Posts filed under ‘environment’

Wind Turbine Public Hearing for Iberdrola Renewables in Ohio — Pros and Cons

On July 8, 2010, approximately 120 attended a public hearing for Heartland Wind Energy project in rural Van Wert County.  This was a legal hearing, and anyone wishing to give testimony had to raise their right hand and swear that the testimony given will be the truth. Prior to giving testimony, individuals also had to state whether there residence is or is not in the project area.
Iberdrola Renewables
According to Iberdrola Renewables, the company financing this wind project, the project in Van Wert and Paulding County has a scope of 159 wind turbines, which will provide about 80,000 houses with electricity.

Iberdrola Renewables public hearing


According to the official records on file with the Ohio Siting Board:

Heartland Wind, LLC is proposing to construct, own and operate up to 350 MW of wind-powered electric generation in Van Wert and Paulding counties.  Heartland Wind, LLC is managed by Iberdrola renewable, Inc.  The facility would require up to 175 wind turbine generators that would be located within a 40,500-acre project area.  Approximately 140 participating landowners would provide about 17,000 acres of leased land.  The application was filed on December 21, 2009.

All the official documents are available at


Why wind energy? Well, one reason is that Ohio has a mandate (ORC 4928.64):

  • 25% of electricity shall be provided from Alternative Energy Resources by 2025
  • Half of the 25% may be advanced energy resources (improved process or equipment, or clean coal technology)
  • At least half of the 25% renewable energy resources including 0.5% solar
Random fact: In Ohio, the wind turbine must be a minimum 750 feet from horizontal extended blade tip to nearest residence.
Testimony was polarized, and fell into two categories. The numbers I present below aren’t official; they may or may not be accurate (they should be fairly close, though). The bullet points below are recorded as I recall from the given testimony.

Pro testimony (n = 10):

8- residence NOT in wind project zone

2- residence IN wind project zone

  • economic development
  • job creation
  • progress and new industry
  • will benefit county coffers, townships, state
  • environmental impacts negligible
  • stop sending energy dollars overseas (reduce reliance on foreign energy)
  • supports green, clean, renewable energy
  • benefits far outweigh any negative impacts
  • $1.5 million per year to farmers in annual payments
  • can help preserve agricultural ground for agricultural use
  • 215 new construction jobs
  • 20 permanent high paying maintenance jobs created
  • local career center has a wind energy education program
  • our power needs are increasing, wind turbines help meet that power need

Con testimony (n = 8):

3- residence NOT in wind project zone

5- residence IN wind project zone

  • degradation of quality of life
  • obstructed views
  • disruption of bird life, bird migratory patterns
  • several references to scientific studies on the negative health effects (sorry, I don’t have the references — my fingers are too slow)
  • the project was referred to as ‘industrial’, ‘commercial’
  • sleep disturbance
  • shadow flicker, strobing
  • property value declination
  • wind project is highly subsidized
  • local contractors won’t be used
  • poor television reception
  • health effects on children
  • infrasound (below limit of hearing) has a human health effect
  • noise sounds like jet engines
  • ice throw
  • blade shear
  • we’re not reducing foreign energy
  • very inefficient source of energy

July 8, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Benefits of Modern Agriculture

For my final blog post of 2009, I thought a reflection on the benefits of modern agriculture would be worthwhile.  Bruce Erickson and Jim Mintert of Purdue wrote an article Giving Thanks for Contemporary Agriculture which sums up my feelings. In their article, they write:

Our system provides a mind boggling array of choices to consumers, in ways that are increasingly better for the environment, utilizing fewer and fewer resources per unit of output. But increasingly what people are reading in the news or hearing … cast agriculture in a negative light. Contrary to the negative perceptions about agriculture that seem to abound, widespread adoption of modern agricultural techniques benefits society in many ways. Modern agriculture uses less energy and water, fewer pesticides, and less fertilizer per unit of crop production than 30 years ago. For the top five U.S. crops of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice, the productivity gains in the last 30 years are remarkable—yields for each up substantially and some, such as corn, have increased 50 percent. In addition, genetic modifications have been responsible for some of the greatest benefits to the environment. The insecticidal genes from Bacillus thuringiensis alone have saved the use of millions of pounds of insecticides.

Before mid-century world population is expected to reach 9 billion people. The authors discuss the challenge of feeding 9 billion people:

Feeding 9 billion consumers around the world presents a tremendous challenge to our food production and marketing system in the years ahead. It’s a challenge that can only be met by developing and applying new technology to food production in the U.S. and around the world. Going back to the technology employed in U.S. agriculture 50 years ago (when there were just 3 billion mouths to feed) may seem desirable to some, but it is simply not capable of producing the food we’ll need and would actually represent a step backward with respect to our environment.

Full podcast available here:

December 30, 2009 at 8:30 am 1 comment

Regulation of Farm Pesticide Applications, Change May be Coming

The following is written by Peggy Hall, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program:

Producers who apply pesticides in, on, or near water will want to keep an eye on the U.S. EPA’s development of a permitting program for aquatic pesticide applications.   The program is not an EPA initiative, but results from a court case that challenged an EPA regulation exempting certain pesticide applications from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements.  The court decision nullified the EPA’s pesticide exemption regulation for aquatic pesticide applications.  The issue has been a hard one to keep up with; below is a summary of the events leading to the permitting program and its current status.

The Clean Water Act Permit Program. The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) creates a structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into waters and establishing surface water quality standards.  Under the CWA, those who “discharge” a “pollutant” from a “point source” into “navigable waters of the United States” must first obtain permission to do so via the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, or the discharge will be unlawful.  The law contains a list of exceptions for discharges that do not require an NPDES permit.  The CWA’s nearly forty year history has been fraught with legal battles to clarify terms such as “pollutant,” “discharge,” “point source” and “waters of the United States,” as is the case with aquatic applications of pesticides.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is the federal law governing the registration, labeling, and use of pesticides in the U.S.   From 1977 until recently, the EPA required that a pesticide registered under FIFRA contain a notice on its label stating that the pesticide could not be “discharged into lakes, streams, ponds, or public waters unless in accordance with an NPDES permit.”  The EPA modified this position with its pesticide exemption rule.

The EPA’s Pesticide Exemption Rule. In November of 2006, the EPA finalized a regulation that created an exception from the CWA’s NPDES permitting program for pesticides applied in compliance with FIFRA in two circumstances:  1) pesticides applied directly onto water to control pests such as mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds, and 2) pesticide applications over or near water where the pesticide could be deposited on or in the water, such as aerial applications over a forest canopy where water is present.  In its rule, the EPA took the position that FIFRA pesticides are not “pollutants,” except for residual pesticides or excess applications that remain in the water after the application has accomplished its purpose.  Even in the case of residual or excess pesticides, however, the EPA maintained that an NPDES permit is not required because the pesticide application resulting in the residual or excess was not a regulated “discharge from a point source” under the CWA.

The Legal Challenge to EPA’s Rule.  For different reasons, neither environmental nor industry organizations approved of the EPA’s pesticide exemption rule and brought legal challenges that were joined together in the case of National Cotton Council of America v. EPA. The eventual decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined that the EPA’s pesticide exemption rule was not a reasonable interpretation of the Clean Water Act.  The court concluded that certain applications of aquatic pesticides could constitute “point source discharges” of “pollutants” and thus must be regulated by the NPDES permit program.

The court based its decision on the CWA definition of “pollutant,” which includes the terms “chemical waste” and “biological materials,” and determined that excess or residual pesticides applied in, near or above waters are “chemical wastes” and that biological pesticides such as artificial concentrations of viruses, bacteria, fungi, or plant materials are “biological materials.”  The court clarified that an intentional application of a chemical pesticide to water for a particular useful purpose which leaves no excess portions after performing its purpose is not “chemical waste” and does not require an NPDES permit. According to the court, two scenarios of excess or residual pesticides could lead to a permit requirement: (1) where chemical pesticides are applied to land or air, and excess pesticides or pesticide residue is subsequently deposited into waters; and (2) where pesticide residue remains after a direct application of chemical pesticides to waters.  The court also declined to follow EPA’s reasoning that excess or residual pesticide applications are not “point source” discharges.  Because the EPA incorrectly interpreted the Clean Water Act, the court vacated the pesticide exemption rule. Parties to the National Cotton lawsuit requested a rehearing on the case, but the court denied the request. The National Cotton decision is posted here.

EPA’s Request for a “Stay.” The EPA asked the court for a “stay,” or a delay of the effective date of its decision.  EPA argued that states and the EPA would need time to develop a permitting program for all of the pesticide applications in the U.S. that will now require an NPDES permit due to the court’s decision.   The court agreed, and has stayed its decision until April 9, 2011.  The EPA’s pesticide exemption rule thus remains in effect until April 9, 2011, or until the NPDES permit program for pesticides is in place.

EPA’s Permit Program Development. EPA has announced that:  “EPA plans, before the ruling takes effect (April 9, 2011), to issue a final general NPDES permit for covered pesticide applications, to assist authorized states to develop their NPDES permits, and to provide outreach and education to the regulated community. EPA will work closely with state water permitting programs, the regulated community and environmental organizations in developing a general permit that is protective of the environment and public health.  NPDES permits will be required for pesticides applied directly to water to control pests and/or applied to control pests that are present in or over, including near waters. Irrigation return flows and agricultural runoff will not require NPDES permits as they are specifically exempted from the CWA.”

Impacts on Aquatic Pesticide Applications.  For now, operators using FIFRA registered pesticides in, on or near waters are exempt from the NPDES permitting requirement.  The EPA has stated its intent to issue a “general” NPDES permit for aquatic pesticides before the April 9, 2011 deadline.  A general NPDES permit covers a group in the same geographic area with the same type of pollutant discharge.  The general permit applies similar permitting conditions to all dischargers covered under the permit.  Once the EPA or a state has developed the general permit for aquatic pesticides, a person who will make aquatic pesticide applications must submit a Notice of Intent to the EPA or the State in order to be covered by the general permit.  However, the EPA or State may still require an applicator to submit an individual permit application and receive an individual NPDES permit, rather than the general permit, if it determines that coverage under the general permit is inappropriate for the situation.

A challenge for the EPA in developing the permitting program will be discerning between applications that do and do not create excess chemical waste, residual chemical waste, or biological matter.  Chemical pesticide applications leaving no excess or residual waste will not require NPDES permits, according to the court, but applications resulting in residuals or excess chemicals will require a permit, as will applications involving “biological pesticides” or “biological wastes.”

Keeping Track of EPA’s Progress.  To follow future developments in the aquatic pesticides NPDES permitting program, check the EPA’s NPDES – Agriculture web page at

Another Issue: “Waters” covered by the Clean Water Act. A concurrent development that will likely impact all NPDES permits is a proposal before Congress to amend the Clean Water Act to clarify which waters are “waters of the United States” and thus are subject to the CWA.   Senate Bill 787 attempts to clarify the government’s jurisdiction over “waters,” and many claim will greatly expand federal authority under the CWA.  Search for S. 787 here.

October 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm 1 comment

Agriculture is Environmental Protection T-Shirt Available! Great Farm Shirt!

The idea for this shirt came from Jim Chen, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Louisville during a live agchat Twitter discussion.  Dean Chen’s (known as @chenx064 on Twitter) original quote was “I try to describe agriculture as applied environmental protection, just as agricultural economics is now applied economics.”  I’ve known that agricultural economics is described as applied economics and also applied agricultural economics, so that was not new to me. BUT I had never heard agriculture referred to as ‘applied environmental protection.’  Brilliant! I thought the saying should be made in to a shirt, and with Dean Chen’s blessing I made the shirt via Zazzle.  There are several websites that put Twitter tweets and slogans on to shirts, but only Zazzle offered maximum customization, so I chose Zazzle.  Here is the finished product:

New shirt in support of the agriculture industry.

New shirt in support of the agriculture industry.

This shirt is all-organic cotton. I spend 99% of my time working with conventional agriculture, so I specifically chose organic in an effort to support other choices in farming.  In my view all farming is good, just different approaches.  And, if you prefer not to order an organic shirt the shirt choices are unlocked in Zazzle allowing you to order a different style of shirt. This is a classic t-shirt design made with 100% organic jersey cotton. The shirt is made in the USA by American Apparel. I’ve also added ‘via @chenx064 on Twitter’ to give Dean Chen appropriate credit and for you to show how ‘hip’ you are knowing about Twitter. (Including a Twitter username on Twitter t-shirts appears to be a standard practice).  Disclosure: Zazzle has a minimum royalty of 10% paid to me for each shirt purchased (Zazzle would not allow me to set the royalty to 0%).  As such, any royalties (if there are any) will be donated to an appropriate not-for-profit recipient of Dean Chen’s and my choosing.  Enjoy!

To order, click on the following link-


July 28, 2009 update: Jim Chen and I have decided to split the royalties from this shirt 50/50 to Ohio 4-H and Kentucky 4-H.  Further, I will also match the total royalties dollar for dollar. This has been a neat project, and I am very glad to have participated.




July 24, 2009 at 8:10 am 1 comment

Value-Added Producer Grants Available

The Rural Business-Cooperative Service of the USDA announces the availability competitive grant funds for fiscal year 2009 to help independent agricultural producers enter into value-added activities. Awards may be made for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. The maximum grant amount for a planning grant is $100,000 and the maximum grant amount for a working capital grant is $300,000.

Specifically, the grants may be used for planning activities and for working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy. Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Please note that businesses of all sizes may apply, but priority will be given to Small and Medium-Sized Farms or Ranches that are structured as Family Farms. There is no restriction on the minimum grant size that will be awarded. In FY 2008, 31 percent of awards were $50,000 or less.

The following ideas are suggested for the use of the grant funds:

  • alternative uses of agricultural products
  • value-added processing of agricultural commodities to produce bio-materials (e.g. plastics, fiberboard)
  • green chemicals
  • functional foods (e.g. lutin enhanced ‘‘power bar’’ snacks, soy enhanced products)
  • nutraceuticals
  • on-farm renewable energy
  • biofuels (e.g. ethanol, biodiesel).

The FY2009 Value Added Producer Grants program opened on May 6, 2009 and the application deadline is July 6, 2009. For more information about the program, interested individuals are being asked to contact their State Rural Development Office to obtain additional information and assistance. A contact person, address, phone number, and e-mail address for each State Office is posted on this website For Ohio, the contact list is available at

May 21, 2009 at 7:30 am

Pesticide Use in the U.S.

I enjoy reading pesticide news from other states, and I recently stumbled on University of Florida Extension Chemically Speaking newsletter.  This newsletter has been long since bookmarked by me as a great resource on pesticide registrations and updates.  In their March, 2009 issue, a Chemical and Engineering newstory was quoted on Pesticide use in the U.S.  Twenty years of data compiled by various federal and state agencies and groups indicate that pesticide use has dropped through 2001 (the last year of reliable data).  The project since 2001 is that pesticide use has remained flat.

The drop in pesticide use is due to a host of factors, including better pesticides that not only are more selective and applied at lower rates, but also have lower inherent toxicity and thus a lower impact on human health and the environment. Another factor is the set of farming strategies called integrated pest management (IPM), which relies on the life cycles of pests and crops to control pests economically and withholds use of pesticides until potential damage reaches a certain threshold.

Along those same lines a Bernards Township  in New Jersey recently announced it was going “pesticide free”, joining a list of cities, towns, municipalities and even a school district in New Jersey that are now pesticide free.

The township in December adopted an “integrated pest management” policy that calls for things like manual weeding; aerating soil; and letting grass grow taller as a way to maintain grounds.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) isn’t new. In fact, IPM has been around for years for farmers and Master Gardeners.  IPM is simply a process of pest control whereby a host of resource and knowledge is used in making pest management decision-making process. Today, IPM is applied to both agricultural and non-agricultural environments, and does include the use of pesticides as one of many tools available for pest management.

I suggest bookmarking Chemically Speaking and giving it a read.  It’s worth your time.

Full podcast available here:

March 25, 2009 at 7:30 am

Does Climate Change Threaten Ohio?

Brent Sohngen, Professor Dept. AEDE Ohio State University, recently wrote an interesting article on the subject of climate change as it relates to Ohio. Specifically, he discusses the Ohio Timber industry and comes to an interesting conclusion:

The results of most studies examining climate change impacts on timber markets in the US suggest that timber industries in places like Ohio likely would benefit from climate change, not be harmed. In fact, nearly all economic studies conducted to date looking at potential climate impacts suggest that prices for timber products will fall over time as a result of increasing worldwide supply of timber resulting directly from climate change . . .

He further states the the real impact will be the cost Ohioans will pay for climate change policy. This self-evdient statement is fast becoming a universal truth whether you live in Van Wert, Ohio or Vladivostok, Russia. Taxes, emission payments, energy surcharges and other financial committments that arise with climate change policy will have a global impact.

Sohngen’s full article is available here:

December 23, 2008 at 7:00 am


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