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Ohio Environmental Council

Environmental Lobby Day 2012 is your chance to unleash the power of green at the Ohio Statehouse.

Join the Ohio Environmental Council’s (OEC) environmental-conservation network on Thursday, March 22 in Columbus, Ohio from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. to bring environmental concerns and priorities directly to state lawmakers and officials from environmental and regulatory agencies.

The OEC will set up meetings for you with lawmakers as well as give you tips and information to make your meetings as productive as possible.

The day includes lunch at the Statehouse Atrium with lawmakers and staff, and an evening cocktails and conversation reception to network and share the day’s experiences.

The day’s activities are as follows: 8:30 a.m. - Noon: Welcome Breakfast and Lawmaker Meetings at the Sheraton Hotel at Capitol Square, 75 E. State St. Noon - 1 p.m.: Lunch with Lawmakers and Staff at Ohio Statehouse Atrium 1 - 4 p.m.: Lawmaker and Agency Meetings at the Ohio Statehouse 4 - 6 p.m.: Cocktails and Conversation Reception at the Sheraton Hotel on Capitol Square.

For more information and to register, call 614-487-7506, email or click here.

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Ohio Environmental Council

WHAT: 2012 Legislative Summit

WHEN: Jan. 27, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

WHERE: Sheraton Columbus Hotel at Capitol Square, 75 E. State St., Columbus, Ohio 43215

Join the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and the Ohio League of Conservation Voters for the 2012 Legislative Summit. Participants will review recent successes, examine upcoming challenges and gain skills and knowledge to make Ohio's environmental and conservation network even stronger in 2012 and beyond.

The summit will include workshops on:
• leveraging social media for successful campaigns
• working with the media
• understanding the legislative process

Cost:
• OEC Members - $20 per person, includes lunch and materials
• Non-members - $25 per person, includes lunch and materials
• OEC Legacy Club & President's Club Members - Free 

 For more information and to register, click here.

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Ohio Environmental Council

Jack Shaner, Ohio Environmental Council's (OEC) deputy director, appeared before the Public Utilities Committee of the Youngstown City Council to share information and recommendations about the safe disposal of waste water from oil and gas production.

As with any industrial activity, the development of oil and gas—including the eventual disposal of waste water—involves risk. The people of Youngstown, of course, are well aware of one risk from the deep well injection of waste water: increased seismic activity (earthquakes).

The people of Youngstown are not alone in their concerns about oil and gas production and the associated disposal of waste water and brine water.

From the testimony:
"The production process for shale gas and oil involves the use of millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to shatter the shale rock (Marcellus and Utica formations) and release the trapped oil and gas. A significant portion of these fluids along with brine waters in the rock formations comes back to the surface along with the oil and gas. This waste water must then be safely handled and disposed of.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, waste water associated with shale gas extraction can contain high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS), fracturing fluid additives (which include a number of toxic constituents, including Benzene—which is known to cause cancer—Ethylbenzene, Toulene, Xylene and diesel fuel), metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials (including uranium, thorium, radium and lead-210)."

For more information, click here. To read the full testimony, click here.

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The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio’s leading advocate for fresh air, clean water and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio’s families and communities. For more information, visit www.theOEC.org.

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Ohio Environmental Council

Citing concerns over the first deep-shale drilling operation in Ohio's pristine Grand River watershed, conservation groups are calling on state regulators to tighten controls on drilling for oil and gas in Ohio to better protect water, wildlife and property.

The groups want the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to strengthen state rules to protect water resources by:
• broadening the distance that oil and gas drillers are required to test for water quality before and after drilling.
• expand the list of chemicals for which drillers must test for possible water contamination before and after drilling.
• expand the testing to also include water quantity to test for any changes to water flow from a water well or waterway.

The groups also want ODNR to adopt stronger protections to better protect livestock, wildlife, property values and local communities by:
• banning the disposal of toxic-tainted waste materials at drilling site waste pits.
• stepping up testing in nearby streams to protect fish and wildlife from contamination.
• closing the regulatory loophole that permits drillers to ship radioactive-laced drill cutting waste for disposal at solid waste landfills.
• periodically updating regulations to keep pace with industry practices.
• stopping the unfunded mandate on local communities, which have no local authority to regulate drilling but bear much of the costs from traffic, noise and road damage.

"Ohio's rules need to catch up to the shale gas boom spreading across Ohio, starting right here in the Grand River watershed," said Trent Dougherty, director of legal affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC). "Oil and gas may be basic commodities. But clean water is priceless. That's why we need the ODNR to protect our heritage of abundant water and wildlife resources and our respect for people's property."

Representatives of the OEC, Buckeye Forest Council and the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability & Protection (NEOGAP) briefed reporters on Jan. 5 at the Middlefield public library in Northeast Ohio's Geauga County. The groups cited a deep shale-gas well located less than 1,500 feet from a tributary of the Grand River—a site that could be the first of hundreds or thousands such wells to eventually dot the Grand River watershed landscape. Drillers set up operations at the site just a few weeks ago.

The Grand River represents one of the finest examples of a natural stream found anywhere in Ohio. According to the ODNR, the Grand River boasts "the most aquatic diversity of any Ohio Lake Erie tributary." The Grand River is designated as an official State Wild and Scenic River and is an angler's paradise—some 90,000 steelhead trout are stocked there each year. Ohio law, however, provides no additional protections from drilling for a State Wild and Scenic River, such as minimum distance set-backs from a drilling site.

The new well, near Parkman, Ohio, is located just a 15 minute drive east of the site of one of the most destructive failures by the oil and gas industry to follow its own best practices—and a colossal lapse of government oversight. Early in the morning on Dec. 15, 2007, natural gas migrated from a natural gas well to the basement of a house in Bainbridge Township. A resulting explosion rocked the house. Thankfully, the two residents in the home were not seriously injured, but the home was severely damaged and dozens of other residential water wells were contaminated.

State investigators determined the gas migration and resulting explosion was caused by over-pressurization of the surface-production casing of the gas well. In layperson's terms, the explosion was the result of poor well construction. This explosion resulted in water well contamination, a lawsuit by 42 neighboring property owners, a year-long investigation by ODNR and the biggest overhaul of the state's oil and gas drilling laws—Ohio Senate Bill 165, passed by the Ohio General Assembly in 2010. The well was located less than 1,000 feet from the house.

Under current Ohio law, a drilling operation may be located as close as 150 feet from an occupied residence. The ODNR is currently developing new regulations to implement the law changes.

In the four years since the Bainbridge event, however, Ohio faces a different form of oil and gas production—the industrial-scale drilling for shale gas. This unconventional drilling involves the use of hundreds of different chemical additives and the disposal of literally billions of gallons of toxic-tainted wastewater from Ohio and neighboring Pennsylvania oil and gas wells.

"Ohio is outdriving its headlights when it comes to identifying and controlling the risks of the shale gas boom," said the OEC's Dougherty. "Ohio is permitting the next generation of wells without first fixing the ills of last generation's risks."

The new generation of drilling, commonly referred to as horizontal hydro-fracking or "fracking," uses high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals to release gas and oil trapped in shale formations located thousands of feet below the earth's surface. After drilling vertically to the depth that reaches slightly above the shale formation, the drill bit is turned horizontally and pushed into the shale, sometimes as much as 3,000 feet. Small fractures are created in the targeted area with underground explosions and a mixture of sand, water and chemicals is injected at high pressures into the newly created fractures to further crack the rock and release the trapped gas.

To exploit the deep natural gas-rich deposits in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations, operators must drill and frack like never before. This scale of drilling requires more of everything: more acreage (5 acres cleared per well pad); more chemicals to stimulate production; more fresh water (up to 5 million gallons per fracking cycle) and more truck traffic (up to 13,000 diesel truck trips per well site).

The calls for reform are hard on the heels of a series of 11 earthquakes recorded since March 2011 near Youngstown. Two large earthquakes occurred in December, causing state regulators to ask the operator to cease injecting waste there. ODNR and the well operator appropriately halted operation of injection wells in the area until scientists could analyze the situation. Scientists from Columbia University believe the earthquakes almost certainly were caused by the high-pressure injection of oil and gas waste fluids into a deep underground disposal well located nearby. These experts say that it may take a year for the waste injection rumblings to dissipate.

The environmental groups calling for reform believe Ohio should follow the same sound advice for the entire oil and gas production process—from exploration and production to waste disposal—to ensure that the best regulations are in place to protect the public, property owners, water and wildlife.

"The earthquakes in Youngstown, if nothing else, show that there are countless risks with deep shale drilling. While there will be risks with everything in life, how much risk is acceptable?" Dougherty asked.

In response to these risks, the groups are renewing their call first made in March 2011 for a moratorium on any new deep-shale drilling until drilling practices are demonstrated to be safe for the environment and human health and are properly regulated.

"Ohio's oil and gas laws are deeply flawed in many respects. The spraying of toxic fracking wastewater on community roads, weak to non-existent water well testing requirements and lax wastewater containment rules are just a few examples," said Ellie Rauh, fracking coordinator for Buckeye Forest Council. "The Ohio Division of Oil and Gas can make and enforce rules that fix these problems and that better protect Ohioan's health and the environment. Although the division is currently rewriting its rules, it has not yet addressed any of the crucial health and safety problems that should greatly concern the public. We call on the Ohio Division of Oil and Gas to fill the holes in its regulations and to draft a sensible and protective set of rules."

"With all the fracking that's starting up in Ohio, we are concerned that no one in our state government is really working to effectively safeguard Ohio's most precious natural resource—our safe drinking water," said Ron Prosek, NEOGAP vice president.

"Natural gas can be a bridge fuel to cleaner sources of energy. But the way we're going, Ohio is building a bridge to unknown risk and danger," added Dougherty.

For more information, click here.

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The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio’s leading advocate for fresh air, clean water and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio’s families and communities. For more information, visit www.theOEC.org.

Ohio Environmental Council

The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and partner organizations, including the Buckeye Forest Council and the Network for Oil & Gas Accountability and Protection, are having an event on Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at Middlefield Library at 16167 East High St. in Middlefield, Ohio, to call attention to the first deep-shale gas well to use horizontal hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, in Geauga County on the headwaters of the Grand River.

The Grand River is a wild and scenic river, home to steelhead trout and a critical source of water for Lake Erie. However, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) series of new drilling rules keep this watershed and others under great risk.

The event will:
• highlight ways in which industry is outperforming ODNR rules, leading many to question whether industry will backslide once regulations are in place.
• question the assumption that Ohio’s oil and gas regulations are some of the strongest in the country (as compared to other states).
• expose the radioactive waste loophole in the current regulations.
• outline ways in which ODNR should strengthen rules to better protect the health of all Ohioans.

Immediately following the meeting, a caravan will head to Chickagami Park at 17957 Tavern Rd., Route 168 in Parkman, Ohio, which is on the shores of the Grand River, within two miles of the fracking well site.

For more information click here.

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The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio’s leading advocate for fresh air, clean water and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio’s families and communities. For more information, visit www.theOEC.org.

Ohio Environmental Law Center

by Trent A. Dougherty

On Dec. 24, the Buckeye Forest Council, Ohio Environmental Council, Center for Health, Environment and Justice and Sierra Club, for the second time in a month, submitted legal and technical comments to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) concerning the regulation of deep shale oil and gas drilling. ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management proposed amendments to 22 of its existing rules, which have been drafted pursuant to Senate Bill 165, effective June 30, 2010 and to complete the required five-year review of these rules. The public comment period on these rules ended on Dec. 12, 2011.

ODNR’s proposed modifications to its rules touch on a variety of issues. The coalition of environmental groups, along with a team of technical experts, responded to the draft rule amendments with a number of suggestions to improve the proposed rules. The primary concern for the coalition focused on recent reports of a loophole in Ohio law that allows for radioactive material to be disposed of in solid waste landfills. Many landfills across Ohio ultimately dispose of their leachate at public waste-water treatment plants, which means the radioactive waste may appear in the state’s waters.

The coalition urged ODNR to:

• Regulate radioactive waste products that result from shale drilling, including drill cuttings
• Enact a number of changes to adequately protect our water resources
• Clarify the “due diligence” time period for the completion of drilling
• Prohibit open-pit storage of waste and flowback products, except for the limited purpose of spill prevention
• Adopt more rigorous protections related to the surface application of brine water

These are just the latest of many more rule packages to come. However, there are nearly 100 deep shale fracking wells permitted under old and less protective rules. Furthermore, with the previous ODNR well construction rules, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s air permit (and upcoming wetland impact permit) and ODNR rule packages set for early 2012 drafts (which include spill prevention and pipelines), it is becoming clear that even ODNR believes that the rules they permitted are not as protective as they should be.

For more information, click here. To read the joint comments, click here.

Ohio Environmental Council

The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) applauds the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power plant regulations that will reduce dangerous pollution such as mercury and fine particulates linked to asthma attacks, developmental disorders and preventable deaths.

"The U.S. EPA stood up against big polluter interests and did the right thing," states David R. Celebrezze, director of air and water special projects for the OEC.

The new U.S. EPA air toxic rule means that power plants will have to reduce their mercury emissions by 90 percent in three to four years. The new rules will also require scrubbers on power plants. Scrubbers are pollution reduction technology that will reduce harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases.

Ohio's archaic fleet of power plants emit so much mercury and other pollutants, that Ohio ranks in the top five states in health impacts due to mercury and other emissions.

According to a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, Ohio ranks second in the nation in state health impacts with 1,221 deaths, 835 hospital admissions and 1891 heart attacks. Additionally, Ohio ranks third in the country for state per capita mortality risk (2010 est).

"Industry will ballyhoo that this will close plants. What they don't tell you are some of these plants were probably going to close anyway," states Celebrezze.

Many Ohio metro areas rank near the top in the country in terms of city health impacts:
• #8 Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor
• #10 Cincinnati-Middletown
• #13 Columbus

In terms of metro area per capita mortality risk (est. 2010):
• #3 Steubenville-Weirton
• #5 Sandusky
• #7 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman
• #8 Mansfield
• #9 Springfield

Top power plants for health impacts (annual 2010)
• #3 in the country is the W H Sammis (Jefferson) County: 163 deaths, 124 hospital admissions, 268 heart attacks.

Mercury emissions harm public health. After mercury is emitted from power plants, it settles on plants and in our waterways. While in the water it turns into methyl mercury and is consumed by fish. Some of those fish are then consumed by people.

In Ohio, it is recommended that people eat less of certain fish species—such as smallmouth bass, walleye and largemouth bass—from many bodies of water due to high levels of mercury. In some bodies of water, it is recommended that none of the species be eaten due to elevated levels of PCBs, mercury and other contaminants. The full list can be found on the Ohio EPA’s website.

People exposed to (elemental) mercury through breathing can experience harmful effects. According to the U.S. EPA "Symptoms include these: tremors; emotional changes (e.g. mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness); insomnia; neuromuscular changes (such as weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching); headaches; disturbances in sensations; changes in nerve responses, and performance deficits on tests of cognitive function. At higher exposures, there may be kidney effects, respiratory failure and death."

Further research has demonstrated that exposing infants and children to mercury can impair their neurological development. Symptoms of methylmercury poisoning can include: peripheral vision reduction; disturbances in sensations ("pins and needles" feelings, usually in the hands, feet and around the mouth); lack of coordination of movements; impairment of speech, hearing and walking, and muscle weakness, according to the U.S. EPA.

Mercury emissions from Ohio power plants (sampling-2010):

• W.H. Sammis: 424lbs.
• Kyger Creek : 420 lbs.
• Cardinal Plant: 407 lb.
• Conesville plant: 318 lb.
• Muskingum Plant: 321 lb.
• Gavin plant: 829 lb.
• Eastlake plant: 301 lb.
• Avon Lake plant: 246lbs

Overall, Ohio power plants emitted 4,208 pounds of mercury in 2010.

The new U.S. EPA rule will prevent 130,000 child asthma attacks and 11,000 premature deaths yearly in the U.S. Additional health care savings will be $37 billion to $90 billion each year by 2016.

"Once these rules are fully implemented, Santa Claus will have fewer asthma attacks as he moves through Ohio," states Celebrezze.

For more information, click here. To learn more about the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, click here.

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The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio's leading advocate for fresh air, clean water and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio's families and communities.

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Ohio Environmental Council

On Dec. 15, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) challenged assertions from coal industry representatives that painted an incomplete and misleading picture of Ohio's energy policies.

On Dec. 14, out-of-state coal industry advocates testified before the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee in the latest oversight hearing regarding Ohio's energy policies. Throughout the testimony, the coal industry spun an incomplete story of coal's impact on Ohio's economy, environment, and the health of our families and communities.

Industry representatives repeatedly touted coal as the cheapest and most abundant source of energy while failing to acknowledge recent research that pegs coals cost to Ohioans at an additional 17.8 cents per kilowatt hour due to the impacts it has on public health, air and land pollution, public subsidies and cleanup costs, and climate change. These additional costs, known as "externalities" are a burden that the coal industry passes on to Ohioans in the form of pollution.

"Look, for a long time, coal powered Ohio's economy," said Nolan Moser, director of air and energy programs for the OEC, "but today doctors are telling us that coal comes at a huge cost—coal is creating so much destructive health and other impacts that the data tells us it is actually Ohio's most expensive power source."

The coal industry also sought to portray their industry as one that is under constant threat due to environmental regulations. In an especially misguided attempt to divert attention from the harmful impacts of coal, industry representatives injected federal politics and ad hominem attacks into a state policy issue, criticizing President Barack Obama and attacking federal Clean Air Act rules while offering doomsday scenarios of expensive and unreliable electricity should coal be replaced with other resources and promising untold economic horrors if coal jobs leave the state.

Unfortunately for the coal industry, the facts don't back up their claims.

Currently, more than 85 percent of Ohio's electricity comes from coal—nearly three quarters of which is imported from other states, sending $1.49 billion a year outside of the state of Ohio to enrich other states' economies.

Perhaps this explains why even though coal provides Ohio with an overwhelming majority of its energy, the industry itself directly employs only 3,000 people according to the Ohio Coal Association, which is a small fraction of those in Ohio employed by clean energy industries.

Under Ohio's current energy policies, 12.5 percent of Ohio's energy will be generated from renewable sources by 2025 so contrary to coal industry claims—their industry will continue to provide Ohio with the majority of its electric power for some time to come.

"Despite coal industry cries of red tape and regulations, coal jobs have been shrinking because so many of Ohio's coal powered plants are old, inefficient and expensive to replace.

According to the testimony of the coal industry itself, building new coal plants will increase customer rates massively—their claims are completely inconsistent," noted Moser.

Coal industry representatives also frequently deride the renewable energy sector because it receives incentives and government support despite the fact that the coal industry, itself, was and is heavily subsidized by public dollars and rate payers.

"Let's be clear, when utility companies build coal plants, it's you, the customer that pays for it, not the company. So when these guys complain about subsidies, let's not forget that Ohioans are double taxed because of coal—first through the health and environmental costs, and then through the construction costs." said Moser.

For more information click here or email Nolan Moser at Nolan@theOEC.org

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The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio's leading advocate for fresh air, clean water, and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism, and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles, and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio's families and communities.

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