Environment & Energy

College of Wooster solar panels
JEFF ST. CLAIR / WKSU

There’s been a lot of talk in Washington recently about the Green New Deal, introduced by House Democrats to address climate change. Mitch McConnell forced a vote on it in the Senate this week.

Ohio’s senators responded differently.

Rob Portman joined 56 other republicans in rejecting the Green New Deal, calling it ‘a laundry list of irresponsible promises with a sky-high price tag.’

“It’s kind of all over the board. There are things I like, there are things I don’t like.” :03

That’s Senator Sherrod Brown, who joined 42 Democrats in voting present.

a photo of lightbulbs
BLURRYME / SHUTTERSTOCK

Environmental advocates are speaking out against several recent proposals from President Donald Trump’s administration that would weaken the country’s energy efficiency policies.

The administration is floating the idea of allowing more energy-burning lightbulbs to sidestep the standards.

The 2020 light bulb efficiency standard would ban the sale of most halogen and incandescent lightbulbs. But the federal energy department is proposing an exemption for three-way bulbs, candle-shaped bulbs, and reflector bulbs used in recessed lighting.

Leedco wind farm
WKSU / WKSU

A plan to put six wind turbines in Lake Erie is one step closer to getting the green light. 

The Army Corps has approved construction of the Icebreaker Wind renewable energy project, the last federal permit needed.

Take A Visual Vacation Inside Oberlin's Massive Flower Factory

Mar 20, 2019

This week brings the first week of spring, time we hope, to put away those snow shovels and dust off the garden tools. But while we wait for the first blooms outside, let's take you inside one of the largest greenhouses in the United States – for a visual vacation and some spring stimulation.

As ideastream producers Mary Fecteau and Stephanie Jarvis discover, engineering the perfect plant – indoors or out – involves far more than a seed and soil.

Orchid Overload

Plastic garbage from Trader Joe's and an AARP card are peeking out of hillocks of plastic trash piling up in Indonesia.

It's a sign of a new global quandary: What should wealthy countries do with their plastic waste now that China no longer is buying it?

For years, America sold millions of tons of used yogurt cups, juice containers, shampoo bottles and other kinds of plastic trash to China to be recycled into new products.

And it wasn't just the U.S. Some 70 percent of the world's plastic waste went to China – about 7 million tons a year.

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are preparing legislation that would welcome shared, motorized scooters back to city sidewalks.

County council will take a first look Tuesday at an ordinance allowing the county’s sustainability department to license bike and scooter share programs. At the city level, Councilman Kerry McCormack says scooter legislation should be coming in the next few weeks.

A photo of Lake Erie
ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Gov. Mike DeWine says it’s time for the state to do more to protect what he calls the jewel of Ohio -- Lake Erie. But farmers are concerned that might mean more regulations without the proper funding.

In his State of the State, DeWine pointed to nutrient pollution as a factor in the dwindling health of Lake Erie, but avoided discussing farmland runoff, where a large portion of the nutrients come from.

photo of a bald eagle
RICK McMEECHAN

Bald eagles were nearly wiped out in Ohio a generation ago. But now they’re back, and a pair is nesting close to the industrial heart of Cleveland.

On this week’s Exploradio, we explore one of the most encouraging signs of a rebounding waterway.

Toledo Votes Yes On Lake Erie Bill Of Rights

Feb 27, 2019

In a special election Tuesday, voters in Toledo said yes to a ballot measure that amends the city charter to include a Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR). With about 8.9 percent turnout of eligible voters, the ordinance was approved by just over 61 percent. 

According to the unofficial vote count from the Lucas County Board of Elections, over 16,200 ballots were cast.

photo of Akron sewer project
KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

Akron officials say the project to upgrade the city’s sewer system has surpassed one of its goals.

Repairs to the city’s wastewater treatment plant were completed two months ahead of schedule and cost 11 million dollars less than expected. Some of the upgrades include refurbished tanks and new pipes.

The program manager of the Akron Waterways Renewed! project Patrick Gsellman said the improvements at the wastewater plant help the entire water and sewer system function more effectively.

photo of windmills
DAVID P. WEST / SHUTTERSTOCK

The leader of the Ohio Senate said he expects his chamber to once again take a look at the requirements for utilities to provide renewable energy while seeking efficiencies. But advanced energy advocates say that continues to put Ohio behind other states. 

Advanced Energy Economy’s Ray Fakhoury said the market is trending toward the use of renewable and alternative energy sources, and states with policies that back those sources are seeing more economic development.

Next Tuesday, Feb. 26, the residents of Toledo will have the chance to vote on an unusual (some might even say radical) proposal: whether to give the fourth largest lake in the United States its own Bill of Rights. If the ballot measure passes, it would be a win for the small but growing “rights of nature” movement, which aims to deter activities that pollute the environment by granting legal rights to ecosystems.

Valley VIew Bridge
Ohio.gov

Northeast Ohio’s infrastructure received a D+ grade in a report card released Wednesday. 

The Cleveland Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers collected data on transportation, buildings and water over the past two years.

They find much of the infrastructure, like roads and bridges, is aging and deteriorating significantly.

natural gas drilling rig
TIM RUDELL / WKSU

Encino Energy is continuing to ramp up staffing at its new headquarters in Stark County. 

Encino is a natural gas and oil acquistion and development company created by a group of successful former executives of other major gas & oil corporations. Late last year it made a multi-billion dollar deal to get the Ohio holdings of Chesapeake Energy, the original leader in the Utica Shale development.

Supporting equipment at a drilling site
TIM RUDELL / WKSU

A new study shows that the drilling boom in south east Ohio is not contributing as much as it could to the local economy.

One of the authors, Amanda Weinstein of the University of Akron, says part of this loss is because many of the workers in those drilling areas are spending their earnings elsewhere.

Hog Creek Wind Farm
ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Researchers are saying a new poll shows increasing support for the development of renewable energy among conservative Ohioans. The poll doesn’t just focus on what conservative voters support, but why.

A poll released by the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum says more than two-thirds of conservative respondents support renewable energy development and favored fair wind turbine setback laws that allow a landowner to lease property for wind farm projects.

A photo of Lake Erie near Sandusky
ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Ohio Senate Republicans are saying one of their top goals is to protect what they believe to be the state’s number one natural resource: Lake Erie. They say keeping Lake Erie clean will be a team effort that doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of farmers.  

Sen. Bob Peterson of southeast Ohio said they want to bring in environmentalists, water treatment facility operators and farmers to make sure fertilizer and other nutrients don’t get into Lake Erie, causing harmful algal blooms.

Drawing of Shell cracker plant
Shell Cemical website

The Utica Shale drilling boom that’s been fading of late in northeast Ohio may be getting an international boost.

Ethane is critical for making things like polymers, plastic, and paint. It’s also a companion product from natural gas wells--and wells in Ohio’s Utica shale are typically rich with it.  

A U.S. Energy Information Administration report finds the country is now leading the world in an international export market for ethane.

photo of solar panels
SHUTTERSTOCK

The panel of state regulators that reviews utility rates will soon have a new leader who has a history of opposing renewable energy issues. This is causing concerns for supporters of a proposed solar farm from AEP.

Sam Randazzo’s appointment to chair the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio sent up red flags to supporters of AEP’s 400 megawatt solar farm.

Randazzo’s former group, Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, is against the proposal.

Oregon's bottle deposit system is recycling more containers than ever before despite major disruptions in global recycling markets.

Last year, Oregon recycled 90 percent of the beverage containers covered by its bottle deposit system. The rate has jumped from 64 percent just two years ago, and the total number of bottles recycled reached an all-time high of 2 billion in 2018.

BRYN PINZGAUER / FLICKR/CC

Have you heard your house making strange, loud noises during the recent bitter cold weather? One of our listeners has and submitted a question about it to our new reporting project “OH Really?” Russell Stanton says he’s lived in Ohio for 61 years and has rarely heard noises like this. 

Peter Paino from Paino Architects in Kent says he's heard them in his house too. He says it’s likely the top quarter of your roof truss or the roof rafters. When it’s so cold like this, they shrink rapidly and move.  

A photo of trash bins in a snowy alley.
KURT BAUSCHARDT / FLICKR/CC

Local communities are making adjustments to deal with the cold spell.

One of the services affected will be trash collection. Akron is asking citizens to put out bins only if necessary. Canton says collection may be delayed a day, but citizens should still put out their trash.   

The city of Cleveland’s chief operating officer Darnell Brown says trash pickup in Cleveland is cancelled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

A photo of solar panels
SERGEY EDENTOD / SHUTTERSTOCK

State regulators are still looking over what would be the largest renewable energy farm in Ohio. But opponents of the project say it would result in a handout to American Electric Power and customers would foot the bill.

Those arguing against AEP’s solar and wind farm proposal in Highland County say the utility would rely on ratepayers to offset the costs of generating the renewable energy in the first few years.

SARAH TAYLOR / WKSU

This week we’ve seen a range of weather. We had a foot of snow and temperatures in the teens. Then it was 45 degrees and raining. Are these wild fluctuations caused by climate change? A Kent State geography professor says no. Cameron Lee says these types of ups and downs are normal.

A photo of solar panels
SHUTTERSTOCK

State regulators are holding hearings on what could be the largest solar farm in the state. Supporters say the argument is based on proving the state needs these renewable projects. 

AEP is touting its solar farm project in Highland County as a way to create thousands of jobs in Appalachia and ramp up renewable energy in Ohio.

The hearing is intended to determine if there’s a “need” for a new generation plant, which state law requires. 

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