Environment

Neocles Leontis: A vote for Galbraith for Congress is an important step in combating the nightmare of climate change

The 5th District deserves Michael Galbraith as people’s Representative in the U.S. Congress. He will work to protect our children from the ravages of climate disruption, unlike Bob Latta, who takes thousands of dollars every year from the outdated fossil fuel industry and shields his donors from the full cost of the harmful pollution they cause. Latta and his party provide wasteful subsidies to Big Oil, Coal and Gas, distorting our free market system, so we can’t transition as quickly as we must to a 21st century economy based on clean, cheap renewable energy. Unless we start to bend the curve on carbon emissions downward, by no later than 2020, global warming, already 2°F above average levels of the 20th century, will quickly surpass 3°F and then 4°F under the business-as-usual scenario promoted by the inaction of Bob Latta and his cronies. Our children will be condemned to a dangerous nightmare world, in which one climate tipping point trips another, like dominoes, starting with disruption of the jet stream, happening now, to complete melting of Arctic Ice in summer, coming soon, to more rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet into the North Atlantic, collapse of the Gulf Stream current, loss of mountain glaciers that people rely on for drinking water all over the globe, eventual drying out of the Amazon Forest, the “lungs” of our atmosphere, which we rely on to replenish the oxygen we breathe, and uncontrollable release of carbon into the atmosphere as the vast tundra lands of Canada and Russia melt, threatening “runaway” global warming. As a result, the oceans are warming rapidly, causing more and more powerful and “very wet”* hurricanes, think Harvey, Maria, and Florence. Sea levels are rising ever faster and will flood our coastal cities – Miami, Norfolk, Baltimore, Washington, Boston, New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. Our farmlands are already experiencing hotter more unpredictable weather and longer, more frequent droughts, threatening food supplies. Hotter and more destructive wildfires, “fire tornadoes,” are ravaging our western states, destroying entire neighborhoods and towns, killing Americans in their beds before they can escape, and destroying vast forests. In short, the Earth will enter an irreversible “hothouse” trajectory, if we do not act decisively now, to transition our economy to clean, cheap, non-polluting technologies — that we already have at hand, including solar and wind energy for electricity, geothermal heating and cooling for buildings, and electrification of our transportation system. Most of the lands where people now live will become too hot for humans to inhabit and farm. These are the conclusions of leading scientists, published in August, 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, one of the top scientific journals of the world. In November we in the 5th District can all take an important step to prevent this nightmare – we must vote to remove Bob Latta from Congress. We must vote for Michael Galbraith. Neocles Leontis, Ph.D. Professor of Chemistry, BGSU Bowling Green

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Bowling Green takes ‘green’ part of name seriously

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Amanda Gamby’s new job may fall short of being glamorous. It’s had her tagging garbage bins, going through recycling, and riding bike for the first time in eight years. But as Bowling Green’s first ever sustainability coordinator, Gamby doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. She is a true believer in the city’s environmental sustainability – whether that involves energy production, recycling, bicycling or clean water. Gamby, who spoke Thursday to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club, said the city has already made some serious strides toward sustainability. “We’re really already doing some pretty cool things,” Gamby said. “We’re just not telling about it very well.” So that is part of her job. Gamby, who previously served as the Wood County environmental educator, has expertise in public outreach and education for very young children to senior citizens, and everyone in between. And she wants them all to know that 42 percent of Bowling Green’s electricity comes from renewable sources. “That’s a pretty big chunk of the pie,” Gamby said. The city was the first in Ohio to use a wind farm to generate municipal electricity, starting in 2003. “The joke is that it’s a wind garden because it’s only four,” she said. But even though it’s just four turbines, some doubted the city’s wisdom and investment in the $8.8 million project. “Many people thought Daryl Stockburger was crazy,” Gamby said, of the city’s utilities director at the time who pushed for the wind turbines. But the turbines have been generating power ever since. The turbines are as tall as a 30-story building and generate up to 7.2 megawatts of power — enough to supply electricity for approximately 2,500 residential customers. Debt on the wind turbine project was paid in full in 2015, which was several years earlier than planned, Gamby said. And now, the city is home to the largest solar field in Ohio. The 165-acre solar field consists of more than 85,000 panels and is capable of producing 20-megawatts of alternating current electricity.  In an average year, it is expected to produce an equivalent amount of energy needed to power approximately 3,000 homes.  It will also avoid approximately 25,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year since the energy is generated from a non-fossil fuel resource. The city is also talking about building a community solar field on East Gypsy Lane Road, where city residents and businesses can buy into solar power. “We’re really leaders. Our small community is setting the stage for others,” Gamby said. Bowling Green city officials have been adamant that the wind farm and solar field be open to tours so that others can learn from the alternative energy sites. Tours are allowed under and inside the turbines, and through the rows of solar panels. “That’s pretty unheard of in the industry,” Gamby said. The city is working to improve some of its other environmentally friendly programs, like encouraging more “rain gardens” and educating people to not put pollutants into storm sewers since stormwater is not treated by the water pollution control plant. Bowling Green continues to try to educate residents about its curbside recycling program, in order to keep contamination out of the recycling bins. But the city – with its frequently changing population at BGSU –…


Food waste talk gives ag breakfast attendees plenty to chew on

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Clean your plate. If only the solution to food waste was that simple. As Brian Roe, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics of Ohio State University, neither the problem nor the solutions are simple. Roe was the speaker at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum Thursday presented by CIFT at the Ag Incubator on Route 582. The problem is global, he said, though the details differ. In developing countries the waste comes earlier in the supply chain. Once the food reaches the consumer, it gets consumed. In the United States and other developed countries, the problem is focused the closer the food comes to reaching the kitchen. The cost of the problem is “staggering,” Roe said. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 31 percent of the world’s food production is lost. In the United States, the USDA estimates that percentage of loss is experienced on the retail and consumer levels in the United States as well. That means in 2010, 133 billion pounds of food were wasted at a cost of $162 billon. That waste of past-date milk, shriveled produce, and stale cereal, represents a waste of the resources that go into producing those products – the water, land, and labor. This also costs households money for products that they buy and then throw away without using. And that food, Roe said, could help feed the one in six American children who live in households that experience food insecurity. Feeding America, estimates there is 48 million pounds lost before the food even gets to market and another 22 billion pounds at local markets a year. This is usable food, Roe said. Once that food is discarded the problems continue. About 20 percent of what goes into the nation’s overstuffed landfills is food waste. As it decomposes, it forms methane gas. Only the United States and China account for more greenhouse gases than what food waste produces. Two-thirds of the food wasted in the U.S. is lost in the home. Roe said that confusing labeling of food is a particular problem. Terms such as “sell by,” “best used by,” and “expires on” are not as precise as they may seem and often lead consumers to throw out still edible food. An experiment conducted at OSU tested the influence these labels have on consumers. A cross-section of people were given milk of various ages to smell. When the milk was labeled, the subjects were more likely to say the older milk smelled bad. “But all bets were off,” Roe said, when the milk was not labeled. Only the second freshest batch, 25 days old, was deemed to have an off smell by the same number of testers. Roe said that the milk did have an off-flavor, probably having to do with the feed the cows ate. But without the label even 40-day old milk was found acceptable by about 60 percent of the testers. The language used is not regulated, but rather determined by the manufacturers, who are concerned about someone buying something that may not be at its prime and reflect poorly on the brand. Roe studied language related to food packaging in Ohio law and found the references to the terms contradictory and confusing. Fine tuning that legislative…


BG officials want answers about Nexus pipeline spill

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nexus pipeline officials have some explaining to do. Bowling Green officials were satisfied with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s response to a spill last month of 20,000 gallons of non-toxic drilling fluid north of the city. But the response of the pipeline company has left the city with some questions. For example, City Council members Daniel Gordon and Greg Robinette have asked: – When did the spill happen? Ohio EPA officials have said the spill was reported on July 17. However, emails from Nexus officials have stated the spill occurred on July 16. – How quickly did Nexus report the spill? Was the reporting done in a reasonable timeframe? – What kind of bentonite was involved in the spill? Though non-toxic, if it was the acidic form, are measures being taken to mitigate and monitor potential harm? – Does the Ohio EPA consider the Nexus decision to halt cleanup efforts at night a reasonable response? – Should Nexus crews have been prepared to work through the night? When contacted by Bowling Green Independent News about some of these questions, Nexus officials declined to talk on the phone and asked for the questions to be submitted in writing. A Nexus emailed statement said the pipeline company “remains committed to safe and environmentally responsible practices, including constructing the project in accordance with applicable environmental permitting requirements.” Though previous emails from Nexus stated the spill occurred on July 16, when asked about the conflicting dates, Adam Parker, who handles stakeholder engagement for Nexus gas transmission, changed the date to July 17 at approximately 6 p.m. The Ohio EPA has stated that Nexus crew members left the scene of the spill rather than continuing to clean up. Parker stated the Nexus crews temporarily suspended activities due to safety concerns related to working along the busy road after dark. When asked if Nexus has a policy in place requiring workers to continue with cleanup until it is completed, Parker responded with the following statement: “The project’s various plans and permits were filed and approved by state and federal agencies prior to the beginning of construction. On the evening of the spill, NEXUS promptly notified the Ohio EPA, installed multiple layers of containment and worked to complete the recovery of clay and water in accordance with those plans. Nexus crews returned the following morning to continue the cleanup to the OEPA’s satisfaction. NEXUS communicated all steps taken to Ohio EPA throughout the response effort and the Ohio EPA determined that recovery efforts were complete and no further action was required.” However, the pipeline is being fined by the Ohio EPA not only for spilling 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid, but will also be billed by the EPA for cleanup of the fluid, since the pipeline workers did not stay on the scene to clean up the spill. The drilling fluid spill into Liberty Hi ditch occurred when Nexus crews were installing the natural gas pipeline under the ditch, which is a tributary of the Maumee River. The non-toxic drilling fluid – consisting of bentonite and water – impacted approximately three-quarters of a mile of the ditch, according to James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA. Bentonite is a naturally occurring clay that is commonly used in…


Nexus pipeline spills drilling fluid into ditch north of BG

IBy JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nexus pipeline is being fined by the Ohio EPA for spilling 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid into a ditch north of Bowling Green. The company will also be billed by the EPA for cleanup of the fluid, since the pipeline workers did not stay on the scene to clean up the spill. Ohio EPA staff responded on the evening of July 17 to investigate a Nexus pipeline site where the drilling fluid had been released into Liberty Hi ditch in Middleton Township. The spill occurred when Nexus crews were installing the natural gas pipeline under the ditch, which is a tributary of the Maumee River. The non-toxic drilling fluid – consisting of bentonite and water – impacted approximately three-quarters of a mile of the ditch, according to James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA. The EPA notified Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert, who in turn notified the city of Bowling Green, since the city’s water treatment plant is located upstream of the spill. Bentonite is a naturally occurring clay that is commonly used in drilling fluids to help lubricate and cool the cutting tools. The substance is not hazardous, Gilbert said. However, bentonite creates a milky appearance in the water, so the EPA wanted the material removed from the ditch. “It’s not a huge issue environmentally, but more of a visual thing,” Gilbert said. Efforts were made to dam the ditch to keep the drilling fluid from reaching the Maumee River. However, the Nexus crew did not follow the Ohio EPA’s request to continue cleanup throughout the night, Lee said. The Nexus contractors left the site on the evening of July 17 – so the EPA had to hire environmental contractors to continue cleanup efforts overnight. Sand bag dams, silt fence, straw bales and a filter fence were all used to contain the spill. In the days following the spill, Nexus vacuum trucks were used to remove the bulk of the material from the stream, Lee said. “Ohio EPA issued a notice of violation to Nexus for the unauthorized discharge to waters of the state and will bill Nexus for the cost of the agency’s environmental response staff hours, state contractor and materials,” an EPA press release stated. The spill reportedly had no adverse effects on wildlife, Gilbert said. As soon as Bowling Green Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett received the call from Wood County EMA, he notified the city water plant superintendent since the incident was close to the plant. “They were not concerned about any impact on our water service or the river,” Fawcett said. The spill involved non-toxic material and occurred downriver from the water treatment plant. However, the plant superintendent made sure the water wasn’t affected. “There was no impact to the Bowling Green water treatment,” Fawcett said. Fawcett also notified Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards and City Council President Mike Aspacher. “I’m satisfied with the notification and the communication,” when the spill occurred, Aspacher said. “The city was notified when the accident took place.” However, if further pipeline incidents occur in the future, Aspacher said he will make sure they are reported to all City Council members. “In hindsight, based on the level of concerns” about the pipeline, all council members will…


Parker a natural as county environmental coordinator

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Beth Parker’s appreciation for the environment comes naturally. She grew up near Pittsburgh, spending time outside, with a dad who worked as a canoeing instructor for the Red Cross. Her love of nature has led her to the position of environmental program coordinator for Wood County. “I guess it boils down to respect,” Parker said. “The earth is our home. We should respect it. We’re not going to get another one, so we need to treat it well.” Parker earned an environmental science degree from Bowling Green State University, with a specialization in education and interpretation. She went on to work at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio, the Long Lake Conservation Center in Minnesota, and most recently at the Wood County Park District as a naturalist. “When you have a love for nature, you want to protect it and make sure it’s well cared for,” Parker said. Parker took over the environmental program coordinator position just as the county opened permanent recycling sites at several satellite locations throughout Wood County. “That started the day before I started,” she said. “I’ve been out checking those to make sure things are going well.” The recycling sites are being used by many county residents, she said. But Parker has identified a need for education on some topics at the satellite locations. Some people are continuing to put their recyclables in plastic grocery bags, which cause problems. “They can tangle up the machines,” Parker said. And cardboard boxes should be flattened before being put in the drop-offs, she added. “But people are definitely using them, which is great,” Parker said. In addition to the county’s recycling efforts, Parker will also be giving tours of the wind farm and county landfill. She will be working on avenues for education, programs, and partnerships with community organizations. “I’m looking forward to being able to continue the educational opportunities they’ve been providing in the past,” she said. “I look forward to building relationships with other community groups, businesses, and governmental entities.” Parker is also interested in working on composting in the county. “It’s all about working toward a sustainable future,” she said.


Author talks about the importance of going native in backyard planting

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Heather Holm is always interested in doing less work in her garden. The author would rather spend her time observing the bees, butterflies, wasps, and other insects that inhabit the space. And she was pleased to tell those gathered in the Simpson Garden Building in Bowling Green that the two go hand in hand. Holm was in Bowling Green recently to speak on “Forget Television – The Real Entertainment is Happening Outside in Your Pollinator-Friendly Garden,” a talk sponsored by Bowling Green Parks and Recreation and Oak Openings Wild Ones. Funds from the Kuebeck Forum helped fund the program. Holm structured her talk around what one would find on cable TV if they weren’t out observing and working on their yards. There was everything from the food channel to crime. Her message was to cultivate plants native to the area as a way of fostering populations of pollinators needed for a healthy local environment. So plant milk weed to help feed Monarch butterflies, who depend entirely on plants for food, Holm said. Keep in mind color – butterflies and bees can’t see red – as well as fragrance as a way of attracting them. “There are plants that will thrive in the horrible conditions you’ve been struggling with all these years,” the Minnesota-based author said. And ease up on some gardening chores. Holm said she leaves plant stubble up in the fall to give nesting spaces to insects. She also doesn’t clear away natural debris because 70 percent of bees nest below ground and this provides the right material they need. On the other hand, wood mulch is a barrier for those nests. She urged the full house attending her talk to avoid applying pesticides. They inflict collateral damage on the insects that actually are better at controlling aphids and other unwanted bugs. Holm also described the many insects, some bees, some not, that can be confused with others. And when she reached the crime channel section of her talk she offered up an example that would make a zombie blanch. Conopid flies lay eggs inside the abdomen of a bumblebee, and then consume the bee once the eggs are hatched. Creating pollinator friendly landscapes is not just a suburban or rural concern. Research, she said, shows bees are often more abundant in cities than in neighboring rural areas, particularly in low income areas where there are vacant lots and less use of pesticides. Regardless of the area, Holm concluded it is important to cultivate native plants. They support specialized relationships being particular fauna and flora. They are more attractive, four times more attractive, to pollinators than non-native species. They are adapted to local growing conditions. They improve biodiversity by providing food and habitat, directly or indirectly, for all organisms throughout the food chain. For those who are interested in learning more, Holm has written two books “Pollinators of Native Plants” (2014) and “Bees” (2017). Wild Ones is an organization that promotes the use of native plants. The local chapter is Oak Openings Wild Ones.