Ohio Department of Natural Resources Waters Down Fracking Regulations for Oil and Gas Drillers
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s once promising energy plan has emerged from the Ohio Senate worse for wear. And part of the wear was requested by his own Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), according to news reports.
As the plan nears a final vote in the next few days, Ohio environmental leaders are troubled by several changes made—and some provisions left unchanged—by the Ohio Senate and even more rumored to be in the offing in the Ohio House.
“Credit Gov. Kasich for the many good improvements to Ohio’s oil and gas law that remain in his energy plan. But those good provisions will struggle to buffer the toxic loopholes, lapses and left-outs that the oil and gas industry has succeeded in elbowing into the bill,” said Trent Dougherty, staff attorney and director of Legal Affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council.
Item: While the Senate retained most of the governor’s proposals to tighten regulations on oil and gas drilling—and actually added a positive provision to make every day a driller is in violation of the law a new offense—it amended the bill to strip the right of affected persons to appeal an oil and gas drilling permit issued by the Ohio DNR. According to a report in Saturday’s Columbus Dispatch, the bill’s Senate sponsor said the ODNR asked the Senate to amend the bill to deny appeals for anyone other than the drilling company that applied for a permit. The Senate blocked the effort of minority Senate Democrats to maintain appeal rights. If the Senate change is approved, drilling permits would possibly be the only permit issued by ODNR or Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that cannot be appealed by the public or a property owner.
Item: The governor’s proposal to force drillers to report more of the chemicals used in fracking unwittingly may be interpreted to gag physicians from sharing such information with public health officials and medical researchers. Such information could be vital to help identify, control or prevent future exposures and related injury or illness. At best, the bill’s language is innocently ambiguous; at worst, it is intended to block almost everyone’s access to vital information, other than those medical professionals directly involved in a victim’s care.
Item: The Senate also dealt a setback to the development of wind and other green energy resources. Senators added a provision that allows certain university-sponsored projects that use coal or other fossil fuels to qualify as a renewable energy source and earn tradeable credits. The Senate amendment may be a gift to universities, but it erodes a compromise struck by the Senate to not qualify similar projects by a private developer for renewable energy credits. The university amendment could slow or stop altogether some wind energy projects that could not could not compete with cheaper, college-backed combined heat and power projects.
Item: The Senate approved the governor’s request to exclude from Ohio Power Siting Board oversight the construction of gas gathering lines (of up to 9 inches in diameter and up to 125 psi pressure), processing facilities, natural gas liquid finished products lines, natural gas liquids fractionation plants and stub lines (of up to 5 miles in length). The bill also allows for an accelerated review of requests to build gas pipelines of up to 5 miles in length. The change will leave communities with little comprehensive oversight and little opportunity for public review or comment, especially when a utility company proposes to use eminent domain to acquire right-of-way for a project that now will no longer need a Power Siting Board construction certificate.
Item: Informed sources believe that Halliburton may ask the House to further amend the disclosure provision to block the right of the public to challenge a driller’s claim that a certain chemical is a trade secret. Under Ohio’s trade secrets law, companies have the right to shield from public view chemical formulas that are deemed proprietary—unless a court rules otherwise. Stripping the right of the public to appeal secrecy claims in court could invite drillers to make broad claims of trade secrecy, depriving the public of important information.
Prospects for a turnaround in these concerns appear bleak. The Ohio House is rushing the 197-page bill to a floor vote after only two weeks of hearings (the Senate dedicated eight weeks) as lawmakers scramble to wind up business before Memorial Day and their summer recess.
"This bill waters down the state's renewable energy standard, and fails to go far enough to regulate fracking," said Jed Thorp with the Ohio Sierra Club. "Once again, special interests get their way at the expense of the public."
At a press conference staged a block from the Statehouse this morning, environmental leaders vowed to fight on with a range of proposals. The Ohio Environmental Council and Sierra Club pushing for common-sense amendments to salvage the bill to Environment Ohio and Buckeye Forest Council urging that the bill be altogether scrapped.
“Anyone that has notions that this bill is about protecting public health and the environment should forget it,” said Environment Ohio Policy Advocate Julian Boggs. “As it stands, the bill does more harm than good by giving over more power and control to the polluting industries themselves—including placing a gag order on doctors to alert the public about toxic threats in their communities—and by undermining the state’s successful renewable energy and energy efficiency policies. The legislature ought to scrap this bill and start over, and legislators who value the environment and public health ought to oppose it.”
Other groups present still held out hope for improvements to the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club unveiled a dozen amendments they are asking the House to approve. According to the two groups, their package of amendment proposals would:
Protect the right to know about and access information
1. Ensure the public’s right to know, comment on, and appeal all oil and gas permits.
- Give aggrieved persons the right to appeal an oil and gas permit
- Require the Chief of ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management to post permit applications on the Division’s website
- Give the public the right to public notice and the right to submit comments
- Require the Chief to consider and respond to all substantive comments
2. Ensure public health officials and medical researchers can access information about victim exposures to harmful chemicals related to oil and gas activities. Close potential loopholes that could let drillers, suppliers and contractors off the hook from disclosing all chemicals used in drilling.
- Require the well owner to provide the Chief with a list of all chemicals the well owner claims is exempt for disclosure under Ohio’s Trade Secrets Act
- Consistent with Ohio’s Trade Secrets Act, authorize any person to challenge any claim for trade secrecy
- Consistent with Ohio’s Trade Secrets Act, specify that no trade secrecy protection shall exist against the disclosure of chemicals, should the Ohio Attorney General or a court of proper jurisdiction determine that the chemical is not a trade secret
- Specify that should the Attorney General or a court of proper jurisdiction determine that a chemical is not entitled to trade secrecy, then the well owner must immediately disclose the identity of the chemical to the ODNR
- Require the oil and gas well owner as well as suppliers and contractors to disclose all required chemical information
3. Ensure easy public access to all state records on oil and gas incidents, reports, inspections and violations. Require ODNR to post this information on its website.
Protect the air, land, and water
4. Protect drinking water, headwater streams, floodplains, rivers and reservoirs
- Prohibit drill pads within public water well fields and floodplains
- Require the driller to identify, to the best of their knowledge, the location of any public water wellhead protection areas, sole source aquifers, and headwater stream where they may propose to drill
- Require the Chief to certify that water withdrawals for oil and gas will not harm water use for agriculture, public consumption or in-stream wildlife
- Require drillers to develop a plan to recycle or otherwise reduce the production of wastewater
- Prohibit the use of waste pits, allowing only the use of steel tanks or other closed- loop system
5. Protect private water wells
- For proposed vertical oil and gas wells, extend the minimum water sampling distance to 500 feet and apply it to both urban and rural areas
- For proposed horizontal oil and gas wells, extend the minimum water sampling distance to 3,000 feet. (The ODNR has proposed to test wells up to 3,000 feet in its state lands oil and gas lease—this should be standard for public as well as private land.)
- Strengthen the Chief’s authority to revise the sampling distance
- Require oil and gas owners to pay for post-oil and gas water well sampling.
6. Protect air quality
- Require the Ohio EPA to finish the job and establish air emission controls on all phases of oil and gas production operation. The OEPA’s new rule only controls
Raise the bar at ODNR
7. Require state oil and gas rules be at least as stringent as industry standards
8. Ensure proper ODNR regulatory oversight of production well casings and injection well disposal sites
- Require the Chief to certify that well casings are properly installed
- Require the Chief to certify that waste disposal sites are safe
9. Require ODNR to shut down a well that poses an imminent threat to public health or safety
Respect the rights of private property owners and the public
10. Establish a Private Property Owners Bill of Rights
- Require “land professionals” or “landmen” to register, meet minimum qualifications, disclose income sources and be licensed by the state
- Establish property owners’ rights to:
—A 10-day “cooling off period,” enabling them to cancel a lease
—Audit a company’s performance record
—Immediate notice if the lessee assigns or transfers a lease or mineral rights
11. Protect property owners from pipeline proliferation and utility company use of eminent domain
- Maintain Ohio Power Siting Board oversight over granting construction certificates over these facilities
12. Ensure public accountability and representation on the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission
- Amend the law to assure that the public representative to the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission has no allegiance to anyone other than the public
- Expressly prohibit the public member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission from having any financial interest in the oil and gas industry
Senate Bill 315 was introduced in the Senate on March 22. Following eight weeks of hearings, the Senate passed the bill, 27-6 on May 15.
The Ohio House Public Utilities Committee has scheduled the following hearings on Ohio Senate Bill 315—the governor’s Energy Plan (Ohio Senate Bill 315):
- Monday, May 21, beginning at 10 a.m. to listen to additional testimony
- Tuesday, May 22, beginning at 11:15 a.m. and continuing in the afternoon following House session to listen to additional testimony and consider amendments and a possible vote on the bill
- If Needed: Wednesday, May 23, beginning at 10 a.m. to consider amendments and a possible vote on the bill. No testimony.
“State regulators expect more than 2,000 shale wells to be fracked in the next three years in Ohio. But lawmakers may be leaving only 72 more hours to get the protections right,” said the OEC’s Dougherty. “Our lawmakers should take their time, because Ohio still doesn’t have adequate safeguards in place. Not by a long shot.”
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The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.
The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.
"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."
The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.
The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.
The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.
To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.
Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.
"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.
"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."
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The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.
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Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.
For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.
"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."
To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.
"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."
So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
Imported frozen food in three Chinese cities has tested positive for the new coronavirus, but public health experts say you still shouldn't worry too much about catching the virus from food or packaging.
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If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.
Size Matters<p>Climates are a bit like woven tapestries. The big picture is important, no question. But so are all the seemingly minor details found inside the larger whole.</p><p><a href="https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/persons/tommaso-jucker" target="_blank">Tommaso Jucker</a> is an environmental scientist at the University of Bristol. In an email, Jucker says he'd define the term microclimate as "the suite of climatic conditions (temperature, rainfall, humidity, solar radiation) measured in localized areas, typically near the ground and at spatial scales that are directly relevant to ecological processes."</p><p>We'll talk about that last bit in a minute. But first, there's another criteria to discuss. According to some researchers, a microclimate — by definition — must differ from the larger area that surrounds it.</p><p><a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/research/paleoecologylab/publications/Davis_et_al_2019_Ecography.pdf" target="_blank">Forests</a> provide us with some great examples. "The climate near the ground in a tropical rainforest is dramatically different from the climate in the canopy 50 meters [164 feet] above," says University of Montana ecologist <a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/personnel/details.php?ID=1110" target="_blank">Solomon Dobrowski</a> in an email. "This vertical gradient among other factors allows for the staggering biodiversity we see in the tropics."</p><p>Likewise, scientists observed that a 2015 partial <a href="https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/bees-stopped-buzzing-during-2017-solar-eclipse.htm" target="_blank">solar eclipse</a> caused the air temperature of an Eastern European meadow to <a href="https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wea.2802" target="_blank">change more dramatically</a> than it did in a nearby forest. That's because trees provide not only shade, but their leaves also reflect solar radiation. At the same time, forests tend to reduce wind speeds.</p><p>All those factors add up. A 2019 review of 98 wooded places — spread out across five continents — found that forests are 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) <a href="https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/47363-forests-protect-animals-and-plants-against-warming" target="_blank">cooler on average</a> than the areas outside them.</p><p>Now if you hate the cold, don't worry; there's a cozy exception to the rule. According to that same study, forests are usually 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the external environment during the wintertime. Pretty cool.</p>
A Bug's Life<p>When does a microclimate stop being, well, micro? In other words, is there a maximum size we should be aware of when discussing them?</p><p>Depends on who you ask. "In terms of horizontal scale, some have defined 'microclimate' as anything that is less than 100 meters [328 feet] in range," Jucker says. "I'm personally less prescriptive about this."</p><p>Instead, he says the "scale at which we want to measure [a particular] microclimate" ought to be "dictated" by the questions we're trying to answer.</p><p>"If I want to know how temperature affects the photosynthesis of a leaf, I should be measuring temperature at centimeter scale," Jucker explains. "If I want to know if and how temperature affects the habitat preference of a large, mobile mammal, it's probably more relevant to capture temperature variation across [tens to hundreds] of meters."</p><p>For instance, solitary plants have the power to generate itty-bitty microclimates. Just ask <a href="https://www.colorado.edu/geography/peter-blanken-0" target="_blank">Peter Blanken</a>, a geography professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the co-author of the 2016 book, "<a href="https://amzn.to/2XN6FT8" target="_blank">Microclimate and Local Climate</a>."</p>
The urban heat island effect is a good example of how microclimates work. NOAA
Microclimates on a Grand Scale<p>It's no secret that our planet is going through some rough times at the macro level. The global temperature is <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/" target="_blank">climbing</a>; nine out of the <a href="https://www.noaa.gov/news/2019-was-2nd-hottest-year-on-record-for-earth-say-noaa-nasa" target="_blank">10 hottest years on record</a> have occurred since 2005. And by one recent estimate, roughly 1 million species around the world are <a href="https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-02/ipbes_global_assessment_report_summary_for_policymakers_en.pdf" target="_blank">facing extinction</a> due to human activities.</p><p>"One of the big questions that ecologists and environmental scientists are trying to answer right now is how will individual species and whole ecosystems respond to rapid climate change and habitat loss," says Jucker. "...To me, [microclimates are] a key component of this research — if we don't measure and understand climate at the appropriate scale, then predicting how things will change in the future becomes a lot harder."</p><p>Developers have long understood the impact small-scale climates have on our daily lives. <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/urban-heat-island.htm#pt0" target="_blank">Urban heat islands</a> are cities that have higher temperatures than neighboring rural areas.</p><p>Plants release vapors that can moderate local climates. But in cities, natural greenery is often scarce. To make matters worse, plenty of our roads and buildings have a bad habit of absorbing or re-emitting heat from the sun. <a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/Microclimate_and_Local_Climate/LHUZDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=urban%20heat%20island" target="_blank">Vehicle emissions</a> don't exactly help the situation.</p><p>Still, it's not like Boston or Beijing are thermal monoliths. Sometimes, the documented temperatures <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/can-we-turn-down-the-temperature-on-urban-heat-islands" target="_blank">within a single city</a> vary by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (8.3 to 11.1 degrees Celsius).</p><p>That's where metro parks and city trees come in. They have nice cooling effects on nearby neighborhoods. "Several cities around the world have developed programs to increase urban green spaces," says Blanken. "Tree planting programs and green roof programs, have been shown to lower surface temperatures, decrease air pollution and decrease surface water runoff (urban flash-flooding) in urban areas."</p>
An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.
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By Jeff Berardelli
Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020
If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.
<div id="ecf36" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c2dcc9d48a6cd61f247df1544539a783"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290959314132361216" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Naming heatwaves is a good idea—making the abstract concrete, the invisible visible. Why should hurricanes and wild… https://t.co/hDWgYb79Ob</div> — Ed Maibach (@Ed Maibach)<a href="https://twitter.com/MaibachEd/statuses/1290959314132361216">1596623660.0</a></blockquote></div>
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