Regulatory Accountability Act

What follows is the text of the public address given by Dr. Robert Heath in Akron, Ohio on Wednesday, 20 September 2017, in opposition of H.R. Bill 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017. The full text of the bill can be found here.

“Most recently I have served on the Lake Erie Phosphorous Objectives Review Panel (LEPOR), a committee of scientists appointed by and acting on behalf of the Science Advisory Board of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of that panel is to assure that the regulations and procedures for managing nutrient inputs into the lake are based on the best sound science currently available. The objective of those regulations is to control the development of of hazardous algal blooms which put toxins into the western basin of Lake Erie. Those toxins possess a direct threat to human health because millions of people on both sides of the US-Canadian border use Lake Erie as a source for drinking water. Cities that depend on Lake Erie as a drinking water source include Toledo and Cleveland. You may recall that those toxins caused a shutdown of drinking water in Toledo in August 2014.

There are two points I want to make regarding the regulatory process:

  1. It is a long, tedious process, necessarily involving input from numerous stakeholders, including scientific review and public comments. the LEPOR Panel was first convened in October 2014, shortly after the shutdown of the Toledo public water supply. The goal at that time was to have the regulations in place by 2018. It is now certain that the process will take even longer than originally intended. In the meanwhile, hazardous algal blooms continue to recur each year after year.
  2. Regulations are put in place to protect human health and welfare. It is true that often regulations result in costly upgrades to existing infrastructures, but end up providing greater economic benefits to Americans at large. For example, consider the Toledo water crisis. The necessary upgrade to the Toledo drinking water facilities cost over $1M, yet the cost of effectively shutting down the major city in northwestern Ohio for 4 days far exceeded that cost in lost revenue, jobs, and human efforts to find sufficient drinking water.

My concerns with the legislation proposed by Senator Portman are:

a. that it will greatly lengthen the duration of the regulatory process, conceivably bringing it to a standstill in an endless litigation process;

b. that it is unnecessary because the regulatory process already has sufficient opportunity for input by all stakeholders, including commercial interests; and

c. that it identifies ‘high impact rule’ and ‘major rule’ solely in economic terms, rather than focusing on the impact on human health or economic opportunity. By focusing solely on the economic impact of potential regulations it is intended to support and aggrandize economic interests of the relative few, while leaving the health and welfare of the general American public health in jeopardy.”

 

Democracy Day in Kent, 2017

On Thursday, 5 October 2017, Kent held its annual Democracy Day event, a chance for every citizen who wishes to speak out publicly and to City Council about the problems of money in politics. Chairman of Kent Environmental Council Lis Regula, and board member Ted Voneida both spoke out on how the infamous Citizens United ruling creates challenges for the environment. Lis’s words are found below, and Ted’s words came from Bob Heath’s address in Akron concerning the currently pending Regulatory Accountability Act and his concerns with this legislation.

“The US has the equal protection of rights as a central tenet to our identity as a nation, right alongside the freedom of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. We have debated how to define rights and how to define citizen throughout our history, and I’ll again thank the city of Kent for extending those protected rights in Kent earlier this year. Today, however, I’m going to be focusing on that definition of citizens instead, or who exactly is entitled to those protected rights, because today’s definition of “person” is possibly different than what one might think.

As a biology teacher, I deal with how to define living things all the time. We define life as something that uses energy to grow and reproduce, responds and adapts to its environment, maintains homeostasis, and is made of cells. I think most of us would probably agree that humans fit that description, and that humans in the US have the freedoms set forth in our Bill of Rights. However, today corporations also enjoy those protected freedoms. This has not been an overnight occurrence, and in fact has been a slow, gradual process beginning with the Santa Clara County versus Southern Pacific Railroad ruling of 1886 which granted the 14th amendment and equal protection under the law to corporations. In 1906, the Hale versus Henkel decision extended the 4th amendment preventing unreasonable search and seizure to corporations. This trend continued with the 1976 Buckley versus Valeo ruling which granted 1st amendment protections to corporations, and culminated in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision that ruled money as a protected speech.

Which brings us to today’s Democracy in Kent. Living organisms like humans require a few things in order to stay living, such as clean air to breathe, a source of nutrition for building and repairing our cells, clean water to help maintain our homeostasis. Without access to these things, living organisms are highly likely to weaken, fall ill, and eventually cease to live, or die. Corporations do not suffer this same affliction of dependency on the natural environment. Corporations are legal constructs, which right now have similar rights to humans, and can control vast amounts of wealth. One right that corporations yet lack is the right of the vote, however, since 2010 and the Citizens United decision, corporations have been able to spend unprecedented amounts of money to influence how actual people *do* vote, usually so as to elect representatives and legislation that benefits those corporations.

This is dangerous because corporations do not have those limiting requirements that humans do. As legal constructs they continue to exist, participate in the economy, and influence our political process without regard to the availability of those things necessary for living organisms. They may choose to act responsibly, or they may not, but they cannot be jailed and cannot die because of a degraded environment in the way that a living thing can. Corporations may not have the vote, but they have the money to influence the votes that matter.

At the same time, voter purges, gerrymandering, and restrictive voter ID laws across the country restrict the right of the vote for more and more humans, especially humans from historically oppressed classes. Those same groups of people are the people who have had to deal the most with environmental injustice, thanks to Not in My Backyard or NIMBY, attitudes. We have a system today in which essentially immortal corporations, that do not require any amount of environmental sustainability, have more ability to influence decision making within our government than humans, and especially people who have the least power in society who are also left to deal with the messes made by those corporations. Is that the democracy that we want?”

– Lis Regula

 

Edith Chase–In Memoriam

 It grieves me to let you know that Edith Chase passed away on June 13, 2017. Edith was an award-winning scientist, activist and public official who lived in Franklin Township near Kent for a very long time. As a life member of both KEC and the League of Women Voters and for her numerous other community efforts, she will be missed by many.

She retired and moved to Ithaca, New York, at age 90 in 2014 to live near her daughter because of declining health.   Many environmentalists in Kent, throughout Ohio and nationally will miss her. She not only identified environmental issues, but she also worked tirelessly to correct the problems and was frequently successful. We will miss her quiet manner and smile, her generous nature, her probing questions, her grasp of the facts, and her “green” heart. Faye Ann Sebaly, in an email, expressed the hope that we can follow in her spirit of caring for our world and continue with the same integrity. Thanks, Edith, for leading the way.

Condolences may be sent to Edith’s son, Richard Chase, at P.O. Box 433, Princeton, MA  01541-0433.

Her Career:

Edith earned her bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Antioch College. She then returned to her family home in Minneapolis and earned a master of science degree in chemistry at the University of Minnesota. Edith was employed as a chemist at Merck & Co. Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey, where she met and subsequently married Richard Chase. They moved to Franklin Township in 1958.

While raising two children, Edith became active in the League of Women Voters of Kent and focused her scientific expertise on water quality public policy for the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. She was a founding member of the Kent Environmental Council in 1970 and continued to participate in the League of Women Voters of Kent for more than 50 years. Edith helped to establish and subsequently chaired the Lake Erie Basin Policy Conference of the League of Women Voters.

Recognized nationally, Edith was a writer and editor of scientific papers published by the Hydrology Section of the United States Geological Survey from 1979 to 1994. Recognized across Ohio, Edith was invited to become one of the founding members of the Coastal Resources Advisory Council when that council was organized by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 1982 and served for several years as chairperson of the council.

Acting locally, Edith was Franklin Township zoning inspector for 15 years. In that office, in 1989, she created one of the first hydrology studies of the effects of oil drilling on groundwater and devised a method for monitoring well hydrology that was used by local governments until the Ohio General Assembly restricted that authority to the ODNR in 2004.

In 2005, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded to Edith the Walter B. Jones Memorial Award for Coastal Steward of the Year. Edith also received the Burning River Foundation’s 2014 award for Outstanding Environmental Leader, an honor previously awarded to United States Senators Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich.

After Edith moved to Ithaca, KEC and the League of Women Voters formed the Edith Chase Symposium Committee, which just completed its third annual event. Edith remained a part of the planning of this event for those three years and was proud of what it was accomplishing in educating the public. To find out more or to donate, go to http://www.edithchasesymposium.org.

Honors:

2014 – Outstanding Environmental Leader Award from the Burning River Foundation

2013 – Lifetime Achievement Award from the Portage Parks Foundation

2005 – Coastal Steward of the Year Walter B. Jones Memorial Award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

2005 – Grassroots Citizen Advocate Award from Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network

1995 – Lake Erie Award for individual stewardship from the State of Ohio Lake Erie Commission Legacy Club Member, Ohio Environmental Council

Life Member, Kent Environmental Council

Life Member, League of Women Voters of Kent

–Lorraine McCarty

Recovering and Recycling Cuyahoga River Sediments: An Alternative to Disposal

river sediment

The activities in a lake such as Lake Erie are controlled in part by what happens in the watershed. Losses from the land are gained by the lake, for better or for worse–often to the detriment of organisms living in the lake. Nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus that contain compounds from agricultural and residential fertilizers, along with toxic materials such as industrial wastes (e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs) and human hygienic products (e.g., endocrine disrupting estrogen agonists and antagonists) enter lakes largely through riverine inputs, often exacerbated by rainstorms and snowmelt runoff. Also, ecosystem managers need to consider particulate materials, which consist largely of soil particles (i.e., sand, silts, and clays) carried along with flowing water and which may turn into sediment at the bottom of a lake when the flow decreases at the mouth of a river or after entry to a lake.

Although point sources such as pipes from a sewage treatment plant or local industry can be feeders of pollutants to a river, much of point-source pollution is now regulated to prevent large inputs to receiving waters. The major source of pollutants now is from nonpoint sources such as runoff from residential yards and agricultural fields. When runoff occurs from these nonpoint sources, generally it comes as a mix of dissolved and particulate materials. Although most nutrients and many toxic materials are soluble in water, they often are attached to the surface of sediments when they enter a stream or river, complicating the management picture.

Which sediments are worst for holding unwanted materials? Recall from geometry that as the radius of a sphere gets smaller, the ratio of surface area to volume gets larger. So the surfaces of smaller particles (e.g., clays) are proportionately much more coated with nutrient and toxic materials than the larger sand particles. This means that sediments of different sizes can be and need to be managed differently.
river sediment 2
Until recently, eroded sediments were treated as a nuisance, filling up harbors at the mouth of rivers and requiring dredging to keep those ports open for commerce. The Cuyahoga River fills its navigation channel with eight to ten feet of sediment each year, requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge it to maintain shipping access up six miles to the ArcelorMittal steel company. To be exact, the corp dredges 225,000 cubic yards of sediment at great expense to public funds, whether state or federal.

Recent advances in technology have begun to turn bane into bonanza. The Port of Cleveland in partnership with Kurtz Bros., Inc. has been harvesting sand five miles upstream of ArcelorMittal using a sand interceptor that collects sand from the river and deposits it along the riverbank, where it is delivered to trucks and sold for construction, soil conditioning, and stream and beach reconstruction. It is then dried and sorted by size. Because it is collected above most industrial activities, it is sufficiently clean for reuse. It is estimated that with expansion of its capabilities, the sand interceptor may be able to reduce sediment loads to the port by 20%. The interceptor was funded with $1.2 million by the Ohio Healthy Lake Erie Fund. Independent research conducted at the University of Akron and verified by the Ohio EPA found that the material met state and federal standards for cleanliness.

But what about the sediments that are not collected by the sand interceptor? Aren’t those the materials most likely to have hazardous materials adhering to them? Sediments dredged from the mouth of the Cuyahoga River are now placed in a confined disposal facility (CDF) at the eastern end of Burke Lakefront Airport. This is a special experimental CDF that is administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Office of Coastal Management. It is constructed as a series of pools through which sediment slurries pass. The sediment material gradually sinks to the bottom, leaving the water to pass back into the shipping channel in a process called dewatering the sediment. Over time, the sediment consolidates, with the larger, heavier materials settling in the first pond and lighter sediments settling in later pools. Bacterial and fungal activities gradually will decompose the toxic materials (e.g., PCBs and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs). In the meantime, small amounts of these dewatered sediments can be combined with other materials and used in soil mixes. The Ohio EPA tests the mixes to ensure that they meet state and federal standards for safety. Once again, these soil mixes are made through the public-private partnership between the state and Kurtz Bros.

Through these innovative measures, sediment no longer need to be considered something to be disposed of; instead, sediment can be considered to be a valuable resource that can be recycled and marketed. It is something to think about and to carefully consider as the next wave of environmental protection: making the environment safe by making it profitable. Time will tell whether this is a valuable direction, especially given the current political aversion to making sweeping environmental regulations.

–Bob Heath

Community Solar

Solar Presentation

Luke Selfridge, Program Director from OHSun, presented his organizations approach to helping residents and small businesses obtain solar.  OHSun is a 501 (c) 3 that partners with local non-profits to present to the public the opportunity to bring solar electric panels to their communities. They are principally funded thru grants and fixed installer fees.  They have worked with municipalities in Ashtabula, Athens, Lorain, and Cleveland.  At the KEC Annual Meeting, the standing-room-only crowd of 50 was extremely interested in the information.

General Notes on Solar

Solar is very viable in Ohio.  Ohio has about 4.5 to 5 hours of available light daily.  While Florida has more light, the panels operate best in cool weather (such as our spring or fall, so we actually have an advantage over sunnier  states that are also hotter.

  • Solar voltaic cells are still 80% efficient after 25 year.  They are covered with hail-proof, wind-proof, sealed glass.  No snow removal is necessary.
  • They are usually 3’-6” by 5’-0” and supported on a roof by aluminum racks.
  • They can be mounted on just about any roof type – slate shingles being more problematic but still possible.
  • True south facing roofs are no longer necessary for satisfactory performance—with east and west facing roofs performing at only 10% less efficiency, and the number of panels used can be adjusted to accommodate  the directional challenge.
  • Ground mounted systems are also available but are slightly more expensive do to the cost of a “foundation” for the frame-work.
  • The average home requires approximately 200 s.f. of solar panels but this may vary greatly depending on demand.

How Solar Systems Work

  • When sunlight hits the solar cells, energy is created and conducted by a cable.  Power is produced in Direct Current and requires an inverter (which looks somewhat like a flat fuse box) to convert to Alternating Current. The cable then feeds this electricity to the house.
  • Inverter types include: central or string .  String inverters are large commercial grade inverters which convert electricity from multiple arrays and are not generally appropriate for use in residential projects.
  • Most systems are connected to the grid to assure uninterrupted performance and excess production is then supplied to the grid for consumer credit.
  • March and April produce peak performance in Ohio due to the efficiency of weather related cooling of the panels.
  • The inverter system is required to shut down the system in the event of a grid shut-down to prevent back feeding and potential injury to utility line workers.
  • This means that although a house is solar powered, its electricity will go off with all the other houses. A “SunnyBoy Inverter” is a device that prevents the house from sending power back into the grid when it is down but still allows solar power to flow to the house, but it is expensive, and most people do not opt for this additional device.
  • Batteries are required for back-up to produce 24/7 performance if not connected to the grid or for full solar reliance.  The batteries are big, expensive and need to be replaced every 10-15 years, so most people do not opt for them.
  • In older solar systems, if one panel went down or became shaded, all remaining panels would shut down, but this is no longer an issue. Modern installations  utilize an “optimizer” to prevent this type of shut down.

How the solar cooperative works:

OHSun does presentations such as the one sponsored by KEC on February 27th, of this year. A core group of interested people develops. Within a few months, if enough people show interest a co-op group can be formed.  The ideal number to be most cost effective is 100 homes or small businesses but the co-op group can be much smaller.

The process is as follows:

Full implementation of the process generally takes 4 – 8 months but could take up to a year depending on a number of factors including group process and installer availability. The following is a basic outline of the process:

  1. Information meeting
  2. Join the co-op
  3. Grow the co-op…tell your neighbors
  4. Schedule a site visit with installer

a. Co-op members choose a smaller selection committee

b. Co-op gets bids from installers

c. Co-op committee chooses an installer

  1. Contracts are signed
  2. Panels are installed
  3. Enjoy

OHSun brings regional installers into the picture, each with its own specifications. OHSun vets the installers and prepares a Excel spread sheet that includes all aspects of the bidding installers so that the co-op selection committee can make the best comparisons possible.  These would include criteria such as the price of panels, quality of panels, density of cells in panels, types of racks, labor, time required for installation, differences depending on roof types, the type of equipment used, company history, the company’s hiring practices, installer certification, references, etc.

This is a buying coop and does not involve any sharing of the produced power.  This co-op model doesn’t require strict geographic unity (For example, homes from Summit and Lake Counties joined the Cleveland co-op.  The advantages of the co-op system Include:

  • Camaraderie
  • Collective knowledge
  • Cost savings through group buying power

Costs

  • The cost of solar installation has dropped by 90% since the 1970’s.
  • Purchasing solar panels through OHSun cooperatives typically saves consumers 10-20% over the cost of an individual purchase.
  • A monthly fee is charged by utility providers to connect to the grid—from $8 to $23 a month, based on what OHSun has seen in other areas.
  • In reality solar electric production benefits all rate payers as it affords local production of alternative energy.  Ohio allows for net metering.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_metering.
  • An important metric is cost per watt.
  • 3 Kilowatt systems are the smallest desirable to the installer.  An average system is 7 Kilowatts and the panels for a system this size cover about 200 square feet of roof.
  • An array of four panels creates 1 kilowatt of power per hour.
  • Federal tax credits are available and rebates about 30% of the cost.
  • Eco-Link offers reduced interest rates for the installation of solar panels. http://www.tos.ohio.gov/ecolink_homeowners
  • The national Unitarian Universalist Church also sponsors low interest rate loans.
  • The average home cost for an installed system would be somewhere between $5,826  (a 3 KW system) and $17,478 (a 9 KW system), after all discounts, tax credits and the annual savings on electricity are deducted.

For more information see the OHSun website ( http://www.ohsun.org), or contact Luke Selfridge at solarteam@ohsun.org.

 

Submitted by Brad Brotje and Mary Greer

Grant Winners Announced!

Kent Environmental Council Awards $3,035.84 in Local Grants

Kent Environmental Council has awarded $3,035.84 in “Legacy for the Environment” Grants, which are aimed at improving the environment in Portage County.  The following requests were awarded:

Portage County Master Gardeners—$650 to present a workshop teaching 50 participants the importance of composting for the environment, how to compost. and how to use the compost in the garden. A reference book and kitchen bucket will be provided to each participant.  Follow up with participants to survey their use and results.  Portage Soil and Water District is a partner in this project.

Edible Kent—$385.84 to install and secure a demonstration rain barrel to help water a vegetable garden near the farmer’s market.  The grant will also aid the organization in paying for their Adopt-A-Spot rental.  The organization provides education about sustainable food production and donates this organic food to the community.

Kent State University Foundation— $1,000 toward the purchase of a rechargeable battery for Z. E. B., a zero-emission golf cart vehicle which will be used on campus to transport visitors and demonstrate the feasible use of Fuel Cell technology.  The students responsible for building this vehicle are working under Dr. Yanhai Du at Kent State University’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability, and Technology.

Family and Community Services—$1000 to replace two paper towel dispensers at the Community Clothing Center with energy efficient air hand dryers, thus reducing paper towel usage two thirds, leading to saving trees, and reducing waste water and air pollution that result from paper towel manufacturing. The County Clothing Center provides free gently used clothing and other household items to individuals in need.

All checks will be distributed at the KEC Annual Meeting, February 27, 2017, 6:30 PM, at Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent—Fessenden Hall 228 Gougler Avenue, Kent 44240.  After a short business meeting, there will be a presentation on solar energy, free and open to the public.

Third Annual Edith Chase Symposium

screenshot-www-edithchasesymposium-org-2017-01-25-21-16-25

Planning for this year’s Edith Chase Symposium is well underway, and this year’s program looks to be (yet again) better than the last. For the 2017 program, Edith Chase Symposium will have its own full 501(c)3 status, and to celebrate there will be not only the annual Friday evening lecture, but also readings at the Wick Poetry Center and a guided tour of the restored Plum Creek Park. You can find out more information, register for the events, and contribute to the festivities at http://www.edithchasesymposium.org/.

-Lis Regula