Environment & Energy

photo of Julius Ciaccia
KEVIN NIEDERMIER / WKSU

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is citing rising costs and falling revenues as the reason for a proposed rate hike over the next five years.

If approved, the rate hike would take effect next year and send the average monthly bill up $30 by 2021. The money is needed to deal with the costs of a 25-year federal mandate to keep sewage out of Lake Erie. Sewer district CEO Julius Ciaccia says revenues are falling because more people are conserving water, but the sewer district still needs to maintain a certain level of infrastructure.

Photo of proposed NEXUS pipeline route
NEXUS GAS TRANSMISSION, LLC.

The 9th District Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments Tuesday from Medina County residents and the company behind the NEXUS pipeline.

The arguments will focus on whether or not NEXUS needs permission from landowners to enter their property for surveying purposes.

The hearing comes less than a year after a Medina County judge ruled in favor of the company.

photo of controlled burn
KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

A 35-acre section of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park looks a lot different right now than it did at the start of the day.

Along one section of Canal Road in Valley View there are large orange signs, but they’re not warning of road construction. Instead, they read “Controlled Burn: Do Not Report.”

Cuyahoga Valley National Park officials scheduled a controlled burn for the Terra Vista Natural Study Area.

BRIAN BULL / WCPN

Eight states, along with two Canadian provinces, could decide Thursday if one community in Wisconsin will be allowed to divert water from Lake Michigan.

It would be the first city to do so since a 2008 agreement that says Great Lakes water is off-limits to anyone outside an eight-state basin.

Waukesha, Wis., sits west of Milwaukee and its groundwater is infused with radium.  Six years ago, the city applied for permission to get its water from Lake Michigan, about 20 miles away.

DAVE SIZER / FLICKR CC

Large parts of Ohio were under air quality warnings this week, and Columbus issued its first ever smog alert in April as temperatures spiked on Monday.

But a report released today shows that overall, air quality in Northeast Ohio is improving.

ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Transportation officials are touting a new age in public transit with the use of buses that run on hydrogen. 

Kirt Conrad, executive director of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority, or SARTA, says the emissions from their public transit system's new hydrogen bus is so clean you can drink it. So he did, toasting, “to Ohio!”

The water in his cup dripped directly from the bus’s tailpipe.

photo of Blue Creek Wind Farm turbine
IBERDOLA RENWABLES

State lawmakers are coming up on a deadline on whether to change the law on green energy and renewable standards for utilities, or to leave it alone and let those standards go back into effect. 

A law passed in 2014 froze those renewable energy requirements for power companies for a two year period, expiring this year.  A bill from Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati would stop what he calls those “mandates” from taking effect another three years. 

FirstEnergy Offers Green Credits Program

Apr 17, 2016
Photo of Akron
Tim Rudell / WKSU

FirstEnergy is saying: “Switch-2-Green-4-Free.” That’s both the name of a renewable-energy credit purchasing plan it is rolling out for residential customers, and how the program works.  

photo of Brood V cicada
SAMUEL ORR

Ohio is about to experience the once-every-17-year emergence of Brood V cicadas, which provide a rare treat for dogs and cats. But the crunchy creatures are not always a guilt-free snack.

Billions of the buzzing bugs will emerge from the soil in the coming weeks for their short mating season. During that time, pets will have a good time eating the arthropods, which are not toxic and don’t bite.

photo of ReStore homes
KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

The Akron Zoo and Habitat for Humanity have a partnership that’s giving new life to remnants of old homes near the zoo.

The zoo and Habitat are deconstructing four homes in the neighborhood near the zoo: two last week and two more starting today. Any reusable pieces -- such as windows and cabinets – will be offered for sale at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Akron.

photo of Sammis plant
FIRSTENERGY

Ohioans could see a new charge on their electric bills as early as June, now that state regulators have approved plans by FirstEnergy and AEP to guarantee income for struggling coal plants. But opponents of the costs say the fight isn’t over. 

PHOTO OF OHIO EPA DIRECTOR CRAIG BUTLER
OHIO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio EPA laid out plans today to change how municipalities handle lead-contaminated drinking water.

Some of the proposed changes include tighter deadlines for informing people of contaminated water and providing grants for communities to replace lead service lines.

Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler says making changes now at the state level will hopefully encourage change in antiquated federal laws.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

Ohio environmental officials moved forward today with plans to change the rules on handling lead-contaminated water in the state.

The proposal from Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio EPA lays out plans to tighten the timeframe on notifying residents of contaminated water from 30 days to two. The state would also provide grants and loans to cities for the replacement of lead lines and fixtures.

The announcement comes as state officials say there are shortcomings in federal drinking water laws.

FIRSTENERGY

Ohio regulators have approved a pair of deals that allow utilities FirstEnergy and AEP to impose multi-billion-dollar rate increases on electricity customers to subsidize older coal-fired and nuclear power plants.  

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio unanimously passed the power purchase agreements 5- 0, which the companies say have clear benefits to the companies and to consumers.

NOAA

Massive blooms of toxic algae are becoming a yearly occurrence in western Lake Erie.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week doubled its spending on programs to reduce the flow of nutrients that feed the outbreaks.

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports that Ohio farmers say they are onboard with efforts to save the lake.

photo of Blue Creek Wind Farm turbine
IBERDOLA RENWABLES

Clean energy is thriving in Ohio, according to a new jobs report. But advocates say the green energy industry can do more, with help from lawmakers. 

The report says more than 100,000 people work in the clean energy industry in Ohio.

Ian Adams with Clean Energy Trust, one of the groups that put out the report, says many are manufacturing jobs supporting the use of renewable energy in other states. And Adams adds that there would be even more jobs if Ohio brought back the green-energy standards it froze last year.

Gorge Dam
YOUTUBE

The Ohio EPA is trying to rally support to fund the removal of the Gorge Dam on the Cuyahoga River in Summit County.

The agency, along with local partners, needs to raise 35 percent of the project’s cost before it can go forward.

Spokeswoman Lindey Amer says, even if the matching funds are raised, the federal government decides the additional funding in a competitive process.

Policy Matters Ohio logo
POLICY MATTERS OHIO

Natural gas closed at a 17-year price low today. And low prices have raised reservations from lawmakers about the strength of Ohio’s oil and gas industry. But one group is still calling for an increase to the drilling tax.

A struggling market for natural gas has led top Republican and Democratic leaders to hold back on increasing the so-called fracking tax. But the liberal-leaning think tank, Policy Matters Ohio, says data shows companies pumped more natural gas from the state’s shale last year than the year before.

Photo of Susan Miller
KEVIN NIEDERMIER / WKSU

The issue of dumping Cuyahoga River dredge material into the open waters of Lake Erie was debated tonight in Cleveland. The public hearing was held by the Army Corps of Engineers, which backs lake dumping because it would save money. The Corps is threatening to reduce the shipping channel dredging until the issue is resolved. That was strongly rebuffed by opponents who say it would damage the environment and economy.      

Ohio RIver Tow and Barge
TIM RUDELL / WKSU

  After two years of public comment, there will be no general federal regulations allowing waste-water from fracking to be transported in barges on the Ohio River.  

 

A company called Green Hunter wanted to use the Ohio to ship fracwater from Utica and Marcellus shale wells to Southern Ohio and beyond for disposal. The U.S. Coast Guard oversees inland waterways and called for public comment on its plan to create a policy allowing such shipping. Sixty thousand negatives later, it dropped the idea from consideration.

Photo of Aryeh Alex
ARYEH ALEX / TWITTER

Big oil and coal companies have been known for making major campaign contributions. Now an environmental group wants to beat those companies at their own game.

The Ohio Environmental Council has created a political arm with a new action fund that can raise money and campaign for or against candidates running for elected office.

As Fund Director Aryeh Alex explains, this is a way to fight fire with fire on the campaign trail.

ceramic beads proppant
CARBO CERAMICS

Even as the region’s natural gas boom is driven toward bust by depressed world energy markets, drillers have had a production breakthrough at a Utica Shale well. 

Fracking forces apart rock layers. And a ‘proppant’ in the fracking fluid, usually sand, keeps the cracks open.  But for deep wells, as in the Utica Shale, the weight of 2 miles of earth can squash sand grains and limit output.  For a new well in Pennsylvania, drillers used man-made, ceramic beads that won’t crush. The well ‘came in’ last week with record production. 

WKSU

The United States and Canada have agreed to work to reduce the amount of phosphorous that makes its way into Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025.

The two countries hope the reduction of the harmful nutrient will sustain healthy aquatic life and keep dangerous algae blooms to a minimum.

Kent State biology professor Darren Bade teaches courses and conducts research on Lake Erie.

photo of Display of nutrient management strategies
ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

  Help is now available for farmers who need a hand cutting down on nutrients that run off of their land and into Lake Erie, which can create harmful algae. 

Millions of dollars are up for grabs to livestock farmers who want to build more storage facilities for manure. The money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is earmarked for farmers in the Lake Erie Western Basin.

photo of Carl McDaniel
OBERLIN COLLEGE

Home owners in Oberlin may be setting up their own solar energy cooperative.  

Members of ‘OPEC', the Oberlin People’s Energy Cooperative, plan to install solar energy collecting technology on their own properties and sell any excess electricity to the power grid. 

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