by German Lopez
Annual conference promotes sustainable urban water programs
Ohioans might not
give it much thought outside of paying the water bill, but better water
infrastructure can make cities more efficient, healthier and cleaner.
That’s why Green For All, a group that promotes clean energy
initiatives, is now focusing on cleaner, greener water infrastructure.
A little-known green conference took place in
Cincinnati Oct. 15-17. The Urban Water Sustainability Leadership Conference was in
town on those three days, and it brought together leaders from around
the U.S. to discuss sustainable water programs for cities. The
conference mostly focused on policy ideas, success stories and
challenges faced by modern water infrastructure.
For Green For All, attending the conference was about
establishing one key element that isn’t often associated with water and
sewer systems: jobs. Jeremy Hays, chief strategist for state and local
initiatives at Green For All, says this was the focus for his
Hays says it’s important for groups promoting better water
infrastructure to include the jobs aspect of the equation. To Hays,
while it’s certainly important for cities to establish cleaner and more
efficient initiatives, it’s also important to get people back to work.
He worries this side of water infrastructure policies are “often left
He points to a report released by Green For All during
last year’s conference. The report looked at how investing the $188.4
billion suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manage
rainwater and preserve water quality in the U.S. would translate into
economic development and jobs: “We find that an investment of $188.4
billion spread equally over the next five years would generate $265.6
billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million jobs.”To accomplish that robust growth and job development, the
report claims infrastructure would have to mimic “natural solutions.” It
would focus on green roofs, which are rooftop areas with planted
vegetation; urban tree planting; rain gardens, which are areas that use
vegetation to reduce storm water runoff; bioswales, which are shallow,
vegetated depressions that catch rainwater and redirect it; constructed
wetlands; permeable pavements, which are special pavements that allow
water to pass through more easily; rainwater harvesting, which uses rain
barrels and other storage devices to collect and recycle rainwater; and
green alleys, which reduce paved or impervious surfaces with vegetation
that reduces storm water runoff.
The report says constructing and maintaining these sorts
of programs would produce massive growth, especially in comparison to
other programs already supported by presidential candidates and the
federal government: “Infrastructure investments create over 16 percent
more jobs dollar-for-dollar than a payroll tax holiday, nearly 40
percent more jobs than an across-the-board tax cut, and over five times
as many jobs as temporary business tax cuts.”
Hays says the jobs created also don’t have barriers that
keep them inaccessible to what he calls “disadvantaged workers”: “A lot
of these jobs that we’re focused on in infrastructure, especially green
infrastructure, are much more accessible. They require some training and
some skills, but not four years’ worth because it’s skills that you can
get at a community college or even on the job.”
Beyond jobs, Green For All supports greener infrastructure
due to its health benefits. Hays cited heat waves as one example. He
says the extra plants and vegetation planted to support green
infrastructure can help absorb heat that’s typically contained by
Hays’ example has a lot of science to stand on. The extra
heating effect in cities, known as the urban heat island effect, is
caused because cities have more buildings and pavements that absorb and
contain heat, more pollution that warms the air and fewer plants that
enable evaporation and transpiration through a process called
evapotranspiration. The EPA promotes green roofs in order to help combat
the urban heat island effect.Hays says green infrastructure also creates cleaner air
because trees capture carbon dioxide and break it down to oxygen. The
work of the extra trees can also help reduce global warming, although
Hays cautions that the ultimate effect is probably “relatively small.”
But those are only some of the advantages Hays sees in
green infrastructure. He says green infrastructure is more resilient
against volatile weather events caused by global warming. With green
infrastructure, storm water can be managed by systems that collect and
actually utilize rainwater to harvest clean water. Even in a world
without climate change, that storm water management also reduces water
contamination by reducing sewer overflow caused by storm water floods,
according to Hays.
However, green infrastructure is not without its problems.
Hays acknowledges there are some problems with infrastructure systems
that require more year-over-year maintenance: “The green and
conventional approach is more cost effective over time, but the way you
have to spend money is different. So we need to look at the way we
finance infrastructure, and make sure we keep up with innovative
Specifically, green infrastructure relies less on big
capital investments and more on ongoing maintenance costs. Hays insists
the green infrastructure saves money in the long term with efficiency
and by making more use out of natural resources, and the Green For All
report supports his claim. But it is more difficult to get a city or
state legislator to support long-term funding than it is to get them to
support big capital expenditures, Hays says.
Education is also a problem. To a lot of people, the green
infrastructure on rooftops and other city areas might seem like “pocket
parks,” says Hays. But these areas are nothing
like parks; they are meant to absorb and collect rainwater. If the
public isn’t educated properly, there could be some confusion as to why
the supposed “pocket parks” are flooded so often. Providing that
education is going to be another big challenge for public officials
adopting green infrastructure, according to Hays.
So what, if anything, is Cincinnati doing to adopt these
technologies? In the past, city legislators have looked into rainwater
harvesting systems, but not much information is out there. On Thursday, CityBeat will talk to city officials to see how Cincinnati is moving forward.
by Andy Brownfield
Romney campaign, Murray Energy dispute who made call to close mine for event
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
Blue Ash City Council approved rescinding and redoing its
airport deal with the city of Cincinnati in a 6-1 vote last night. The
deal will free up $37.5 million for the city of Cincinnati — $11 million
of which will go to the streetcar while $26 million will go to
municipal projects. After the vote, the Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST) vowed on Twitter to lead a referendum on the
deal. But COAST’s opposition is misguided, fueled by their disapproval
of all things streetcar.
Three Greater Cincinnati universities were praised for
their part-time MBA programs. The programs were in the top 100 of a
U.S. News and World Report ranking.Ohio has the second worst toxic air pollution in the
United States, according to a new report from the National Resources
Defense Council. The report also found that toxic air pollution has
dropped by 19 percent nationwide. The report claims this drop is partly
attributed to natural gas, which is cleaner than coal and has become
cheaper thanks to a fracking boom in Ohio and other states. New
pollution controls also played a role, according to the report.JobsOhio is claiming to have saved 11,238 jobs and created
4,666 new jobs during the second quarter of 2012. All the jobs saved and created are expected to keep $712 million in new payroll, according to state
The successor to State Superintendent of Public
Instruction Stan Heffner might not be much better. He also has a history
of using state resources for personal reasons.
Former Judge William O’Neill, a Democratic candidate for the Ohio
Supreme Court, has accused two Republican justices of taking campaign
contributions from parties they heard cases from. O’Neill says the
campaign contributions are a blatant conflict of interest. Mike
Skindell, another Democratic candidate, chimed in to say he would recuse
or refuse money instead of inviting a potential conflict of interest.
The Ohio EPA announced yesterday a new plan for cutting
down on water pollution in Ohio rivers, streams and lakes. The new plan
is a joint effort between Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky to make it more
economically viable through incentives for businesses to cut down on
water contamination.Ohio voters can now change addresses online. The new system will save taxpayer money and combat fraud.
July was the hottest month ever recorded, and 2012 has
already had more record temperatures than all of 2011. Meanwhile, Mitt
Romney’s spokesperson promoted climate change denial on behalf of
Romney says campaigns should pull ads that are found
to be dishonest or misleading by fact checkers. Well, his campaign
should get to it.
The U.S. Postal Service reported $5.2 billion in losses in the second quarter of 2012. On the bright side, a recent study found the U.S. Postal Service is the best at delivering mail.The U.S. women's soccer team beat Japan for the gold medal yesterday.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:18 PM | Permalink
NRDC report finds improvement nationwide thanks to fracking and pollution controls
A new report by the National Resources Defense Council
(NRDC) has found that Ohio had the second worst toxic air pollution from
power plants in the United States in 2010.
The report showed Ohio had more toxic air pollution from power
plants than neighbors Pennsylvania and Indiana, but it had less toxic air
pollution than Kentucky.
Linda Soros, spokesperson for the Ohio Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), says the results are reflective of Ohio being a "coal state" and a "highly industrialized state."
The report had some positive news. It found that all air
toxics emitted from power plants had dropped by 19 percent in 2010 compared to 2009 levels. The report partly attributes this drop to
natural gas, which is cleaner than coal and has become cheaper than coal
thanks to the massive fracking boom in Ohio and other states. Power
plants have also been installing "state-of-the-art pollution controls"
in anticipation of new regulations from the national EPA, bringing down air toxics further, according to
Some of the new regulations will come from the EPA's
Mercury and Air Toxics standards, which were finalized in 2011. The
standards will cut mercury air pollution by 79 percent from 2010 levels
starting in 2015, according to the report. Sulfur dioxide will also be
reduced by 63 percent under the new rules, and hydrochloric acid will be
reduced by 95 percent.
The report says these cuts in toxic pollution will help
deal with the many health problems caused by air pollution, including
asthma, heart disease and chronic bronchitis.The report used the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory — a national database for toxic emissions that are self-reported by industrial sources — for its analysis. The full report can be read here.
The report comes at a time when coal is in the middle of the national political arena. President Barack Obama has been running a radio spot in Ohio
praising the state for its growing coal use. The ad said Obama has always
supported the fabled "clean coal," much to the dismay of
environmentalists that typically side with the president over his
opponents. The ad also criticized opponent and then-Gov. Mitt Romney for
claiming a Massachusetts coal power plant "kills people" in 2003.
by Andy Brownfield and German Lopez
Quinlivan outlines danger of fracking waste injection in afternoon press conference
Without much fanfare
but with supporters looking on in the Losantiville Room in Union Terminal,
Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance on Wednesday banning the injection of
wastewater underground within city limits.
“I’m proud to be on
the first City Council to ban injection wells,” said Councilwoman Laure
Quinlivan, who submitted the ordinance to council.
“I want to give props
to the solicitors … who have come up with a very unusual thing in City Council — a one page ordinance.”
The ordinance, which
passed unanimously after being voted out of committee on Tuesday, is aimed at
preventing the injection of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking,
under Cincinnati. Its injection has been linked to a dozen earthquakes in
Opponents also worry
that the chemicals in the water, which is used to drill underground to free up
gas and oil, can seep into drinking water. Oil and gas companies aren’t
required to disclose which chemicals they use.
It’s unclear if the
city’s ban on wastewater injection would hold up against a 2004 state law that
gives the state of Ohio sole power in regulating oil and gas drilling. That
regulatory power also extends to Class 2 injection wells.
At a news conference
earlier in the day, Quinlivan cited a ProPublica story that said between 2007 and 2010,
one well integrity violation was filed for every six wastewater injection wells.
She says data like this makes it clear injection wells are
Food and Water Watch organizer Alison Auciello spoke in
support of the City Council ordinance at the news conference.
“We’re pleased City Council has moved swiftly for the protection of its
citizens,” Auciello said.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has received no injection well
permit requests for southwestern Ohio, but Auciello says the legislation is a
good preventive measure.
Heidi Hetzel-Evans, a spokesperson for ODNR, says it wouldn't be feasible to
build injection wells in southwestern Ohio due to the region's geology.
"It's safe to say oil and gas drilling has no direct impact on
southwestern Ohio," Hetzel-Evans says.
Auciello says more bans like the Cincinnati ordinance are necessary in Ohio.
She says she’s concerned that Ohio is being turned into a dumping ground as
massive amounts of wastewater from Pennsylvania are brought to Ohio due to a
lack of regulation.
Auciello also echoed calls from environmental groups to ban fracking in Ohio.
However, fracking supporters — including Gov. John Kasich — insist the process
can be made safe with proper regulations.This story was updated to reflect City Council's afternoon vote.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: News
at 03:33 PM | Permalink
State parks, forests undergoing assessment
Imagine: You take your children to the park for a leisurely stroll beside some calm lake waters. You're looking for pure, unadulterated nature; an escape from the industrial hullabaloo that is city life. Instead, you find several areas of the park blocked off, occupied by massive machines sucking out shale and oil through the process known as "fracking." According to an investigative report from The Columbus Dispatch, that image might not be far off. Dispatch found that 18 employees from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) have been working to assess the availability of Utica shale in parks and forests across the state, resources that could eventually be marketed to oil and gas drilling companies. The concentrated push has involved a widespread, coordinated effort to examine public records and assess original mineral rights on Utica shale across the state. In the past, drilling companies have offered as much as $5,000 per acre to landowners in Eastern Ohio to procure mineral rights. The undertaking potentially signifies ODNR's interest in profiting from fracking sales in the future; cataloging mineral rights means easing the process of selling land to drillers once they make initial offers. Fracking, the relatively new drilling technology that involves blasting thousands of gallons of water into the earth to fracture shale and free trapped, valuable natural oil and gas. It's been touted as a way to expose previously unavailable areas underground for drilling and has been subject of discussion on its economic value and potential.
by Hannah McCartney
at 10:15 AM | Permalink
Sometimes good things happen where you least expect them.Mac’s Pizza Pub is a pizza joint renowned by college
kids for its greasy fare, noisy neighborhood bar feel, late hours and a good 'ol happy hour. The walls are splattered with offbeat photos and paintings, and its karaoke nights are enough to make one wish they'd turn the sports announcers up louder. Despite its college atmosphere, Mac's has embraced more progressive ideas in the past — its vegan pizza has won awards — and has taken a decidedly proactive approach to installing environmentally-friendly methods of operation that make the pizza joint something more than just ... a pizza joint.
Mac Ryan, owner and the brains behind Clifton's Mac's Pizza Pub, recently had a power charging station installed in the parking lot at the rear of the restaurant, near the patio, where patrons with electric or hybrid vehicles can "top off" their cars while they spend time at Mac's, according to a press release."It's very simple
to install, requiring only a dedicated circuit. I'm not sure why other
restaurants in Cincinnati aren't doing this — it's quite popular in other parts
of the country," said Ryan. Ryan currently uses a Chevrolet Volt (a hybrid electric car) for Mac's delivery and catering services, which will be charged at the station during off hours. In 2010, Mac's instituted a recycling program that drastically reduced the restaurant's waste output and trash pickup frequencies. In the future, Rutan homes to install solar panels and wind turbines to supplement his green efforts.
As of now, Ryan knows of no other restaurants in the Cincinnati or Tristate area that offer such a service, which he expects will appease current and future customers as electric and hybrid cars begin to become more popular.
by Hannah McCartney
at 10:33 AM | Permalink
Advocates spread concerns over dangers in Kasich's energy plan
The first in a series of nine events in cities across Ohio, culminating with a rally at the Columbus statehouse, kicks off in Cincinnati tomorrow to protest the use of fracking across the state of Ohio. The event will take place 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 12 at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church at 103 William Howard Taft Road. It's part of the Don't Frack Ohio Spring Roadshow, a project brainstormed by 350.org, which heads a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. According to Danny Berchenko, an Ohio organizer for 350.org, the roadshow is a much-needed venue for dialogue to discuss the problems fracking in Ohio poses to people and communities, including those related to public health, climate change and even potential to cause natural disasters such as earthquakes. "Kasich's office is not doing its job to protect people or communities — we need to focus on putting people to work in safe environments and employ people in sustainable, clean energy jobs," said Berchenko. Berchenko says that Saturday's event will involve a mix of discussing the generalities of fracking, why action is necessary, and tactics and strategies for how communities can rally together to strategically protect themselves from fracking and protest Kasich's energy plan, which heavily focuses on bringing frackers to Ohio, an integral part of his economic plan. Want to know more about fracking? Watch a kid with an Irish accent explain:
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: Events
at 01:40 PM | Permalink
Celebrate a clean, green Cincinnati at events all around the city
Sunny skies and warm breezes make April a pretty convenient month to celebrate Earth Day — it gets everyone in the celebration mood. Saturday, April 21 marks the worldwide celebration of Earth Day in an effort to promote environmental consciousness, spread awareness and cherish Earth's natural beauty among diverse populations 'round the globe. Following is a very non-comprehensive list of some Earth Day happenings around the city. Satisfy your green thumb and pick a way or two to celebrate his year. For more greenie-friendly events, check out the events calendar at greenumbrella.org.
• Staples stores around Greater
Cincinnati are holding a limited-time
binder recycling program. Shoppers will receive $2 off the purchase of a
new binder for every binder that they bring in to recycle. The used binders
will be sent to TerraCycle for recycling. Through June 30.
• The Cincinnati Zoo hosts Party for
the Planet from 4-8:30 p.m. on April 19. E-waste recycling will be available
and organizations from all across Cincinnati will be available to talk about
how to live green.
• Northside hosts “Reduce, Recycle, RUN!”
on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22. The 5K race kicks off at 7:30 a.m. at Spring
Grove Cemetery. Bring old running shoes to recycle of donate your cell phone
for recycling and receive a coupon to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
• The 42nd annual Earth Day
Celebration takes place Saturday, April 21 from noon to 5 p.m. at Sawyer Point. Enjoy a number of hands-on exhibits, free swag and tons of kid-friendly entertainment, including a rock climbing wall and a kayak paddle safety pool. Limited quantities of batteries and other electronics will also be accepted for free e-recycling. • Marvin’s
Organic Gardens hosts Parade
of Plants a free event that will showcase a
number of new, unique plants.• The Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District kicks off its annual free Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Program on Saturday, April 21. The program, open only to Hamilton County residents, accepts a number of odd items for safe recycling, including fluorescent bulbs, propane tanks, car batteries or antifreeze. For a complete list of accepted items and location and time information, click here. • Although it comes a bit late, Building Value's ReUse-apalooza celebration doesn't miss out on the Earth Day fun. Diversions include live music, games and a silent
auction featuring handcrafted items made from reused materials. Light
appetizers and cash bar will be available throughout the night. 7-11 p.m. April 27. $20-$50. • Park + Vine hosts the Second Annual Earth Day Kombucha Keg Party on Friday, April 20. Visitors can sample Fab Ferment’s kombucha on tap and vegan appetizers including vegan
maple bacon donuts, vegan jerky and peanut and almond butter cups. 6 to 8 p.m. • Cocktails for a Cause will be held at Bartini's downtown on Friday, April 20. This celebration marks Aveda and the Sierra Club's annual fundraiser for clean water. Twenty percent of the bar
and food sales will be donated to support clean water. The evening will
include music, a fashion show and a silent auction. Tickets $20 at the door, $15 in advance. Don't feel like leaving the house to celebrate? That's OK too. Plant a tree, turn your lights off for an hour, unplug your electronics or start a compost pile. Do something!