A Cincinnati-area legislator is calling for an Ohio House committee to hold a public hearing about the alleged link between fracking and ground tremors.
State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Price Hill) wrote a letter today asking that a public hearing be held during the next meeting of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The meeting isn’t currently scheduled but likely will occur sometime later this month or in early February.
Just as the White House is criticizing one Republican lawmaker for apologizing to BP, it's been revealed that a local GOP leader has extensive stock holdings in BP and other oil companies.
The Associated Press is reporting that U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-West Chester), the House minority leader, bought dozens of stocks in December including shares in BP, Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhilips and Occidental. Each of the stocks is valued between $15,001 and $50,000, according to annual financial disclosure reports released Wednesday.
Nobody stood up for fracking in today's City Council committee meeting that saw dozens of people urge council to pass an ordinance banning injection wells within Cincinnati.
All members of the Strategic Growth Committee voted in favor of the proposed ordinance, with the exception of Councilman Chris Seelbach, who was recovering after allegedly being assaulted in downtown Monday night.
If approved, the ordinance would prohibit injections wells — which inject wastewater underground — from being allowed within city limits. It now goes before the full council.
The practice is commonly associated with hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” — which uses chemical-laced water to drill for oil and gas. Fracking fluid injected underground has been tied to a dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio.
A 2004 Ohio law puts regulation of oil and gas drilling under the state’s purview, preventing municipalities from regulating the drilling.
The wording of the proposed Cincinnati ordinance doesn’t mention oil or gas drilling, which proponents say they hope will keep it from clashing with the state law if it passes.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans tells CityBeat that injection wells also fall under ODNR’s purview.
She says she isn’t sure if the proposed Cincinnati ordinance would conflict with the state law.
“It’s very hard for ODNR to speculate on what might happen,” she says, adding that there aren’t any injection wells or applications for them in the Cincinnati area. “This may not be an issue that’s ever tested.”
That didn’t stop the dozens of people who spoke in favor of the ordinance at the committee meeting from erupting into applause once the ordinance was approved.
Barbara Wolf, a documentarian who has made a video about Cincinnati’s Water Works, said that the city has some of the cleanest water in the world, and chemicals from hydraulic fracturing could jeopardize that.
“We are studied by other countries,” Wolf said. “If it (fracking fluid) goes into the Ohio River, we don’t know what the chemicals are. It’s very hard to clean up chemicals if you don’t know what they are. And that’s one of the things we do really well: clean up chemicals.”
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 the report.
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.
According to emails and phone calls received by WWVA-AM West
Virginia talk show host David Blomquist, miners said they were told that
attendance at the Romney event would be mandatory and unpaid.
As first reported by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland on Tuesday, mine owner Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” He said that people who did now show up to the event, which organizers say drew 1,500 miners and family members, were not penalized for their absence.
Blomquist said during the radio show that current and former
employees had called and emailed him saying they feel they were forced to go,
had to take off a day without pay and a roll call was taken, which caused some
employees to believe they would lose their jobs if they didn’t show up.
“Just for the record, if we did not go, we knew what would happen,” Blomquist read from an email he had received. “It is wrong what we were made to do because of the outcome if we don’t.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported that Murray Energy Corp.
founder Robert Murray attended the Tuesday breakfast hosted by the Ohio delegation to the Republican National Convention. Murray told the newspaper that the decision to
close the mine was made at the request of the Secret Service.
Murray disputed the report that miners weren’t paid for the day, saying they were compensated for the hours they spend underground, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The mine was re-opened for a second shift at 4 p.m.
“They were all there voluntarily,” Murray said of the miners
who attended the Romney event, which was also attended by Republican U.S.
Senator Rob Portman and Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel.
“You don’t pay people to go voluntarily to a political event. If I would’ve paid them you would be saying you want it the other way. This is all a bunch of nonsense,” Murray told The Dispatch. Federal law prohibits the paying of private employees to attend a political event.
Murray blames layoffs at some of his mines on Obama’s
policies. His companies have had a history of environmental and safety violations,
and its Political Action Committee has held fundraisers for and donated to
Romney’s Ohio campaign spokesman disputed that the Secret Service had the mine shut down, telling The Dispatch in an email that “It was Murray Energy’s decision to close the Century Mine, not the campaign’s or the Secret Services.” His comment echoes what Murray CFO Moore said on the radio show, that management wanted to attend the event and they couldn’t have miners underground without management present.
For his part, radio host Blomquist took issue with the fact that
the miners lost out on a full eight hours of pay because of a political event.
“My whole point is that nobody should be pressured into attending anyone’s political event,” he told The Plain Dealer. “If they shut the mine down, why should they lose a day’s pay? There are some guys that just want to go to work, feed their family and go home.”
Remember when car manufacturers balked at the idea of making cars that would get – gasp – 30 miles to the gallon? Innovation was forced on the automobile industry because they were content to remain with the status quo, regardless of consequences. Reliance on coal and other fossil fuels is the current equivalent to status-quo complacency and Ohio ranks at the top, or bottom, of the list of a dangerous status quo – coal ash.
New coal plants proposed for Ohio will rank the Buckeye state the eighth highest polluter because of the plants would add 3, 711,616 tons of new coal ash waste.
“According to a new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the 15 states that would be the biggest polluters — the “Filthy 15”— have proposals for 54 coal plants and would create nearly 14 million tons of dangerous waste,” says a press release from the council. “Proposed coal plants across the United States would produce nearly 18 million tons of dangerous waste, including toxic metals, each year. Nearly 130 million tons of coal waste from existing plants is being produced annually, most of which is disposed of in largely unregulated landfills, ponds and other locations, posing serious public health and environmental risks.”
In conjunction with the new analysis, NRDC has released a new Web site that includes a state-by-state breakdown of the total amount annually of waste, including toxic metals, from existing and proposed plants. Go to: http://www.nrdc.org/energy/coalwaste.
Others with the distinction of being included in the Filty 15 are, in order, Texas, South Dakota, Florida, Nevada, Montana, Illinois, South Carolina, Ohio, Wyoming, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, Georgia and West Virginia.
“Coal waste poses a large and unnecessary risk to people’s health and the environment, and we need to act before another Kingston disaster strikes,” says Peter Lehner, executive director of NRDC, “The EPA took a big step forward this week by announcing it will regulate coal ash, but they need to quickly examine how coal waste is handled and ensure proper management and disposal are in place at all new plants.”
The EPA recently announced it will finally begin to regulate coal ash. The action is too late for Kingston, Tennessee where 1 billion gallons of coal ash contained in a storage pond flowed through a breach in the walls into local waterways in December 2008. However, many states currently allow coal waste to be dumped, without oversight, into poorly constructed ponds, landfills and even abandoned mines.
“There are cleaner, safer and more sustainable energy choices available,” said Lehner. “America should be moving toward energy efficiency and renewable energy sources that will drive our economic recovery and meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”
The EPA identified 24 sites in 13 states that are known or suspected to be contaminated by coal ash. Toxic metals—like arsenic, mercury, lead, and other toxic substances – are frequently found in coal waste. Serious public health risks to people, especially children, include cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems, damage to the nervous system and kidneys, and learning disabilities.
Take a few moments to visit the Web site and learn about the impact these proposed coal power plants will have. Then write to your state representatives and demand that alternative and safer forms of energy be found – force innovation with your voice!
The Pleasant Ridge Community Council wil get words of advice and inspiration tonight from environmental activist Lois Gibbs, who was instrumental in the fight to clean up Love Canal in New York during the 1970s.
Gibbs will speak to the group at 7 p.m. at the Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church.
More than 200 people attended Imago’s Earth Spirit Rising conference at Xavier University this weekend, where they were challenged to rethink their actions and their effect on the planet.
Speaker Paula Gonzalez, a Dominican nun and futurist, cast the challenges ahead in stark terms: “We must realize the scale of our times, which is on the scale of transitions like going from hunter-gathering to agriculture, or industrialization. You must take the messages of this conference home in your heart, in your soul, in your gut, and get off your butt and act.”