Green Things I Can Do for a Sustainable Planet
Welcome to the April 2014 issue of the Kent Environmental Council newsletter.
KEC Spring Forum on April 28 to Focus on Injection Wells with Teresa Mills from the Center for Health, Education and Justice
Injection wills will be the topic of the Kent Environmental Council's Spring Forum April 28 at the Kent Presbyterian Church, 1456 E. Summit St., Kent, starting at 7 p.m. The forum's speaker, Teresa Mills, a staff member at the Center for Health, Education and Justice (CHEJ), will speak about injection wells. The CHEJ was started by Lois Gibbs (founder and director of CHEJ). CHEJ now assists groups nationwide in dealing with chemical spills and pollution situations. Her talk will cover topics such as how injection wells are constructed, how long they may be expected to last, how they are tested, the requirements they are supposed to meet, who inspects them and how well are they regulated. She also will tell why she and CHEJ petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove the Ohio Department of Natural Resources from being the agency primarily responsible for regulating injection wells. After her presentation, Mills will take questions from the audience.
Climate Change Has Broad Implications for Kent and Beyond
As we all know, we have had a very cold winter this year. Does that mean that the world is not getting warmer after all? "No," says Michael J. Allen, a doctoral student in the Kent State University Geography Department. Scale is very important. Various regions, states and communities all see the weather differently. Climate change is not weather, and it is not a onetime snapshot either. Climate is a long-term study of the world as a whole. Allen made his comments during a recent presentation sponsored by the Kent League of Women Voters, the Kent Environmental Council and the Portage County Park District and showed a series of color-coded slides of temperatures for the whole earth from 1880 to 2014, which visually revealed substantial overall warming worldwide--especially in the Artic regions.
Scientists have found natural climate variability over long periods of time because of the eccentricity of the earth's orbit, the tilt of its axis and the wobble of its axis; however, no change in energy distribution occurs with these factors. Volcanoes cause weather changes over a year or so because of minor greenhouse gas increases, but the world rebounds in two or three years, resulting in no long-term climate change.
Allen went on to talk about anthropogenic climate changes-those changes resulting from the influence of human beings on nature. Water vapor is the biggest contributor to the natural greenhouse effect, which people need to survive on the planet. Humans have not directly increased water vapors; however, man-made emissions brought on by urbanization, transportation, agricultural endeavors and other factors leads to an enhanced greenhouse effect that is causing an undeniable warming trend. Ice-core samples show that water vapor and CO2 have varied together for many years: up some years and down other years. Man-made changes have not affected water vapor but, in the past few years, CO2 has increased dramatically beyond rises in water vapor. While there are other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, these gases last a shorter time in the atmosphere than CO2, which lasts hundreds years-making it a real problem. How humans control CO2 emissions this will affect the population for many years to come.
Based on assumptions that populations will continue to rise, projections (not predictions) by the International Panel on Climate Change show that temperatures worldwide will rise 1.5 to 7 degrees, depending on the rate of emissions. Dividing the world into regional grid areas shows that the temperature rise varies, depending upon how the area is addressing climate change. But whether the area is India or Cleveland or Kent, all areas show an upward tick in temperatures.
Based on certain things that we can know--such as pressure and circulation patterns, man-made causes and rates, certain feedback about the albedo effect (ice reflects sunlight, and asphalt absorbs it), scientists can then develop models of how changes in these areas will affect climate. Other changes, however, cannot be modeled. Uncertainty exists, for example, in cloud microphysics, ocean fluxes, vertical profiles of the atmosphere, urbanization changes, and carbon cycles and sinks.
Scientists have seen evidence, however, that the rise in temperatures is effecting the environment and people's health. Artic sea ice, for example, has shown dramatic decreases, even though the records go back only 24 years (1979 to 2014). Many areas of the United States are experiencing extreme droughts. In the Great Lakes region, occurrences such as algae, dead zones and vertical temperature changes have had an effect on food chains in the lakes, which then can affect fishing, tourism, people's livelihoods and recreational activities.
Allen went on to talk about the health effects from urbanization and various heat events. In the United States, the
Air Quality Index is measured from 0 to 500. In New York City, the average is about 300. In China, the average air-quality index in well over 700. In China, with its extremely fast growth in the past few years, officials used to measure only the large particles and claim there was no problem, even though people often have to wear masks just to breathe. Citizen pressure is forcing the Chinese government to measure small particles and apply the Air Quality Index; officials are finally starting to address the issue.
Heat events can be silent killers. In the European event of 2003, 40,000 people died from heat. France had no air conditioning, and the culture of going on holiday to escape the heat meant that elderly loved ones often were left alone at home. The vacationers came home to find their elderly family members dead. Closer to home, in Chicago in 1995, 535 people died because many buildings were old cinderblock high-rises with no ventilation.
By charting temperatures over many years, scientists have shown that the seasons are being effected by rising temperatures. Spring and summer are starting earlier, and winter and fall are starting later. Heat days are becoming more frequent, and the average duration of heat days is becoming longer. When heat days begin earlier in the season, people are not acclimated to the heat; therefore, early heat events are more deadly and have increased implications for human health. Extreme heat is a real danger to human health that will become worse with time.
Other local examples of heat effects on the environment are the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Great Lakes, where water resources, walleye, bird and other animal biodiversity is affected.
When asked by a young audience member how young people could help, Allen said they could ride buses, recycle and use bicycles a lot. He added that everyone needs to be aware, plan and address the issues, stressing that every facet of the world is interconnected. Everyone needs to work together.
Allen's presentation was compiled from the following sources:
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
World Health Organization
United Nations Environment Programme
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/COMET
National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
|Film 'Chasing Ice' Documents Vanishing Ice in World's Polar Regions
A recent screening and discussion of the documentary "Chasing Ice" at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kent showed very dramatic photography of the vanishing ice in the polar regions of the world and the hardships of trying to document it. "Chasing Ice" is the story of National Geographic photographer James Balog's bold plan to collect evidence to show that climate change is real. He developed the Extreme Ice Survey by using cameras mounted in stationary positions-camera equipment that he and others developed to function in the brutal Artic temperatures. These cameras take time-lapse pictures that are downloaded to capture a multiyear record of the world's changing glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. He hopes his findings will provide evidence and hope to a carbon-powered planet.
In the discussion after the movie, one of the talking points was the chart below, showing projections for rising worldwide temperatures:
For more information, see:National Climate Assessment
President Obama's Climate Action Plan
|Many Tasks Await a World in Search
of Renewable Energy and a Sustainable Future
At the Kent Environmental Council's annual meeting, Dr. Peter Schubert spoke about the many tasks confronting a world aiming to find a sustainable future. His current focus is Malta, where he was preparing to give a similar talk and consult on that country's needs. Malta is a small country with an aquifer that is drawing down and not being replenished and where 1.4 million visitors bring in refuse that must be put into landfills built in the 1960s without liners, causing leaching into the limestone. The people of Malta need help badly. But so do we all, said Schubert. In early American history, the country had 20 people per square mile, and this was sustainable. In Cleveland today, one finds 200 people per square mile and sustainability much harder to achieve. At the same time, the world population keeps growing, requiring more energy.
Energy in modern society is now abundant and cheap, but this will not last forever, Schubert noted. Energy today is relatively cheap, partly because many energy costs are hidden from consumers economically. These hidden costs include negative impacts to human health, damage to the environment, support of repressive regimes and consequences of global armed conflict. The Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy, said Schubert, is trying to develop a comprehensive strategy for renewable energy solutions at all scales of life--cars, homes, businesses, towns, nations, the world. To do this, the center stresses collaborative efforts among the disciplines of engineering, chemistry, physics, biology, environmental affairs and public policy.
When it comes to energy from fossil sources, consumers may pay for direct costs, but many external costs are not paid for in energy bills. These internal costs include the cost of leaks, spills, tailpipe emissions, defense, slurry pits, heavy metals, stack pollutants, waste heat, waste water and power outages. Who pays these costs? We all do, said Schubert, in health risks from toxins released from deep inside the earth, production of hazardous air pollutants, release of solid wastes (such as slag, ash and dust), contaminated water, and destruction of habitats and pristine environments.
What about renewables? While no fuel, smoke waste or odor comes from wind, solar or geothermal wave/tidal renewable energy sources and they are certainly better than fossil fuels, problems exist with these fuel sources as well. For example, the construction of wind turbines uses huge amounts of steel (produced with coal and gas), huge amounts of concrete (from limestone and oil) and large amounts of rare earth metals (of limited supply). Solar-panel construction requires many hazardous chemicals. There is no perfect solution, said Schubert, adding that everyone needs need to begin to adopt increasingly better fuel sources.
To accomplish this goal, said Schubert, officials need to begin to include the hidden costs in economic decisions, which will meet fierce resistance from the many businesses, industries, labor unions and low-income families. Affluent members of society need to become early adopters of still-costly solutions until economies of scale can help others afford them. Governments, he added, need to support a phased implementation of these solutions. Also needed, said Schubert, is advocacy for energy policy and statutory reform, as well as government support in the form of tax abatements and subsidies. The knowledge is available, said Schubert, adding that it needs to be turned into action.
Schubert then gave some small-scale solutions, community-scale solutions, national solutions, and national and international solutions.
- Stress home-energy efficiency. Decrease usage; insulate walls, doors and windows; adopt energy-efficient lighting and high-efficiency appliances; unplug chargers when then not in use; and install energy-saving devices such as passive solar water heaters or chromatic window tints.
- Save on transportation. Walk, bicycle, car pool, ride the bus, or use remote telepresence. Tune vehicle engines, use slow starts and drive gently.
- Microgrids can produce greater resilience to power outages and provide for increased use of renewables but need energy storage, which is still expensive.
- Waste-to-energy efforts convert carbon-based rubbish to power and heat and is cleaner than coal,
- Recycle plastics, metals and waste.
- Compost food waste and renew soils.
- Use anaerobic digesters for manure and sewage.
- Burn, co-fire or gasify renewable biomass sources such as crop residues, animal waste and forest slash, wood chips, landscape trimmings, food waste, seaweed, algae and invasive species.
- Invest in large-scale renewable energy sources such as wind farms, solar farms, geothermal and tidal/wave technologies.
National and International Solutions:
- Work toward a worldwide energy grid (half the earth is always sunny, and a third is always windy), even though it requires superconductive cables and massive international cooperation.
- Use space-based solar power where sunlight is collected in orbit and beamed to earth.
Schubert ended his presentation with a quote from the Iroquois Nation: "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation."
Green Things I Can Do for a Sustainable Planet: Avoid Vehicle Idling When Possible
Did you know that idling your car wastes more fuel than turning it off and restarting it? Dong this not only reduces your carbon footprint, but it also saves gas money. Many people remember when you had to warm up your car before starting to drive it. Today, your car is ready to go within 30 seconds of starting. Additionally, car ignition systems are so efficient now that restarting the engine uses very little gas and is better for the car than letting it idle. Ten seconds of idle uses more gas than restarting the car. The typical driver idles in traffic for 16 minutes a day. Waiting for a train to pass? Turn your car off, and restart it after the train passes. Waiting to pick your child up from school? Turn your car off, and restart it when your child arrives. Waiting in line at a drive-through? Turn your car off, and restart it when your order is ready.
Assuming you let your four-cylinder car idle the average of 16 minutes per day, turning the car off each time and restarting it when it's time to move will save you 32 gallons of gas and 704 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Gas and carbon dioxide savings double with an eight-cylinder engine.
Turning your car off and restarting it when you are ready to move rather than letting it idle leads to big savings.
|The Environment in the News
Group Prints Anti-Fracking Booklet of Horror Stories
Akron Beacon Journal - January 31, 2014
Local anti-fracking activists Dr. Ted Voneida and George Sosebee helped Environment Ohio introduce their new 48-page booklet that illustrates contamination issues, medical problems and declining property values in Ohio and other states. Shalefield Stories: Personal and Collected Testimonies provides evidence from 20 real people whose states are not protecting residents from the threats of fracking. The booklet was compiled by the group Friends of the Harmed and also lists 73 individuals harmed by shale drilling in six states. To view the booklet, click here, or order a copy from Steel Valley Printers, 107 E. Eighth Ave., Homestead, PA 15120. Or call the publisher at 412-461-5650.
Ohio May Add 19,000 Wells in Utica Shale
Akron Beacon Journal - March 18, 2014
According to Ohio state geologist Mike McCormack's assessment, the potential for a lot of activity in Utica shale is possible in the next 19 to 25 years as the industry drills wells for natural gas and liquids in the 3 million acres of Utica shale in seven Ohio counties with no existing wells. The full report will be released in April after final data are received, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The ODNR estimates that the Utica shale boom has triggered $20 billion to $24 billion in spending on leases, drilling, and plants and pipelines to date in Ohio. In the next year, Ohio's gas processing is expected to jump from 1,325 billion cubic feet per day to 2,525 cubic feet per day, while liquids processing is expected to increase from 81,000 barrels per day to 245,000 barrels per day.
Justices Weigh Summit Drilling Dispute
Record-Courier February 27, 2014
Akron Beacon Journal - February 27, 2014
The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a case that pits the city of Munroe Falls against Beck Energy Corp. of Ravenna. Several justices appeared troubled about local communities having no say regarding drilling in their areas and no ability to appeal state decisions in permitting. The justices will examine whether the regulatory structure in Ohio violates communities' constitutional home-rule protection, bypasses local zoning rules and gives the Ohio Department of Natural Resources "god-like power." In 2004, Ohio gave "sole and exclusive" authority to the ODNR to regulate drilling. Munroe Falls is arguing that local zoning ordinances should operate in parallel with state law and allow the city to be certain that wells are located in areas zoned for industrial use and not in medium-density residential areas where Beck Energy wants to drill. Shared authority exists in a number of other drilling states, including California, Oklahoma and Texas. In New York and Pennsylvania, similar cases have been decided in favor of shared regulation, with municipalities overseeing land use and aesthetics and the state overseeing safety and construction. Beck Energy argues that Ohio's 2004 law was intended "to end the confusion, inefficiency and delays under the earlier patchwork of local ordnances and to ensure that Ohio's oil and gas resources are developed on a uniform, statewide basis." Each side expressed confidence that their arguments would prevail. A decision in the case is not expected for several months.
U.S. EPA Makes Small Effort to Regulate Fracking Fluids
Record-Courier - February 12, 2014
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has little authority to regulate fluids used in fracking because of a fracking exemption to several environmental laws in the 2005 Federal Energy Policy Act, but companies must apply for permits to use diesel in fracking. The federal EPA therefore has given new guidance in defining five substances in diesel that require a permit for use in fracking. Because only about two percent of drillers in the United States use diesel and because many forms of diesel exist, the EPA's attempt to use the authority it does have leaves many factors still unregulated in the fracking industry. Diesel is a known carcinogen and a threat to drinking water if used in fracking, according to Environment America's Clean Water Program Director Courtney Abrams, who commented, "The EPA has made a small step toward curbing one of many threats from fracking."
Drilling Halted after Quakes
Akron Beacon Journal - March 11, 2014
Record-Courier - March 11, 2014
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered Hilcorp Energy to temporarily stop horizontal gas drilling operations in the wake of two or three small earthquakes just west of Youngstown. No damage was reported. These were not injection wells, which have previously been linked to earthquakes in the same area.
West Virginians Still Unsure of Drinking the Water
Akron Beacon Journal - February 10, 2014
Akron Beacon Journal - February 18, 2014
Akron Beacon Journal - March 2, 2014
West Virginians remain wary of their water supply after a January chemical spill, and many still avoid drinking water that the government says is safe. Residents have smelled odors from the water even after state and federal officials assured them that the water is safety for drinking and bathing. On the day of that announcement, however, two schools in Kanawha County sent students home after a teacher who fainted and a student with burning eyes were taken to the hospital. The public has lost faith in officials who give mixed messages about the water's safety, and public hearings have been highly emotional. The March article also notes that many rural West Virginians outside of the spill area have been living without tap water for drinking for months, sometimes for years. Many small, regional water authorities lack money, have a crumbling infrastructure now that the coal boom is over and experience a deteriorating quality of well water that has left many rural residents without safe tap water to drink or bathe in. These residents often are placed on water-boil alerts or experience water outages and must collect water from roadside pipes or pay for water to be hauled to their homes. Although federally funded projects are under way in some areas, state infrastructure money is slated to be cut from $40 million to $20 million in 2015.
Lax Enforcement on Coal Industry Permits Tied to Political Contributions
Akron Beacon Journal - March 16, 2014
An editorial on this date expressed mounting concerns about the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's lax enforcement of state and federal clean water laws regulating the coal industry. The editorial cited a recent review by the Associated Press showing that 18 coal facilities were operating under expired permits, with 13 of them expiring since John Kasich became governor in 2011. Permits are designed to expire in five years, because pollution standards are rightly updated based on technology improvements to detect and deal with potential damage from runoff. The AP found one facility, run by a Kasich contributor, Murray Energy, has operated for almost nine years on an expired permit and several other permits have been expired for five to seven years. The editorial noted the result of lax regulation in West Virginia makes it imperative for Kasich "to make a full explanation of what's going on at the Ohio EPA. . . . . giving Ohioans the assurance that public health remains the top priority."
Train Derailments of Crude Oil a Danger
Akron Beacon Journal - February 18, 2014
Train derailments hauling crude oil across the United States have released 3 million gallons of oil, nearly twice as much as the largest pipeline spill since 1986, and there have been at least 10 derailments since 2008, according to an Associated Press review. The AP notes that this is a lesser-known danger of the U.S. oil boom. While there are increased efforts to improve the safety of oil shipments, increasing volumes of crude are now moving by rail and pass major population centers. The North Dakota and Montana crude oil region, where many of the trains originate, contains more natural gas than heavier crude and can have a lower ignition point, increasing the risk to lives and property.
Efforts Target Old Gas and Oil Wells in Ohio
Akron Beacon Journal - March 12, 2014
After identifying 400 abandoned wells in Ohio that require plugging, the state is making an effort to plug them. Many are in northeast Ohio counties, including two in Portage, nine in Summit, 39 in Medina, 49 in Cuyahoga, six in Wayne and two in Stark--all of which are set to be plugged. Plugging is a reliable way to prevent pollution of surface water and aquifers, control rotten egg odors caused by sulfur and other gases that can, depending on concentrations, be explosive and dangerous. The state is planning to complete 75 wells a year with its program. The typical cost of plugging a well is $20,000 to $25,000 but can cost up to $250,000. Estimates are that 270,000 wells have been drilled in Ohio in the past 150 years, with 49,000 now in production. Ohio began its formal plugging program in 1977 and to date has addressed more than 1,000 orphaned wells (with no identified owner to take financial responsibility). Well owners are required to plug and abandon any well that cannot produce in commercial amounts. For information about orphan wells, click here, or call Gene Chini at 330-306-0007.
Ohio Revokes Company's Permit to Drill Two Wells
Akron Beacon Journal - March 13, 2014
Two drilling permits for Everflow Eastern Partners L.P. have been revoked by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources after the company submitted false information on two wells it wants to drill near Massillon. When a company does not have sufficient acres for drilling, it can apply to the state to initiate a process called mandatory pooling, which allows the company to include properties in a drilling unit when an owner refuses to sign leases. Everflow said in its mandatory pooling request that the company had permission to drill on several acres owned by Massillon; however, Massillon city council had not acted upon the company's request. Council was leery because of bad experiences with another driller. James N. Huebner opposed the well on his own property, and his appeal to a state panel brought the submission of false information to light. Criminal or civil actions against the company are possible.
U.S. to Open New 'Climate Hubs' and Make Climate Data More User Friendly
Akron Beacon Journal - March 13, 2014
Record-Courier - March 20, 2014
The creation of seven new "climate hubs" in regions across the United States is an effort to help the country adapt and prepare for shifting weather realities, such as those extreme weather events (storms, long droughts, snowstorms and subzero weather) that have already taken the country by surprise, hurting farmers, rural residents and businesses--providing evidence that climate change is no longer hypothetical or in the future. The goal is to synchronize the federal government's preparation and resources with planning by universities, tribal communities and state governments and to prepare for shifting temperatures. The climate hubs also are making already public climate data more accessible to the public through graphics, maps and even gaming-type simulations. The concept is that the more the public knows about climate change--especially the area where they live-the more likely they will do something to negate the negative effects of climate change.
Environmentalists Hit Obama on Energy Plan
El Paso Times - January 31, 2014
President Barack Obama is sticking to a fossil-fuel dependent energy policy--a blow to environmental groups who united to lobby against this in an attempt to support the principle they all agree on--the necessity to curb climate change. Opponents point out that Obama's "all-of-the-above energy strategy" can't work for the president's own climate action plan and, despite the administration's sincere desire to address climate change, does not go far enough to cut carbon emissions.
|Save the Date: Events for April, May
April 10 (Thursday)
Portage County Commissioners will meet to discuss limits on trucks that haul hazardous wastes from drilling operations in front of homes and on roads throughout the county. This is a chance to work with the commissioners in a collaborative, cooperative and courteous way. While this meeting is dealing with only two roads and one well, thousands more wells are predicted for Ohio, and this is a chance to influence the outcomes in the Road Use Maintenance Agreement in Portage County. The meeting will be held at the Portage County Administration Building, 449 S. Meridian St., Ravenna. Public comment begins at 11:30 a.m. The commissioners may start early, so arrive by 11:10 a.m. Contact Mary at 330-472-8086 for more information.
Who's Your Mama? Events . . .
April 13 (Sunday)
Vegan Chef Competition
1 p.m.-5 p.m.
April 22 (Tuesday)
"Edible Kent" Film and Discussion Panel
Kent Free Library
April 25 (Friday)
"Who's Your Mama?" Environmental Film Festival
Kiva Auditorium, KSU Student Center
April 26 (Saturday)
Who's Your Mama? Main Street Block Party
E. Main St., Downtown Kent
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
For updates and more information, click here.
May 17 (Saturday)
23rd Annual River Day in Kent
"Celebrating Recreational History of the River, Water Trail and Hike-and-Bike Trail"
Bridge to Kramer Fields, 640 Stow St., Kent
Along with a dedication for the Tannery Trail and new bridge, there will be three vintage baseball teams, popcorn, exhibits, music and more. KEC and the Kent Parks and Recreation Department hope you will join us.
KEC is looking for volunteers who want to get more involved in the organization. Here are two volunteer opportunities we hope you will consider:
- A member to develop new material for placement on the KEC website by our website production team
- A member to monitor water issues for KEC
Interested parties should contact Lorraine McCarty at 330-554-3829.
Welcome New KEC Members (and a few inadvertently left off the 2013 membership list published in the last newsletter)
John & Barbara Bravarone
Larry & Beverly Cole
Tom & Miwako Cooperrider
John & Martha Kluth
Little City Grill (Have a Nosh LLC)
Karl Walter & Emily Parker
Barbara & Richard Patterson
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.