cafes, one state legislator is suggesting putting the issue on the ballot.
State officials argue unregulated Internet cafes are “ripe for
organized crime” and money laundering. An Ohio House committee is set to vote on the issue today. If passed, the bill will likely put Internet cafes that use sweepstakes machines out of business.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich could be preparing for a 2016 campaign. Kasich was caught privately courting Sheldon Adelson,
the casino mogul who spent millions on Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney’s
failed campaigns for the presidency. The early meetup shows how valued
super PAC funders are to modern political campaigns. State Democrats
criticized the meeting, saying it was Kasich “actively positioning to be
the next Ohio darling of the special interests.”
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had a bit of trouble
giving a speech on the federal debt yesterday. Hecklers repeatedly
interrupted Portman, a Republican, as he tried to speak. The final
protesters were escorted out of the room as they chanted, “We’re going
to grow, not slow, the economy.” Portman says his plan is to promote
growth. But both Democrats and Republicans will raise taxes on the lower
and middle classes, according to a calculator from The Washington Post. Tax hikes and spending cuts are typically bad ideas during a slow economy.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is facing the wrath of his tea party comrades.
The far right wing of the Republican Party is apparently furious
Boehner purged rebellious conservative legislators out of House
committees and proposed $800 billion in new revenue in his “fiscal
cliff” plan to President Barack Obama.To help combat fatigue at space stations, NASA is changing a few light bulbs.
Does this dog really love or really hate baths? You decide:
by German Lopez
Ohio's fracking boom disappoints, war on babies declared, Cincinnati's economic triumph
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.
by German Lopez
Plan Cincinnati set for approval, Hamilton County's budget delayed, waste wells return
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
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.
by German Lopez
In-person early voting in Hamilton County has a minimum cost estimate: $18,676. The number represents about 0.009 percent of
the county’s 2012 budget. Unfortunately, The Cincinnati Enquirer
never bothered putting the number in any context, so its story read
like the $18,676, or $406 an hour, will be a big expense for Hamilton
County.Ohio is a “middle-of-the-road” state when it comes to
early voting. Several states — including New York, a fairly liberal state — have more restrictive voting rules.Money Magazine named West Chester, a Greater Cincinnati
suburb, in its top 100 list for best small cities to live in the United States. West
Chester was No. 97 on the list.The Washington Post has a good analysis on why
natural gas produced from fracking could help combat global warming. The
big concern for environmentalists is methane leaks during the fracking
process. If methane leaks are too high and can’t be contained,
natural gas could be worse for the environment than coal, at least in
the short term. The analysis concludes that natural gas could be
positive by itself in fighting climate change, but a much broader plan
that includes more than natural gas will be necessary to reach
scientifically suggested goals. It also points out there’s a lot of
uncertainty behind natural gas and fracking, echoing CityBeat’s recent in-depth look at the issue.The Ohio Board of Education made two big decisions at its
meeting yesterday. First, it will delay the 2011-2012 report card, which
grades different schools and school districts, until the state auditor
finishes an investigation looking into school attendance reports. The attendance report scandal, which involves schools doctoring attendance reports to earn
better grades, began at Lockland schools in Hamilton County. Second,
the Board has officially launched its national search for a new
superintendent of public instruction. The previous superintendent — Stan
Heffner — resigned after a state auditor report found he was misusing
state resources and advocating for legislation that benefited his other
employer.An auto manufacturer is laying off 173 workers in Blanchester, Ohio.But Kings Island is looking to hire more than 500 workers for its Halloween season.President Barack Obama has cleared some Ohio counties for
federal disaster funding. Ohio lawmakers had previously asked for federal support after a wave of severe storms hit the state earlier in the summer. The storms were
estimated to be the worst in Ohio since 2008, when the remnants of
Hurricane Ike caused more than $1 billion in damage.Miami University has been ranked a top 10 party school.Newsweek is getting a ton of criticism for running a cover story this week filled with factual inaccuracies. Among many claims, the story makes the false
implication that the Affordable Care Act increases the federal budget
deficit. The story was written by Niall Ferguson, a conservative Harvard
professor known for being consistently wrong.NASA has already planned its next interplanetary mission: a robot drill for Mars.
by German Lopez
Carbon dioxide emissions fell to a 20-year low this year,
largely thanks to natural gas that was made cheaper and more plentiful
due to the fracking boom in Ohio and other states. The news is a
surprising turnaround for climate change activists, but critics
worry that methane — a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — emitted from natural gas operations could still pose a significant climate
threat. Environmental groups are generally opposed to fracking,
but supporters, like Gov. John Kasich, insist it can be made safe with
enough regulations. CityBeat previously covered the concerns and questions behind fracking here.The Ohio Department of Education has had a rough year, and
in a few ways, it’s back to square one. On top of the search for a new
superintendent of public instruction, the Department of Education has
had to deal with budget cuts and layoffs, a new Board of Education
member with no college degree or known resume, and the department is now
being investigated by the state auditor. The White House has announced a $30 million manufacturing
hub for Ohio that will act as a model for the rest of the United States.
The hub will bring together universities and businesses in order to increase growth and collaboration and decrease risk.Ohio has seen an uptick of businesses requesting to work
in the state, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Estimates
show 6,137 new entities applied to work in the state during July, up
from 5,472 during July 2011. The state has also seen 52,728
new business requests so far in 2012, up from 49,460 during the same
January-to-July period in 2011. The news shows some signs of
strengthening economic growth in Ohio.But Ohio’s unemployment rate barely moved in July. The
unemployment rate remained at 7.2 percent, the same as June’s
unemployment rate, even though 2,000 jobs were added.The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. EPA,
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and energy companies met yesterday
to work out how Ohio will enforce new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
The new standards will greatly reduce toxic pollutants given off by
power plants, according to the National Resources Defense Council.Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor claims there’s a funding
shortage for courts. The shortage could make it difficult for some cases
and people to see their day in the courtroom.Environmental groups are asking for more rules for
wastewater injection wells, the wells used to dump wastewater produced
during fracking. But state regulators aren’t sure more rules are
necessary.Fifty-eight state Republican lawmakers have never broken from the very conservative Ohio Chamber of Commerce in a vote.Sen. Rob Portman will be speaking at the Republican
national convention. The convention will make Mitt Romney’s nomination
as the Republican presidential candidate official. Conventions are also a
time for political parties to show off their new party platforms.President Barack Obama is coming back to Ohio next Tuesday. The president will be staying in Columbus this time around.Tax Policy Center to conservative critics: No matter what you say, Romney’s tax plan is still mathematically impossible.Americans love computers, but they hate the oil and gas industry.It’s taking more than three days, but the famous Jesus statue is rising again.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:00 PM | Permalink
NRDC and others say wastewater injection well rules aren’t tough enough
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.In short, the NRDC letter says ODNR should make more
seismic and geological tests mandatory for injection wells. Under
current law, ODNR has to suggest more seismic and geological tests. If
they were mandatory, all operators would have to run the tests before a
wastewater injection well is approved. Along with this requirement, NRDC
also calls for more geologic information to be submitted with permit
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.