Welcome to the corrected September 2013 issue of the Kent Environmental Council newsletter. We apologize for the error.
Autumn a Perfect Season for Environmental Learning and Education
It's autumn again in Kent, which means school is back in session and the weather is changing, among other things. One thing that doesn't change is the Kent Environmental Council's commitment to education and improving our environment. Whether you participate in education in the classroom or outside of it, there are some great opportunities for additional information and learning going on this season, in person and on the web. Check out our newsletter and website; attend a forum, movie or discussion; go take a hike and see some of our native flora and fauna getting ready for winter. And by all means, take all the information that you've gathered and help make the world a little bit better if you can. Wherever you are in your personal education journey, KEC would love to work with you on that path because together we can do so much more than any one of us could do alone. To those who have been a part of KEC since its inception, and to those who are finding us for the first time, welcome to fall, and welcome to the latest KEC newsletter!
--Lisa Regula Meyer, Chair, KEC
|Excerpts from McKibben Speech at Ban Injection Wells Rally in Warren July 29|
Renowned author, climate-change activist and cofounder of the website 350.org, Bill McKibben, spoke at a Ban Injection Well rally in Warren, Ohio, in late July and offered some pearls of wisdom to the crowd of several hundred on the Trumbull County Courthouse lawn. I had the opportunity to videotape the event, including his nine-minute speech. Here are a few excerpts I thought were especially noteworthy:
- "There's no way that natural gas, fracked gas, can be said to represent a bridge to our future. It's a gangplank to the globally warmed world that we're trying hard to prevent." (quoting Cornell University scientist Tony Ingraffea)
- "Think about the dramatic solar spill that we're experiencing today...all of it going to waste because one looks around the roofs here, and there's nothing to capture that sun. There are more solar panels in Bavaria than there are in the United States. The reason is because they built a movement that demanded change and that's the kind of movement that you all are building here."
- "There's people all over the country, in institutions, in colleges and in churches, and they're divesting their holdings in fossil fuel companies because they understand it's wrong to wreck the climate and it's wrong to profit from that wreckage."
- "They said there was no use standing up to fracking anywhere, but you know so far, we've been able to keep it entirely at bay in the state of New York. In my state of Vermont, we've banned it altogether, just like they did in Quebec, just like they did in France. We're gonna roll it back here in Ohio too."
- "The day will come when people say, 'What were we thinking? We knew that we were triggering earthquakes, and yet we kept on doing the same thing.' That is very strange human behavior. And it's time that human behavior came to an end, even if it's making a few people very, very rich."
To view the entire video, click here.
| ||Fracking Waste in Kent's Watershed?|
Kent residents' long history of concern about protecting the environment has as its centerpiece the Kent Environmental Council. All of Portage County and Ohio face a threat to the drinking-water supply. If we act together now, we can protect this most precious life-sustaining resource.
If you are among the many who know little about fracking waste, watersheds and aquifers, here are facts that may bring you to join Concerned Citizens Ohio, a grassroots organization based primarily in Portage County with active groups in Hiram and Shalersville, a growing group in Kent, and some active members in Aurora and scattered around the county.
Let's start with the basics about injection wells. Class II waste injection wells are either old production wells converted for disposal purposes or newly drilled wells designed primarily to accept "brine" from oil and gas production--fluids typically said to be nonhazardous. Here are five reasons to be concerned:
- The waste fluids are injected under pressure into porous rock formations--not into a tight, closed container as many people have thought.
- The layers of cement and steel casings intended to protect ground water are vulnerable. Industry officials acknowledge that cement is notoriously difficult to pour and eventually cracks and develops imperfections. Some Class II wells in Portage County were permitted in the 1970s. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of these waste fluids have been injected under pressure into these wells every year.
- The integrity of these wells is tested every five years by measuring their pressure. No one knows where the millions of gallons of waste have gone or what has happened to the toxic chemicals they contain; tests are not possible.
- The waste fluids being injected are coming from unconventional high-volume horizontal hydrofractured production wells (commonly known as UHVHH wells and inaccurately referred to as fracking wells).
- UHVHH drilling requires 10 times as much water and chemicals as conventional drilling. The Utica and Marcellus shale, where the oil and gas can be found, are radioactive. The waste fluids to be injected contain the carcinogenic chemicals known as BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes. These compounds are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Thus they pose a threat to both water and air.
Why should an urban dweller in Kent be concerned?
- Whether Kent will have an injection well within the city limits depends on leased mineral rights and geology.
- Kent's water comes from aquifers under farmland around the city limits. The closest Class II wells are south of Kent just off Interstate 76, northeast of Ravenna (east of State Route 44), north of State Route 303 and southeast of Rootstown (shown on the map as bull's-eyes).
- Waste fluids from horizontal shale wells must be brought in on trucks, and trucks have been known to leak, spill, have accidents and illegally dump their toxic brine. The active injection well south of Kent, for example, has had a number of violations.
- The green dots on the map indicate temporarily abandoned annular injection wells. Can these be activated? Look for more about this topic in a future KEC newsletter.
If we're worried, what can the residents of Portage County do? Concerned Citizens Ohio is working on a number of fronts. Join us to:
- Educate Portage County residents about Class II injection wells.
- Support Ohio legislation (H.B. 1483 and S.B. 1784) to ban injection wells. To learn more and sign the pledge click here.
- Attend a meeting sponsored by Concerned Citizens Ohio on Sunday, Sept. 22, where Kent State University alumna Tish O'Dell explains how Kent voters can adopt a community bill of rights to protect Kent from new gas drilling, fracking and injection wells. The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. and ends at 3 p.m. in the Kent Free Library, 312 W. Main Street, Kent. Call 330-569-7863 for more information.
| ||The Connection Between the Great Lakes, World Water Shortages and Agriculture |
Let's start this discussion about the importance of water with the following comments by Maude Barlow, water activist, former senior advisor to the United Nations on water issues and author of Blue Gold and 17 other books on water: As the world's population grows, so does the demand for clean, fresh drinking water. To put it into perspective, only three percent of the world's water is fresh water, and only one percent of this is available to humans--the rest is frozen in glaciers. Eventually, there simply won't be enough water to go around.
Tom Henry, environmental reporter for the Toledo Blade, had an article published by the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer on July 15. He points out that climate change and population growth are making the water-rich Great Lakes region's role more important as food producers. At the same time, water shortages in other parts of the world and even concerns in this region about future water availability are making regional agribusinesses uneasy about the future. Despite all the rain and storms we have had this summer, farmers are uneasy. The 2012 drought and concerns over weather becoming unpredictable because of climate change have caused an increase in irrigation permits for the past couple of years in Michigan and Ohio. Jim Olson, a Michigan lawyer specializing in water rights, predicts "a water crisis that will affect everyone and everywhere, including everyone and every community in the Great Lakes region and basin." Larry Antosch, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's senior director of policy development and environmental policy, says that a better long-term strategy is needed to manage Ohio's abundant water resources.
In July, Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of a book on the global politics of food scarcity, published a major essay in which he notes that half of the world's population lives in 18 water-stressed countries. The list includes China, India and the United States (the top three food producers) and countries in the politically unstable Middle East. Brown believes the world has reached "peak water," or the point at which water will forever be used faster than it is replaced, making it even more difficult to grow food in water-stressed areas, thereby changing the business of growing food.
In the United States, farmers are over-pumping in the Great Plains (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska), drawing from the Ogallala aquifer, one of the two fossil aquifers that do not recharge from rain (the other is in China). When wells are depleted, farmers turn to dry-land farming or abandon farming altogether. The aquifer depletion is reducing grain output in the Great Plains; therefore, more grain is being produced in the Midwestern Corn Belt. Other water-intensive industries, such as dairy farming also are relocating to the Midwest. For example, California dairy farmers frustrated by tight water restrictions in their home state have move to Michigan and northwest Ohio. For a chart showing water shortage predictions, click here.
All of this puts pressure on farms in the Great Lakes region to produce more food. While the region has gained 10 growing days a year because of climate change, much of this gain has been negated by the water not falling from the sky at the right time. Extended droughts in 2012 and long bouts of thunderstorms this summer are the extremes produced by climate change. Farmers need soft, all-day soaking rain to penetrate the soil better. Excessive runoff is produced by thunderstorms, which affects rivers and streams. The Great Lakes region has had less frost and ice because of climate change. Less frost allows more pests to survive, leading to an increased use of pesticides and a degradation of water quality as the runoff goes into rivers and streams. Less ice means increased evaporation of the lakes, leading to lower lake levels and higher shipping costs.
A regional water interstate compact, the Great Lakes Compact, was ratified by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2008 after years of negotiations by the eight Great Lakes states. The idea for the compact was sparked in 1998 when a Canadian firm attempted to ship Lake Superior water to Asia in tankers. The purpose of the Great Lakes Compact is to ban the interbasin transfer of water, with rare exceptions. The compact uses a consensus approach and provides an enforceable authority to keep decision-making within the compact states. Each of the eight states has developed its own implementation plan to comply with the legislation. The Ohio Environmental Council has reservations about some aspects of Ohio's plan. The Great Lakes Compact will be closely monitored by the agricultural community to see if it is effective at protecting water resources for food production.
According to Brown, in locations "where virtually all water has been claimed, cities can typically get more water only by taking it from irrigation. Countries then import grain to offset the loss of irrigated grain production. Because it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce one ton of grain, importing grain is the most efficient way to import water. Thus trading in grain futures is, in a sense, trading in water futures. To the extent that there is a world water market, it is embodied in the world grain market."
Brown notes that worldwide water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures have led to food scarcity and higher food prices and are already pushing poor countries into chaos--fueling disease, violence, weapons and refugees. He theorizes that these environmental factors could threaten the world order unless they are addressed with sustainable environmental policies and actions.
Whatever the outcome worldwide, the Great Lakes region will be pressed more and more to produce food, which will affect all of us.
--Edith Chase and Lorraine McCarty
|The Environment in the News|
Record-Courier - August 26, 2013
The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project is the first long-term attempt to monitor fracking- and drilling-related health impacts. The preliminary results (after 18 months) show that "the results challenge the industry position that no one suffers, but also suggests the problems may not be as widespread as some critics claim." The investigators also found that air pollution appeared to be a greater threat than water pollution for those involved in the study and that the processing stations (where gas is forced into national pipelines) may be more of a problem than the drilling sites themselves. According to Michael Greenstone, a professor of environmental economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the debate about fracking and health often neglects a crucial point: that many power plants have stopped burning coal and now use natural gas, which emits far less fine soot, nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide, which has had led to more people in the United States living longer. He notes, however, that "this has to be counterbalanced against the local effect of the drilling," which makes for complicated decision-making.
Akron Beacon Journal - July 14, 2013
Portage County was No. 1 in Ohio in 2012 for injecting liquid drilling waste into wells, with 2,358,371 barrels. Eight injection-well operators hauled 835,471 barrels of well fluids from Ohio and 1,522,900 barrels from out of state to Portage County. The use of injection wells is Ohio's only approved method for disposing of fracking wastes, but drillers and critics disagree on the safety of wells deep below ground. Thirty-eight of Ohio's 88 counties are licensed to accept drilling waste liquids for disposal in injection wells. In 2012, shipments from out of state (mostly Pennsylvania and West Virginia) accounted for 57.6 percent of the waste going into Ohio's wells, up 54 percent from 2011. In the first quarter of 2013, this sharp increase tapered off 5 percent in Portage County and statewide. Nationally, 50 million barrels are injected every day into 144,000 Class 2 injection wells. West Virginia has 62 injection wells, while Pennsylvania and New York each has fewer than 10 injection wells. Ohio is taking in only one-half of one percent of all fracking wastes generated nationally.
Record-Courier - July 20,2013
The Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) previously shipped natural gas from Colorado and Wyoming to Ohio, but the shale boom in Ohio and Pennsylvania has reduced the need for gas to be shipped east. The REX pipeline operators have signed an agreement with an unnamed Utica shale driller to ship natural gas from Ohio west to the middle of the United States by constructing a new pipeline to connect to existing pipelines differently. The REX pipeline would be a truly bidirectional, high-capacity, long-haul transmission pipeline that could act as the nation's northern-most, east-to-west and west-to-east corridor for natural gas distribution. The pipeline should be functional by the end of 2013.
Akron Beacon Journal - July 4, 3013
An editorial by Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times makes the case for raising the clean air standards a little every year so that the new global economy can continue to grow while population increases from 7 billion to 9 billion over the next 40 years. He notes that no matter where one is on the political spectrum, it's useful for the nation to discuss, debate and consider a strategy for climate change because the consequences of inaction are great. He notes that natural gas is a great boon to the country only if it is extracted in a way that does not leak methane into the atmosphere, because methane is worse for global warming than carbon dioxide. Raising the clean energy standard a small amount every year would ensure continuous innovation in clean power technologies. Whether it be natural gas, sequestered coal, biomass, solar, wind or nuclear, "let the most cost effective clean technology win." This strategy plays to the country's strengths with innovation. He notes that the Germans and the Chinese already are in the clean-energy race, and the United States need to join them. He ends with a question from Hal Harvey, chief executive of Energy Innovation: "Do we want to control our energy future or continue to rent it from other countries?"
Time - July 6, 2013
Solar power is getting cheaper, and Big Electric is fighting back, according to Michael Grunwald. Solar installations increased more than 1,000 percent during President Barrack Obama's first term and contributed nearly half of the new power capacity added to the grid from January through March 2013. Solar prices have plunged 80 percent since 2009, a boon to installers and also to customers, who get clean power without drilling, spilling or earth-broiling emissions. He notes that while many people will never put solar panels on their homes, everyone should still care about the solar revolution, which is on the verge of blowing up the electricity business, with a shift from centralized plants to decentralized rooftops; however, change may move slower than the shift from landlines to cell phones. Utilities are fighting back in states such as California to decrease taxpayers' right to sell power back to the grid, saying that the sales mean that nonsolar users have to pay a larger share of the costs. But studies suggest that even nonsolar customers benefit from the solar stampede when utilities don't need to turn on expensive fossil-fueled "peaking plants" as often and won't need to build as many new plants. Grunwald questions the current rate structure where customers pay the same rate whether they use power during nonpeak or peak hours. He envisions using pricing that reflects the real cost of the power people use, creating incentives for using power during off-peak hours, fuel cells, batteries and other emerging technologies to store power and manage costs--even using electric cars as roving utilities, charging at night with cheap power and selling power back to the grid during peak hours. While this would be devastating for utilities, and they "are lobbying to hold back the tide," Grunwald says that "eventually change will come" and "utilities are going to have to find new ways to do business."
Science - August 16, 2013
This issue has a special section (pp. 728-759) dealing with smarter pest control. The authors look at problems worldwide in trying to control pests and how it affects agriculture, the environment and the people involved in using the chemicals. Other articles in this issue look at research into new synthetic chemicals that promise stronger, more specific protection with less collateral damage. On page 695, Catherine Woteki, chief scientist for the United States Department of Agriculture, talks about the need to balance sustaining agricultural production for a rising worldwide population versus protecting natural resources and the environment. She mentions the effects of various pesticides on people and the environment. She states that the cause of bee colony decline remains a priority for the USDA, even as agricultural research has been cut almost 20 percent and notes that "our health and environment are related to the health of honey bees in a web of interconnectedness. Their crisis is ours as well." To sign a petition opposing the retail sale of bee-killing pesticides, click here.
--Compiled by Lorraine McCarty
|Dates to Remember|
Thursday, September 26 at 6 p.m. - "A Place at the Table"
The Kent League of Women Voters, partnering with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, will show the acclaimed 90-minute documentary "A Place At The Table" at Tallmadge High School auditorium, 140 N. Munroe Road. A panel discussion about hunger and obesity in America and making healthy food available and affordable for all will follow. Admission is free, but please RSVP and bring a donation of one or more of the following super-six most needed nonperishable food items: cereal, peanut butter, tuna, vegetables, beef stew or soup.
Saturday, September 28 - Clean Up the Cuyahoga
Thirty volunteer participants will help remove trash from the river. For more information, click here. For questions or to register, contact Jared Skaggs, Kent State University's Outdoor Adventure Program officer and livery manager at 330-672-2802.
Sunday, September 29 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday, October 1, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. - "Stewardship of Creation"
KEC will participate in a program sponsored by Trinity Lutheran Church in Kent, "Stewardship of Creation," at the church hall, 600 S. Water St., Kent.
October 21 - KEC Fall Forum "Kent 2.1: What's Next?"
The forum will be a discussion of active living for a healthy city. How does the shaping of our built environment shape our lives? Members are invited to a potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Doors open to the public at 6:30 p.m. for fellowship. At 7 p.m., a panel discussion of planning, public health, and government experts will begin.
Every Friday, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. - KEC Informal Breakfast
KEC meets at Little City Grill (formerly Diggers) 802 N. Mantua St. for discussions on various environmental topics and breakfast. Join us!
Most Saturday Mornings This Fall
Call the Portage Parks District office at 330-297-7728 to find out about their Wild Hikes at different places each week and about how to participate in their Wild Hikes Challenge.
We welcome anyone who wants to join the Kent Environmental Council and support our efforts. If you are already a member, you will be receiving a reminder of renewal by mail the month before the expiration date for your dues. Remember, dues are the main source of income for KEC. We need your support to do our work. Just fill out the KEC membership form. Enclose the completed form and your check made payable to: Kent Environmental Council and mail to: KEC, P.O. Box 395, Kent, OH 44240. To join or renew online with PayPal, click here. Membership levels are $45, Sustaining; $35, Family; $25, Individual; $15, Golden Buckeye; $10, Student; $500, Lifetime; and $200, Organization.