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Deep water: Time to ponder the future of our Great Lakes

David Beach  |  09/04/13 @ 10:00am  |  Posted in Clean water, Water

Many of us in the Cleveland area do not appreciate our most intimate relationship – our relationship with Lake Erie. We drink the lake. The water flows through the cells of our bodies. Yet we seldom take time to think deeply about this relationship. The coming week, however, offers some great opportunities to ponder our amazing freshwater lives as inhabitants...

Wild and pristine<br />At its best, as in this view at Mentor Headlands State Park, Lake Erie appears clean and clear and awesome as an ocean. Place of contemplation<br />The sun sets to the northwest  over Lake Erie in the summer.Armored shoreline<br />The Lake Erie coastal zone is a dynamic place where one person's shoreline protection can undermine a neighbor's property.Off limits<br />Northeast Ohioans might have a stronger connection to Lake Erie if public access were not so limited.  Toxic algae returns<br />Algal blooms were thought to be part of Lake Erie's polluted past, but a huge outbreak of the green scum covering much of the western and central basins of the lake in October 2011 was an indication that over-enrichment of nutrients from runoff is still a problem.  (NASA satellite image)

Ohio fracking photo tour

David Beach  |  08/23/13 @ 4:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy

The shale gas drilling boom is not just a theoretical possibility for the 28,587 people of Carroll County, OH. They are already living with dramatic changes to the county’s woods and fields and rolling hills. This photo tour provides a glimpse of what it looks like when fracking comes to rural Ohio.

Epicenter of Ohio shale gas extraction<br />The rolling countryside of Carroll County is a mosaic of farms and woods -- and a rapidly growing number of sites of the oil and gas industry. Preparing to frack<br />A drilling pad being constructed in the middle of the countryside. There are about 15 such pads now in Carroll County. Soon there could be around 60 pads, since more than 300 wells have been permitted in the county and about five wells are typically drilled from each pad using directional drilling methods to frack for shale gas.Drill sites<br />This and the next two photos show a variety of drill pads in the Carroll County area, providing a sense of the contrast between the bucolic farm country and the industrial development.<br />Drill pad in Carroll County.<br />Drill pad in Carroll County.Permits<br />A sign outside a drilling site in Carroll County with information about the wells permitted at the site. Active drilling site<br />This is a close-up view of an active drilling site in Carroll County. It's a noisy industrial place, full of the roar of diesel engines and clanking machinery. The work is episodic -- drilling for a few weeks then operations to frack the well by pumping frack fluids under high pressure to prop open cracks in the shale to allow gas to flow.Water quality issues<br />Many concerns have been raised about the large volumes of water used to frack wells. Another problem is water running off the drill pads and polluting local streams. This well site had to install barriers to stop a run-off problem.Warning sign<br />A warning about the possibility of poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas at a drill site. Trucks are not supposed to enter if the flag is yellow or red. On the day this picture was taken, the flag was green to indicate safety.Air quality impact<br />Kicking up a fine, white dust, a backhoe appears to be blending drill cuttings with silica. The cuttings from the bore hole often contain radioactive elements and must be diluted in order to reduce radioactivity to a level permitted at Ohio landfills. Disposal at hazardous waste landfills would cost much more. Portable lives<br />Drill sites are self-sufficient operations, with diesel power, mobile offices, and satellite communications. Equipment is modular and made to be easily transported by truck. Steel products<br />A line of trucks delivers pipe for the casing of a well. The fracking industry uses a lot of steel products, which is a reason why boosters of Ohio manufacturing are excited about the growth of fracking for shale gas. No Chesapeake Traffic<br />Fracking operations require many truck trips to haul equipment, pipe, chemicals and water. The drilling companies, like Chesapeake Energy, have improved roads in Carroll County to provide access to drill pads. This sign marks the end of the road access at one pad. Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 1<br />This photo and the next four show the development of new shale gas storage and processing facilities in and around Carroll County. Some of these facilities represent investments of several hundred million dollars, and their size is an indication of the scale of fracking anticipated in Ohio. Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 2<br />Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 3<br />Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 4<br />Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 5<br />Linear impacts<br />One of the biggest impacts to the rural landscape and wildlife habitat is the construction of gas and oil pipelines. Carroll County is already seeing pipeline construction to connect wells to processing facilities.Sights along the road<br />As the number of wells grows, sights like this container storage yard are becoming more common in Carroll County.The Ohio that will change<br />Carroll County could have 2-3000 wells in the future. The agricultural countryside will be dramatically altered.

Cleveland energy aggregation deal gets green power and low rates

David Beach  |  07/12/13 @ 3:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy

The City of Cleveland’s climate-friendly aggregation program offers 60,000 electricity customers a real win-win: lower rates and renewable power.

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PNC SmartHome is first certified Passive House in Ohio

David Beach  |  07/09/13 @ 3:00pm  |  Posted in Green buildings, Projects

PNC SmartHome Cleveland, a project of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, has become the first building in Ohio to achieve passive house certification, the world’s most rigorous building energy standard. The certification was approved in June by the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), the nonprofit organization committed to making high-performance passive buildings the mainstream market standard in the United...

On exhibit<br />The PNC SmartHome was built next to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in 2011 as an exhibit of energy-efficient design.Showcase for green building<br />The SmartHome exhibit was fully decorated to show that  extremely energy-efficient homes can also be beautiful and comfortable. Moving day<br />After a successful run as a museum exhibit, the SmartHome was moved through University Circle to a vacant lot on Wade Park Avenue.Neighborhood investment<br />The SmartHome was installed permanently at 11601 Wade Park Ave. at the edge of Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood. In 2012 the home was sold to a family.

Growing poorer: Studies question growth and economic development in Northeast Ohio

David Beach  |  07/02/13 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

One of our society’s sacred cows is “growth.” But two recent studies—one focused on economic development and the other focused on regional land use patterns—raise questions about the quality and costs of growth in Northeast Ohio.

Low prices<br />Many new jobs are part of an economic race to the bottom and do not increase per capita incomes in a community.  Costs of sprawl<br />Much of the region's so-called growth is low-density development in new places, which imposes lots of economic, social and environmental costs on society.

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