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Conservation groups have filed an administrative protest challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) plan for a September auction of three parcels in Ohio's only national forest for oil and gas leasing. The parcels are adjacent to the Rover Pipeline.
The protest, filed Monday, targets the BLM's failure to adequately analyze the impacts of fracking and pipelines on watersheds, forests and endangered species and its decision to open portions of the Wayne National Forest to fracking. Construction of the Rover Pipeline, which could transport fracked gas from the Wayne, has been halted because of spills and numerous safety and environmental violations.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Kathiann M. Kowalski
The Rover Pipeline project in Ohio faces continuing problems, with more spills of drilling mud, ongoing questions about diesel fuel contamination, and orders issued last week by both the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
"The significant thing that is very new here is that Ohio EPA has said that they are working very closely with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," observed Cheryl Johncox of the Sierra Club. FERC issued a July 12 order that echoes multiple directives from the Ohio EPA's July 7 order to Energy Transfer Partners.
The groups are challenging a new 1,147-acre March 2017 lease sale in Wayne National Forest and adding claims that the federal fracking plans violate the Endangered Species Act, threatening animals in the forest and downstream.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed House Bill 554 Tuesday, a bill that would have effectively extended the freeze on the state's clean energy standards.
Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards have been frozen for the past two years, ever since Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the freeze cost the state its place as a national leader in the clean energy economy by hampering innovation, investment and jobs.
A 2015 survey by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners and investors, showed that job growth in the clean energy sector in Ohio slowed to 1.5 percent, and those firms that did grow had to find business out of state.
"Today Governor Kasich put economic growth over politics ... With the state's renewable and efficiency standards back in place, Ohio can reclaim its spot as a clean energy leader, clearing the way for well-paying jobs, millions in investment and healthier air for all," Dick Munson, director of Midwest Clean Energy for Environmental Defense Fund, said. "Ohioans should cheer—it may be winter, but the clean energy freeze has finally thawed."
The Ohio General Assembly, lead by lame-duck Republicans in the House and Senate, passed House Bill 554 earlier this month, ignoring Kasich's warning that he would not favor a bill that "went backward on the environment."
"Reinstating these policies means the state can continue to work toward creating jobs and growing the economy, all while reducing harmful global warming emissions to better protect our children, public health and natural resources," Melanie Moore, Midwest field director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said. "Ohio can now join other states as they charge forward towards a clean energy future for our nation."
The state's original Renewable Portfolio Standard, SB 221, was passed in 2008. It set a target for the state to get 25 percent of its electricity from "advanced energy sources" by 2025, with a requirement that at least half (12.5 percent or more) to be generated from "renewable energy resources," including one-half of one percent from solar and 50 percent of the energy to be generated within the state.
Now, unless Kasich's veto is overridden, Ohio can take advantage of the public health benefits of the clean energy standards. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, in 2017 alone, the standards could prevent 140 premature deaths, 230 heart attacks, 2,230 asthma attacks and 16,900 lost days of work and school.
"I applaud Governor Kasich for showing true leadership and vetoing this bill," Heather Taylor-Miesle, executive director of Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, said. "HB 554 is a sloppy piece of legislation that could increase electric bills and clog our air with pollution while hampering innovation and job growth. We urge legislators to follow Governor Kasich's lead and allow Ohio's clean energy potential to be unleashed."
According to Ceres, several research reports show Ohio's clean energy policies were bringing money into the state and benefiting consumers before the freeze was put in place in 2014:
- Ohio attracted $1.3 billion in private clean energy investment from 2009 to 2013 and was projected to generate an additional $3 billion over the next ten years, according to Pew.
- Electricity customers were saving hundreds of millions of dollars each year on their bills and were on track to save over $5 billion cumulatively by 2020.
- Investments in Ohio's clean energy sector created thousands of new jobs and stimulated over $160 million in annual GDP growth.
- Ohio's wind industry lost more than 1,400 jobs last year, according to the report by the Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs.
"Policies that encourage clean energy investment are on the rise in many U.S. states because they make strong business sense," Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, said. "By allowing Ohio's clean energy standards to come back online, Governor Kasich joins other Midwest states—including Michigan and Illinois—that recently passed laws strengthening renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts, which will stimulate private investment, economic growth and new jobs."
Geoff Greenfield, president of Third Sun Solar, agrees. "This anti solar legislation was more about protecting the old-fashioned energy industry than about economic development and competition. We are thrilled Governor Kasich decided to move past the bill's shortsighted views on energy policy and position Ohio to participate in solar, the nation's fastest growing energy segment."
By Samantha Williams
Now that Ohio's Senate and House have sent an ideologically-driven bill, HB 554, to Gov. John Kasich's desk that would further delay implementation of the state's popular clean energy standards (and weaken them, too), the governor has until Dec. 28 to do the smart thing for his state's economy and the wellbeing of Ohioans: Veto it.
That's what Ohio citizens (including conservatives) and the businesses that employ them overwhelmingly want, including national players like Nestle, Campbell's Soup, the Gap and the world's largest manufacturer of energy efficient appliances, Whirlpool.
There are many good reasons why businesses are weighing in. The clean energy standards—which were frozen two years ago in another ill-advised legislative attempt to delay progress, and will resume on Jan. 1 if Gov. Kasich vetoes this bill—mean more good jobs for residents. They also represent a draw for the growing number of employers who want to locate their companies in states where they can readily achieve their own corporate sustainability goals.
The standards have also succeeded (and will continue if they're allowed to reinstate) in lowering energy bills for residents and businesses, factories, and farms. They ensure Ohio's kids cleaner air to breathe. They improve public health. And, of course, they're a vital hedge against dangerous climate change.
Over the last year, Gov. Kasich has promised, admirably, "I'll veto the bill," calling any further delays in implementing the clean energy standard "unacceptable." Now, he has the opportunity to show Ohioans—and Americans as a whole—just what leadership looks like, demonstrating not just backbone but a smart head on his shoulders. After all, he'll signal to the growing number of businesses that want clean energy that they can find it in Ohio, not just in Michigan and Illinois, two neighboring states led by Republican governors that have recently upped the ante on their own clean energy standards.
To help you understand just how successful the clean energy standards have been in Ohio, and the potential if the freeze is thawed, let's run the numbers:
100,000 clean energy jobs: That's how many Ohio has now. Buckeyes, for instance, already lead the nation in wind power component manufacturing, with more than 60 factories across the state. But since the standards were put on hold two years ago, they've sold far fewer products within Ohio. The freeze (and other wind-power restrictions the legislature imposed) have put an end to most Ohio-based projects. Then there's First Solar, which employs 1,200 in the Toledo area. The company told legislators in testimony last month that if HB 554 becomes law, "it would take a hard look at staying in Ohio." Should Gov. Kasich veto HB 554, and the standard becomes reinstated, the opposite is possible. Not only might First Solar stay put, but the state will have the opportunity to retain, and even grow, the clean energy jobs that already exist in fields as wide-ranging as insulation manufacturing, solar component parts development, and light bulb design.
112 businesses: Businesses want certainty, so they know how to plan for their future. HB 554, which will delay the standard for two more years and then open it up again for reinstatement, offers the opposite. Take it from Worthington's Republican Representative Mike Duffy in his comments during debate on the bill. "More uncertainty. More legislation. Not a lot to like," he's said.
Not only that: In 2016, 17 U.S. companies with combined revenues of more than $826 billion, including Apple, General Motors, and Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, pledged to get all of their electricity from renewable sources. More are lining up to join them, and they want to site their facilities near clean energy projects. They want the energy-bill savings that wind, solar power and energy efficiency provide, and the future hedge against the volatility of natural gas prices. That's why 112 Ohio businesses opposed the bill and support the veto, dozens of which came out to testify in legislative committees urging a thaw to the clean energy freeze.
14 Republican lawmakers: A growing contingent of Republicans, both inside and outside of the legislature, support clean energy for Ohio.
In total, 14 GOP legislators opposed the bill—nine in the House of Representatives (Arndt, Boose, Burkley, Dean, Duffey, Grossman, Hall, Reineke, Thompson) and five in the Senate (Hite, Gardner, Beagle, Manning, and LaRose.) Senator Hite even went so far as to call wind turbines "beautiful." Many of these legislators have clean energy projects and employers in their districts. And, together, they're enough to stop a veto override.
140 premature deaths: The public health benefits of the clean energy standards are enormous. In 2017 alone, the standards can prevent 140 premature deaths, 230 heart attacks, 2,230 asthma attacks and 16,900 lost days of work and school. By 2029, if Gov. Kasich vetoes HB 554, the clean energy standards stand to prevent 2,820 premature deaths among neighbors, families and friends in Ohio.
So we call on the governor to be, literally, a lifesaver, a job creator, an energy-bill-savings-promoter and a greenhouse gas pollution fighter.
As is especially important now, with President-elect Trump and his appointees promising to gut the country's clean energy policies and programs, Gov. Kasich can be a smart and important leader when we need one most.
Veto the bill, governor!
According to the Associated Press, oil and gas companies from Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado and Oklahoma forked over $1.7 million for the right to explore parts of Wayne National Forest for drilling operations. Lessees still need to obtain a permit before any drilling can start.
The online auction took place on Dec. 13 with the minimum acceptable bid for as little as $2 per acre. The
Columbus Dispatch reported that offers made by the 22 registered bidders ranged from the $2 minimum to a high of $5,806.12 per acre.
Opponents of the federal auction, cited concerns over public health impacts and effects on air and water quality, and submitted more than 17,000 comments to the BLM during its 30-day comment period.
"Public lands are for the people, not for the benefit of Big Oil and Gas," Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said in a statement last month. "Drilling for oil and gas means more fracking, and fracking means poisoning our air and water, and threatening the health of our communities and our environment. At a time when clean energy like solar and wind is proving to be safest, healthiest and most cost-effective way to power our country, it's high time we recognized that we need to leave dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas in the ground."
The BLM reportedly received 100 "valid" complaints but they were all denied by the agency on Monday and the auction moved forward.
Nathan Johnson, an Ohio Environmental Council attorney who helped file a protest on behalf of conservation groups, told the Dispatch that the BLM failed to address new information about the size of well pads and pipelines that come with large-scale fracking projects.
"Once they've made the decision to lease, that's the ballgame for them," he said.
The protest letter also states that the BLM did not adequately address the potential impacts from the oil and gas leasing on threatened or endangered species, including the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, fanshell, pink mucket pearly mussel, sheepnose mussel and snuffbox mussel.
"The government's plan is remarkably shortsighted in its failure to consider the full extent of fracking and wastewater disposal that could occur throughout the forest," Wendy Park, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said. "Water quality and wildlife will suffer regardless of where these activities occur."
Just this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its widely anticipated final report on fracking confirming that the controversial drilling process does impact drinking water. The report is a stunning reversal of its misleading draft assessment that stated fracking has not led to "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources."
In addition to allowing fracking on public lands, Ohio lawmakers passed House Bill 554 last week, which will freeze renewable energy mandates for another two years if Gov. John Kasich signs the bill. More than 25,000 clean energy jobs are at risk.
A two-year freeze was enacted when
Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. HB 554 now seeks to extend that freeze, making renewable energy targets voluntary for utilities. Ohio is the only state in the nation that has frozen its renewable energy mandates.
In the final hours of Ohio's lame-duck session, lawmakers passed House Bill 554 late Thursday night, which will freeze clean energy mandates for another two years if Gov. John Kasich signs the bill. More than 25,000 jobs could be at risk.
The state's original Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), SB 221, was passed in 2008. It set a target for the state to get 25 percent of its electricity from "advanced energy sources" by 2025, with a requirement that at least half (12.5 percent or more) would be generated from "renewable energy resources," including one-half of one percent from solar and 50 percent of the energy to be generated within the state.
A two-year freeze was enacted when Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. HB 554 now seeks to extend that freeze, making renewable energy targets voluntary for utilities. Ohio is the only state in the nation that has frozen its RPS. To date, 38 states have adopted RPS targets.
"Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards have been frozen for the past two years, costing the state its place as a national leader in the clean energy economy by hampering energy innovation, investment, and jobs," said Dick Munson, Midwest clean energy director for Environmental Defense Fund. "Before the freeze, these standards saved families money and brought huge investments into the state, supporting more than 25,000 jobs, saving Ohioans over $1 billion on their electricity bills, and slashing the Buckeye State's air pollution."
A 2015 survey by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners and investors, showed that job growth in the clean energy sector in Ohio slowed to just 1.5 percent following implementation of the freeze in 2014. Moreover, those firms that did grow had to find business out of state.
"Investments in renewable energy in Ohio have dried up," stated the E2 report. "Solar development has ground to a halt, with new solar resources dropping below 100 kW per month when industry averages for the six months prior stood at 1 MW or more per month."
One example is First Solar. The company employs 1,200 people in Ohio and spends $100 million a month on its production and research labs in the Toledo area, according to testimony by its director of regulatory affairs Colin Meehan. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the company would "take a hard look at staying in Ohio" if HB 554 were enacted.
A manufacturing associate at work in First Solar's Perrysburg, Ohio plant.Source: First Solar
Nationally, renewable energy grew to 16.4 percent of total installed capacity in 2015. Job creation in the solar sector grew 12 times faster than overall job creation. The green workforce in the U.S. now numbers 2.5 million.
"The Ohio House of Representatives did a great disservice to the people of Ohio," said Trish Demeter at the Ohio Environmental Council. "This rushed and sloppy legislation will have untold impacts on electric bills, result in dirtier air, and stifle economic innovation and job growth."
"Newly published emails confirm the influence of utility and industry lobbyists on 2015's controversial Energy Mandates Study Committee report, which recommended an extension of the freeze on Ohio's clean energy standards," said Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. The emails were obtained from state legislators by the Energy and Policy Institute via a public information request, and were not available publicly before now.
"In one August 18, 2015 email addressed to several Republican state policymakers and 10 industry lobbyists, Ohio Senator Bill Seitz suggested that 'we should be meeting as a small group to figure out what that report is going to say.' The following month, the Energy Mandates Study Committee that Seitz referenced in his email issued a contentious report that recommended extending the freeze on Ohio's clean energy standards indefinitely.
"Seitz's email went to lobbyists for American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy, as well to Samuel Randazzo, a lobbyist for the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio and anti-wind attorney."
Source: Energy and Policy Institute
Seitz is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers-backed group that supplies corporate-friendly model bills to state legislators. In 2012, ALEC joined with the Heartland Institute, a think tank described by DeSmogBlog as "at the forefront of denying the scientific evidence for man-made climate change," to write model legislation aimed at repealing renewable energy standards across the country.
Prior to the 2014 freeze on Ohio's renewable energy portfolio standard, emails show a trail of energy industry lobbyists working with Seitz.
The question now is whether Gov. Kasich will sign or veto HB 554.
In response to a reporter's question on Nov. 30, Kasich said, "I just would hope the legislature will not have a headline that Ohio went backward on the environment." But he did not say that he would veto the bill.
During the governor's aborted presidential campaign, he took an "all sources" approach to energy supply and said that he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He also touted his job creation in Ohio without mentioning that many of those came from the clean energy sector. The Environmental Entrepreneurs report numbers Ohio clean energy jobs at 89,000 from 7,200 businesses.
If he does veto HB 554, it's questionable whether the legislators could override it. Most, but not all, Republicans voted for the bill.
"Today, Ohio lawmakers decided to significantly stall the state's clean energy efforts, putting politics over economic growth. The governor should continue the leadership he has demonstrated and reject this harmful legislation, so Ohio can get back to work building its clean energy economy, opening the door to well-paying jobs and millions in investment," Munson said.
"Governor Kasich has an opportunity to show that Ohio's energy policy is not for sale to utility lobbyists by vetoing HB 554 and unfreezing clean energy in the Buckeye State," Anderson concluded.
The Ohio EPA finalized its general permit for production operations at shale gas well sites. The Ohio Environmental Council, Buckeye Forest Council, and Center for Health, Environment and Justice are calling for further protections for health and environment.
"The Agency seemed to forget there are two other phases of oil and gas operations," states Nathan Johnson of Buckeye Forest Council. "The drilling/fracturing and completion phases have been ignored. Left unchecked, these phases will put tons of harmful air pollutants into our communities."
The groups also state that it is not uncommon for the drilling/fracturing phase to use nearly 30,000 gallons of fuel in a two-week time frame.
"That 1980s-era construction vehicle could stay in one county for weeks or months at a time, burping out dangerous pollution," states David R. Celebrezze of Ohio Environmental Council. "It may be considered 'temporary,' but the health impacts of diesel pollution can be life-long."
Medical researchers have linked diesel pollution to asthma attacks, painful breathing, heart and lung disease, cancer and early death.
"These oil and gas operations have a responsibility to the local community to use all technologies to reduce every aspect of air pollution from each phase," states Teresa Mills of Center for Health, Environment and Justice. "If they do not install best emissions reduction technology, it tells us they prioritize making money over the health of our communities."
Although it is difficult to gauge the exact amount of pollution that will be generated as a result of oil and gas operations in regard to the Marcellus and Utica Shales, the groups calculated emissions from existing operations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania that are drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Phases not covered under the General Permit include the drilling/fracturing phase and the completion phase.
Drilling phase (range)*
PM: 80lbs-680 lbs
NOx: 1.4 tons
VOCs: .06 tons (120 lbs)
PM: .05 tons (89 pounds)
NOx: 2.26 tons (4,512 pounds)
VOCs: 2.51 tons (5,011 pounds)
PM: .29 tons (571 pounds)
*emissions amounts depend on the type of diesel engines being used [tier 0 (dirtiest) to tier 4 (cleanest)]. There is nothing that prevents a contractor from using 30 or 40 year old, inefficient, highly polluting diesel engines on an oil and gas operations.
A general permit improves the efficiency of the permitting process by setting out all of the terms and conditions in advance. However, environmental and community groups have serious concerns with the local implications of this general permit.
"This general permit short-circuits the public input on these operations," states Mills. "If a large operation comes to your community and they already have a general permit, you have little recourse but to get a gas-mask and hold on for the ride."
According to the Ohio EPA "a summary of the potential emissions expected from this source is as follows:
Generally, the groups are praising the Ohio EPA for being proactive in regulating the production phase of oil/gas operations. The groups credit the agency for requiring frequent inspections of unpaved roads to ensure dust emissions are kept to a minimum.
Additionally, they compliment Ohio EPA for revising a section of the permit to include limitations on the total volume of material to be stored rather than limiting the size of the tanks (which would have allowed a loophole for industry to exploit).
Another positive point: the General Permit does require at least tier 3 engine standards for engines installed at the production facility. Tier 3 engines have a 71 percent reduction in PM and 53 percent reduction in NOx compared to tier 0 engines.
As the Ohio EPA moves forward with these rules, the groups encourage the Agency to stringently track air emissions for all three phases and revisit this permit in one year.
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.