Environment & Energy

photo of Cuyahoga River
KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

The Cuyahoga River received national attention this year with the 50th anniversary of the famous river fire. And one expert says 2020 could be just as busy for recreation on the river.

photo of The Blue Hole
CASTALIA TROUT CLUB

This story was originally published on January 22, 2019.

Castalia, Ohio, is home to The Blue Hole, which was a tourist attraction for almost a century. WKSU’s “OH Really?” finds out why it’s been off-limits to the public for the last 29 years.


a photo of a timber wolf
COCONUT KEVY / FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS

Deer hunting season is winding down in Ohio. As it does, we’re considering a question about Ohio wildlife from a WKSU listener. Nicholas Kavalec asked our OH Really? team about apex predators—those at the top of the food chain. We connected him with a wildlife manager at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) in Akron.

Updated: 12:39 p.m., Friday Dec. 20, 2019.

A tax reassessment requested by a gas transmission company has Lorain County officials frustrated by the possibility of losing nearly 40 percent of the expected taxes before the county has collected any money at all.

The NEXUS pipeline was initially estimated to bring $9 million to Lorain County, but the company is appealing to the Ohio Department of Taxation for a reassessment of its value.

a photo of a container filled with nurdles
JACE TUNNELL / NURDLE PATROL

When the petrochemical plant being built by Shell Chemical Appalachia in Beaver County, Pennsylania is complete, it’s anticipated to bring 600 jobs as well as spinoff industries. Some researchers and activists warn that it could also bring a new type of pollution to the Ohio River Valley — nurdles.

A proposed wind energy project off the coast of Lake Erie is facing a lawsuit from two birding organizations. The groups allege not enough research has been done to determine the project’s environmental impact.

The suit, filed by Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) in Ohio and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) based in Washington, D.C., against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Army Corps of Engineers, argues the DOE “shirked its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act,” along with the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations.

Cuyahoga County Tree Canopy Down By 6 Percent

Dec 13, 2019

The tree canopy in Cuyahoga County shrank by more than 6 percent since 2011, according to a 2019 update on how much of county land is covered by leaves, branches and stems of trees.

The Cuyahoga County Urban Tree Canopy Assessment Update for 2019 shows 34.7 percent of the county is covered by trees. In 2011, it was 37 percent. The U.S average is 39 percent.

That equals a loss of about 6,600 acres of tree canopy, said Sandra Albro, co-chair of the Cleveland Tree Coalition, and with that, a loss of trees’ ecological benefits.

Study Finds Costly Tradeoffs to Economic Benefits of Shale Boom

Dec 12, 2019
Photo of a natural gas well in Washington County.
REID FRAZIER / THE ALLEGHENY FRONT

A new study by Carnegie Mellon University finds that in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia region, the economic boost from shale gas drilling has been less than the cost of premature deaths caused by pollution from the industry. 

Greta Thunberg, the activist who has quickly become a leading voice on climate change, is Time's Person of the Year for 2019. At 16, she is the youngest person to earn the title in the magazine's 92-year history.

Thunberg burst onto the world stage in the past year, organizing school strikes and protest marches to call attention to a climate crisis that she says older generations are not taking seriously enough.

The dam at Buckeye Lake undergoes repairs in March of 2015.
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Just over a year ago, the $100 million project to repair the crumbling earthen dam at Buckeye Lake was finished two years early.  But the state is looking at dozens of the 1,420 dams in Ohio that could be failing.

The state says 124 dams are in poor or unsatisfactory condition. ODNR Director Mary Mertz says her agency is working its way through the list, but there aren’t any emergencies like Buckeye Lake’s dam on it.

“No, not that I’m concerned about that we’re going to wake up tomorrow and see a big dam breach.”

On "good" bad days, the shells lie open at the bottom of the river, shimmering in the refracted sunlight. Their insides, pearl white and picked clean of flesh, flicker against the dark riverbed like a beacon, alerting the world above to a problem below.

A photo of the drawing of parking deck
KENT STATE UNIVERSITY

Kent State announced plans on Wednesday to improve parking and energy efficiency on its main campus as well as regional locations.

The Ohio Farm Bureau is closing the book on its 100th year and looking to the next century as it hosts its two-day annual meeting in Columbus. 

Updated: 8:24 p.m. Dec. 2, 2019

The City of Cleveland will delay adoption of Cuyahoga County’s ban on retail plastic bags, but only by six months instead of the full year originally proposed.

Under the amended city council legislation easily approved Monday night, a Cleveland working group will have until July 1, 2020, to propose possible citywide rules for disposable bags. That’s also when Cuyahoga County plans to begin collecting fines from retailers for giving out plastic bags to customers.

photo of solar panels
SERGEY EDENTOD / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

State regulators have denied AEP’s plan to charge ratepayers a fee for what would be the largest solar project in Ohio.

The decision came down to whether electric customers needed the power plant in order to justify the additional cost to electric bills.

AEP proposed guaranteeing the purchase of solar power from two plants in Highland County, currently in development.

But the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ruled against the proposal, saying AEP did not prove it was needed in order to add a new 28 cent monthly fee for the average ratepayer.

a bring your own bags image
CUYAHOGA COUNTY

An informal survey shows a majority of Cuyahoga County residents support a plastic bag ban that takes effect in a little over a month. The survey was sent out to 500 residents by the county’s department of sustainability and councilwoman Sunny Simon, who sponsored the legislation to ban plastic bags.

It shows more than 70% of residents are in favor of the ban. Simon says they’ve had local retailers sit in on their recent discussions surrounding the ban.

A satellite photo of Lake Erie shows a toxic algea bloom
JOSHUA STEVENS / NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

Ohio farmers say they’re on board with the state’s plans to slow down agricultural runoff into Lake Erie. And they’re joining environmental activists and conservationists in embracing how Gov. Mik DeWine says he’ll spend $172 million in the newly created H2Ohio fund.

U.S. Steel has announced it aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030. The plan relies in large part on upgrades at two large facilities near Pittsburgh.

The Cleveland Botanical Garden will cut back its urban agriculture Green Corps program for the 2020 season, with the hopes of it returning in 2021 in a re-imagined form.

Local high school students can usually spend the summer learning job skills at Green Corps farms in Cleveland’s Buckeye, Slavic Village, Midtown and Fairfax neighborhoods, but only one will likely remain open next summer.

Cleveland Botanical Garden President and CEO Jill Koski says Midtown Learning Farm will likely keep its youth program open.

Akron Launches Recycling App

Oct 29, 2019
photo of app
SARAH TAYLOR / WKSU

The City of Akron is launching an app to make recycling easier for its residents. The “Akron Recycles” app can be downloaded on all mobile devices. The app shows pickup times and classifies recyclable items. Akron’s recycling manager, Dan Dempsey, said the new tool is another way to make Akron sustainable.

“It is just another tool that our residents have. Certainly, the better educated our residents are on recycling, the better recyclers they will be. We are trying to give our residents every tool available to make Akron a sustainable city.”

a photo of the new Boston Mill Visitor Center
ANDREW MEYER / WKSU

Cuyahoga Valley National Park has opened what it’s calling its first “Front Door."

The Boston Mill Visitor Center is on Riverview Road in Peninsula. Park Superintendent Craig Kenkel hopes the new center will bring some new faces as well.

"We see this as being a place for those first time visitors who know nothing about Cuyahoga Valley and Northeast Ohio, but it’s also a place where returning visitors and local visitors can come and learn more about our interpretive scenes and the stories that comprise the National Park as well as its connection to Cleveland and Akron."

Perry Nuclear Power Generation Station
TIM RUDELL / WKSU

This week brought a close to one chapter for Ohio's nuclear power plant bailout law, House Bill 6. But another could be starting. The group fighting against the bailout mounted a last minute push for signatures and their campaign could be heading to a new arena.

a photo of the petition
ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

The hotly-contested energy law that bails out nuclear power plants takes effect Tuesday. A group trying to pause the law and put it before voters did not turn in their signatures by the Monday deadline. But the anti-nuclear bailout group is taking a different route.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts says they didn't have enough signatures to qualify for a referendum by the deadline.  

The group's Gene Pierce says their referendum drive has been met with heavy opposition, including ads, mailers, and canvassers who allegedly blocked and harassed signature collectors.

Electric assisted bicycles, or e-bikes, are becoming more and more popular across the United States. Throughout the country's national parks, that could be a good and a bad thing.

It can be tough to distinguish an e-bike from a regular road or mountain bike by sight, but once you start pedaling, you sure feel the difference.

Cuyahoga County leaders say they want to make it much easier for residents to enjoy the Lake Erie waterfront. 

Officials shared the outlines of a plan Thursday that would connect lakefront parks across the county and improve lake access from major north-south roads.

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