Environment

Pipeline officials promise to treat land and landowners fairly

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Pipeline officials with Kinder Morgan don’t see the protests by Wood County landowners as a fatal flaw to the Utopia pipeline plans to cross their properties. When landowners say “no,” the pipeline officials hear “maybe,” according to Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan. Often property owners hold out until the eminent domain process is underway, but end up entering agreements with pipeline companies, Fore said. In fact, 98 percent of the land acquisition done by Kinder Morgan never gets to the point of final court resolution, he added. “We have worked with tens of thousands of landowners,” Fore said during a recent stop in Bowling Green. Several landowners in Wood County are protesting Kinder Morgan’s efforts to access their land through eminent domain. Fore believes that’s because they aren’t aware of the compensation that will be offered and the mitigation to their property that will be provided. Some of the landowners from the Pemberville area have stated that no amount of money will convince them to let the pipeline be buried on their farmland or building lots. But Fore said these objections are no different than those he has resolved before. “There’s a lot of passion in the process,” he said. “The challenge is on us to make sure people have accurate information.” “It may start out adversarial, but often it doesn’t end that way,” Fore said. But this case may be a bit different since the proposed Utopia pipeline is not sending natural gas to sites to generate public power. The Utopia line will be sending ethane to a private company in Ontario that makes plastic products….


Bringing solar power out of the dark ages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio may be the nation’s leading solar manufacturer, but some state leaders’ attitudes about solar are back in the dark ages, according to Bill Spratley, executive director of Green Energy Ohio. However, Bowling Green could be a “game changer” – building the largest solar field in the state. “Next year, Bowling Green, Wood County will be the mecca.” It’s appropriate that Bowling Green take the lead, Spratley said, since the city was the first to erect utility scale wind turbines in 2003. Maybe the Bowling Green solar field can convince politicians that harnessing the power of the sun is no longer radical. “They still think solar is out in the future. Solar is here now,” Spratley said. “We’ve got to get past these buggy whip manufacturers.” Spratley said he runs into solar investors around the country, curious about Ohio’s reluctance to support solar power. “What the hell is happening in Ohio,” he said they ask him. The state legislature has frozen Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, he said. Consequently, renewable energy comprises just 3 percent of the overall mix of electricity sources in the state. “We need to send a message to free the hostages in Columbus,” he said of possible solar funding to “get power to the people.” Spratley was one of many speakers at the “Building Big Solar Across Ohio” conference in Bowling Green on Thursday. He was joined by leaders of renewable energy companies, representatives of solar companies, officials from communities using solar power, and green energy advocates. Solar power used to be “for off-the-wall hippies,” said David Dwyer, president of American Renewable Energy. But that is no longer the…


Environmentalists and farmers shouldn’t be at odds on Lake Erie

(As submitted by Mike Ferner, Coordinator Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie) Responding to your article, “Farmer asks County not to declare Lake Erie ‘impaired,’”  in the BG Independent News, it is important to say that “simple farmers,” as Mr. Drewes defines himself, and people who want to clean up Lake Erie are not enemies and in fact have much in common. I grew up and worked on farms in Richfield Twp., in western Lucas County, spending many summers hoeing corn, soy beans and sugar beets and baling hay.  In those days factory farming was unheard of and I know from my own experience that traditional farmers try to be good stewards of the land and water. Up until 20-some years ago, many more family farms supported the rural economy and grocery stores had plenty of milk, eggs, hamburger and pork chops without CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) even being imagined.   Today, the Ohio Farmers Union, representing a dwindling number of “simple farmers,” is very opposed to the radically unsustainable form of agriculture represented by CAFOs.  This industrial form of food production is the exception to a long tradition of farming methods and history shows it’s not necessary. “Only” 146 CAFOs in the Western Lake Erie Watershed generate an amount of animal waste equal to the sewage output of Chicago and Los Angeles combined — some 700,000,000 gallons annually.  That does not include an unknown number of “one-under” operations that stay just below the number of animals that requires registration with the EPA. The Ohio Dept. of Agriculture estimates 80-85% of excess nutrients going into Lake Erie are from agriculture and there can be little doubt that most of it comes from CAFOs. So we…


Wood Soil & Water Conservation District to meet

(As submitted by the Wood Soil & Water Conservation District) The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District is holding the 67th Annual Meeting & Awards Banquet at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center OARDC (4240 Range Line Rd. Custar) Saturday, September 10th  at 11:30 AM.  Tickets are available for $10 each. A buffet lunch in included and the election for two members to the district board of supervisors is open 11:30 AM– 1:00 PM. Ron Snyder, NACD Soil Health Champion, and staff will present “Soil your Undies.” Don’t miss it! Please contact the district office at 419-354-5517 or wcswcd@woodswcd.com by August 26th to RSVP. The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District is supervised by a board of five elected citizens and landowners of Wood County.  Each elected supervisor serves a three year term and volunteers their time in the interest of conservation for both the agricultural and urban communities throughout Wood County. Residents or landowners, firms and corporations that own land or occupy land in Wood County and are 18 years of age and older may vote for supervisor. A non-resident landowner, firm or corporation must provide an affidavit of eligibility, which includes designation of a voting representative, prior to casting a ballot. This year’s candidates for the Board of Supervisors are Dale H. Limes, and incumbents, Dennis Ferrell and Lee E.  Sundermeier. Please join us, too, at the district office (1616 E. Wooster St. Suite 32 Bowling Green, OH) for an Open House and to meet the candidates for the Wood SWCD board of supervisors on Thursday, September 1st 4:00-7:00 PM.   Enjoy  a hot dog and refreshments.  Talk with the candidates, current board members, and staff making decisions…


BG Tree Commission offers free seminars

(As submitted by BG Arborist Grant Jones) This fall the Bowling Green Tree Commission will hold three free seminars. Each seminar will begin at 9 a.m. in the classroom at Simpson Garden Park, and end by 11 a.m. Sept. 17 – What’s wrong with my tree? We will discuss the steps in learning how to diagnose what is wrong with trees and shrubs. Most of the class will be spent walking through Simpson Garden Park looking at problems caused by insects, disease, and environmental stress. Oct. 8 – Getting the Soil Right for Trees. Matching a tree to the soil conditions at the site is extremely important for its survival. Those attending will learn about soil types, drainage, soil pH, and compaction and how to properly select trees to match these conditions. Nov. 12 – Protecting Trees during Construction. We will discuss how to protect trees during construction projects and how to selecting building materials can help with stormwater run-off and allow air and water to reach tree roots. For more information please contact BG’s Arborist, Grant Jones, at 419-354-4101 or email him at arborist@bgohio.org.  


Pipeline attempt to use eminent domain protested

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Eminent domain often allows pipeline companies to plant their lines where they wish. The only point left to dicker is the amount they have to pay landowners to cross their property. But the pipeline case being heard in all three common pleas courts in Wood County is different. Unlike pipelines that are sending gas to companies that supply energy for public consumption, the Utopia pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan would be sending ethane, a byproduct of the fracking industry, to a private plastics company in Ontario. Kinder Morgan is planning to start construction later this year on the $500 million ethane pipeline from shale sites in southeast Ohio to Canada. The proposed Utopia line would run south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then cross the Maumee River south of Waterville. Kinder Morgan claims the company has the power of eminent domain to bury the pipeline in 21 miles of Wood County. “Our position is they absolutely do not,” said Andy Mayle, an attorney working with Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. According to Thompson, a private pipeline company’s taking of land for its own gain violates the Ohio Constitution’s strict protection of private property rights. Thompson and Mayle represent 16 families in Wood County who are contesting the eminent domain claims of the Texas-based pipeline company. The case is being heard by all three common pleas courts in the county because Kinder Morgan has sued so many landowners, Thompson said. The landowners’ arguments are two-fold, Thompson explained. First, the private pipeline will provide no public use so it does not qualify for public domain authority. Second, the…


2nd Annual Simpson Gardening Symposium held

(As submitted by Chris Gajewicz, BG Parks naturalist) On July 30th , the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department hosted the 2nd Annual Simpson Gardening Symposium at the Simpson Garden Park in Bowling Green. The symposium is made possible by funding through the Kuebeck Forum on Nature and Environment and the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Foundation. This year, speakers for the forum were from local to international locations and a variety of topics were presented to the fifty gardening enthusiasts. The day started off with Isaac Kirwan, Assistant Horticulturist for the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville, Georgia. Mr. Kirwan spoke to the group about incorporating natural vistas into your home landscape by looking at the plants and environments which are found in your growing area. By utilizing both native plants and plants which grow in your zone, the gardener can create trails, paths, and scenery in their own yard that mimics the surroundings. Don Schooner from Schooner Farms in Weston, Ohio, spoke on the traditional gardening method known as Hugelkultur. Hugelkultur, German for, “Hill Mound”, has been practiced in Northern Europe for hundreds of years and involves the burying of a fallen tree or log with soil, leaf matter, compost, etc. The mound is then used for the growing of food crops. As the tree or log inside the mound decays, the nutrients it releases can be used by the surface crop. Hugelkultur mounds can been seen in full operation at Schooner Farms at Route 6 and Otsego Pike in Wood County. The final speaker for the day was Botanical Explorer, Joseph Simcox. Mr. Simcox, his brother Patrick, and their team of plant collectors, travel the world in search…


Families put up a fight against pipeline plans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Jerry and Elaine Bruns’ farmland near Pemberville has been in their family since the 1860s. They have no intention of giving a pipeline company permission to damage it – no matter how much money is offered. The Bruns are being joined by 14 other Wood County families who are standing up to Kinder Morgan pipeline company, which is planning to build a $500 million ethane pipeline from southeast Ohio to Canada, passing through their land on the way. On Thursday, the landowners listened in court as pipeline representatives said the residents were being greedy and were holding out for a better price. Not true, Jerry Bruns said. “We told them from the get-go. We don’t want the pipeline, no matter what the money.” This is clearly not about the money, he said. “This has been going on for two years.” On Monday, the families will be in court again, trying to convince the judge that eminent domain law does not give Kinder Morgan the right to bury a pipeline on their land. According to their attorney, a private pipeline company’s taking of land for its own gain violates the Ohio Constitution’s strict protection of private property rights. The action filed on behalf of 15 families in eastern Wood County opposes the efforts for the Utopia pipeline intended to send ethane from southeastern Ohio to a Canadian plastics factory. Bruns said he and other families objected to the land surveys by the Texas-based pipeline company – to no avail. “They got a restraining order. We couldn’t even go on our own property,” he said. The proposed Utopia line would run south of Pemberville,…


Statewide solar energy conference set in BG

Solar energy developments across Ohio will be discussed by 20 expert speakers on Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Green Energy Ohio’s Building Big Solar Across Ohio Conference. “This is the most comprehensive look at solar energy across Ohio ever presented – showing the statewide extent of currently operating solar energy systems and the growing list of solar installs expected in coming years,” said Bill Spratley, GEO executive director. Conference topics include: – GEO’s new list of Ohio’s 25 largest solar installations and installed solar in Ohio counties; – Ohio’s largest solar installation of 20 MW, now under construction at Bowling Green; – The state’s first “Community Solar” projects by municipal and rural cooperative utilities; and, – How large-scale solar battery storage and solar tracking systems are operating in Ohio. The GEO News Magazine Summer Edition next week will also release a new survey of solar energy installations in every county of Ohio and a new listing of the top 25 largest solar arrays in the state. This first-ever county-by-county survey will also be discussed at the Bowling Green conference. The day-long event at the Stone Ridge Golf Club in Bowling Green is expected to attract community leaders, solar developers, electric utilities, financiers, installers, and contractors along with manufacturers, retailers, government officials, educators, farmers and consumers. See registration and details on GEO’s website at: www.greenenergyohio.org.


Legislators asked to step up Lake Erie protection

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two years after algal blooms created a water crisis in the Toledo area, local leaders want to know what Ohio and Michigan are doing to prevent the green water from returning. Last week, legislators from both states were asked to explain efforts at the state level to keep Lake Erie clean. The state senators and representatives were a captive audience for questions from regional city, village, township, county and school officials during a TMACOG forum. The legislators were asked about steps they had taken to protect the water quality in the northwest Lake Erie basin. One legislator from Ohio and another from Michigan said they had been “proactive” in their clean water efforts, with manure application on farm fields now being regulated. State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, stopped short of using the word “proactive,” but listed off several bills and proposals to protect the water. However, he then added, “I don’t believe we have done enough yet.” “We still have more work to do. This lake deserves it,” Gardner said. State Rep. Mike Sheehy, who represents several Lucas County subdivisions, said many Ohio waterways are in compliance with the Clean Water Act. “Guess which river is not on the list?” he asked – the Maumee River. State Rep. Bill Reineke, from the Sandusky County area, said he represents several farmers in his district who have been self-regulating their use of manure on fields. “We can’t be blaming anyone,” he said. Michigan Rep. Bill LaVoy said his region has worked with government sources of the problem, and is now starting to focus on farming sources. “We all have responsibility,” said State Rep….


Audits to save BG homes money and energy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG  Independent News   Thousands of Bowling Green homes are letting cool air escape in the summer and heat seep out in the winter. So Columbia Gas is giving every homeowner, landlord and renter a chance to keep the air in their houses and money in their pockets. Bowling Green residents are being offered home energy audits for $20 by Columbia Gas, to identify how homes can be made more energy efficient. And if the residents agree to weatherization upgrades, the most they will pay per home is $300. “It’s because of Bowling Green’s interest in energy efficiency,” Jill McGinn, of Columbia Gas, explained last week to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. “Everyone in Bowling Green is eligible.” The subsidies through the program will pay for up to $4,000 in home improvements, but the residents will pay a fraction of that. “The most any Bowling Green resident will pay is $300,” McGinn said. “Those are some pretty huge and substantial savings.” The energy audits take about three hours to complete. An added bonus, McGinn said, is that experts also look for safety problems. McGinn knows all about that, since when she had an energy audit done on her home, it found a gas leak in her basement. “Safety is Columbia Gas’ first priority,” she said. The audits often discover leaks at gas line joints or at the appliance hook ups. The next priority is energy efficiency. The homes likely to benefit the most from the audits are those built before 1975, many which use more than 1,000 cubic feet of gas annually. Those homes are often found with very inefficient furnaces, and insulation that has settled…


Conservation grants offered to local farmers

Farmers in the watersheds of the Portage and Toussaint rivers are eligible for funds to reduce the amount of nutrients that migrate from their fields to nearby waterways. The grant is through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and is being administered by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Wood and Ottawa counties. TMACOG will document costs to farmers and monitor the grants. Applications are being accepted now through Aug. 15 only at Wood County and Ottawa County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Farms must be within either the Portage or Toussaint River watershed which also includes parts of Sandusky and Hancock counties. The grants will reimburse farmers for three agricultural best practices: variable rate technology with cover crops, water control structures, and blind inlet filters. Variable rate technology (VRT) measures nutrients present in the soil and then delivers only the amount of fertilizer necessary for optimum yield. Under the terms of the grant, farmers will be reimbursed for planting winter cover crops with VRT technology. Farmers will test soil in a three-acre grid or less. The information is mapped in a GIS system and linked to the application of fertilizer. Farmers will be reimbursed for both the cost of the fertilizer and the cost of the cover crop. Water control structures are essentially control valves that are placed on a drainage tile main line. By adjusting the stopper boards – essentially raising a dam in a drainage tile – ground water can be held back in the field in the root zone where plants can utilize the nutrients that may have otherwise been flushed out. Blind inlets are a filter system that is another way of controlling surface runoff…


County hears concerns about large dairy farms

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Milk does a body good. No one is disputing that. It’s the byproduct of the dairy cows that local officials are questioning. Last week, the Wood County Commissioners heard from three people about problems associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the county. Those concerns included a full manure lagoon left behind when a large dairy went bankrupt, the damage caused on rural roads not built to handle mega dairy traffic, and the impact on Lake Erie when the manure reaches the lake and fuels algal blooms. Vickie Askins informed the commissioners that when the Manders Dairy went bankrupt about four years ago, it left behind about 10 million gallons of manure it its lagoon. Since then, about one million gallons have been trucked to the Campbell Soup plant and run through its digesters. That leaves about 9 million gallons of manure behind at the dairy, located at the corner of Rangeline and Maplewood roads, southwest of Bowling Green. “It’s been sitting there basically full,” Askins said. Federal law requires that the manure must be taken care of when a CAFO closes, Askins said. And Ohio EPA requires that no manure be applied to farm fields unless up-to-date soil samples and manure analyses are obtained. Askins, a self-motivated watchdog of mega dairies in Wood County, said neither has been done. The lagoon is nearly full, and no field application study documentation can be found. Yet, she has seen evidence of “manure irrigators” being constructed near the site. “Wait a minute,” she said. “No manure shall be applied till you have a valid plan.” Southeast of Bowling Green, another large dairy is causing…


Protesters in BG take Donald Trump to task

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Donald Trump prepared to take the podium at the National Republic Convention Thursday, others in Ohio were taking makeshift stages across the state to protest the presidential candidate. Anti-Trump rallies criticizing his “dangerous and hate-filled agenda” were held in 15 cities from Akron to Zanesville. In Bowling Green, the rally started out slowly, with the protesters almost being outnumbered by the security personnel outside the Wood County Courthouse. Dick Teeple, of Bradner, was one of the first to show up, carrying a toilet seat with Trump’s photo in the center. “I have grandchildren. I care about what kind of future they have,” Teeple said, listing his top concerns as the environment, women’s rights, equal pay and climate change. “What they stand for, I’m against,” he said of Trump and his vice presidential pick Mike Pence. Teeple was wearing a Bernie Sanders shirt, but said he would be supporting Hillary Clinton in November. “I’m not 100 percent enthusiastic about Hillary. But she’s not going to sell out the environment.” As he stood on the courthouse steps, Teeple said he is mystified by Trump’s ability to win supporters. “I can’t understand it. I think there is some anger, but I think they better get over that and see what he’s going to do.” At its height, the Bowling Green rally had eight protesters. While their numbers were few, their concerns were many. “I just absolutely think Donald Trump is wrong for America,” said Kristie Foell, of Bowling Green. “I’m so disgusted by the attacks on Hillary.” Foell sees the Republican candidate as morally bankrupt, and his party as being motivated by an opportunity…


County warms up to solar field tax exemption

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The future looks bright once again for the solar field planned by the city of Bowling Green. Tuesday morning, the Wood County Commissioners approved the tax break requested for the largest solar field planned in Ohio. The approval came one day after the work at the site was scheduled to begin – since the commissioners refused to grant the 30-year tax abatement for the $43 million project until their questions were answered. Though it took longer than hoped, the delay will not negatively impact the project which is set to be completed by the end of this year, said Daryl Stockburger, of the city’s utility department. “At this point, the project can keep its schedule,” Stockburger said Tuesday after the commissioners met. “We are only a day behind.” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said he understood the commissioners’ desire to get their questions answered. But he was also relieved that the project could now move forward. “It’s a wonderful project,” Commissioner Craig LaHote said. “It would be a great gem to have here.” But the commissioners refused to be rushed into approving the tax break. “We’ve had less than two months to look at it,” LaHote said. “This abatement is unique,” he said. The county has granted tax breaks to private companies before, but this request is different in its size and duration, granting an exemption of $7.3 million over the first 15 years. Most tax abatements are based on the number of jobs created by a business. But this request differs there as well, since there will be no jobs beyond the construction period. “It’s been hard for us to get…