It’s March Madness, and I don’t mean basketball

The weather has gone crazy, mad in fact. Like most of the rest of the country we are having an unprecedented heat wave here in Ohio. It is March and we have had over 80 degrees the past week and have set all types of records. Daffodils are blooming and the flowering cherry trees and other ornamental trees have burst into bloom overnight.

We have a weeping cherry tree next to our back porch and every year it greets me with its beautiful blooms on my birthday, April 8. Without fail it pops open and is a special birthday gift from Mother Nature to me on my special day. This year my gift came three weeks early. It is now in full bloom and it is only the third week in March.

My birthday tree blooming three weeks early.


Last March when I wrote about our weather and welcoming spring I said things like– the snows begin to recede…tender shoots of crocus and daffodils pushing through newly thawed soil…the air is brisk with a hint of warmth….

This year after an extremely mild winter it seems we have gone straight into summer. Today it was 85 degrees which is about 30 degrees above a normal March. This is June weather, not what we normally have in March. So what do you do on a day such as this? You grab a friend, have lunch on a patio, and spend a leisurely afternoon in an art and antique shop—then, grab a camera.

Mother Nature may have gone crazy during this mad, mad March but she sure is beautiful. Unfortunately, the pictures below can’t accurately portray the beauty of the world today.




More news on fracking

Did you read yesterday’s lead editorial in the Columbus Dispatch titled Shale’s Promise? It must be true what they say, “great minds run in the same channel” because it closely parallels my blog of the previous day titled Memo raising questions in the fracking fray. Or did they read my blog?

Prosperity is headed to our state, according to the editorial, not only in the form of what the wells are projected to bring in but also in the construction and steel industries. Plans are underway to remodel or build new plants to make the steel casings needed for the wells. Business leaders see this as an opportunity for a cheaper energy source, and the petrochemical industry expects a shale-gas boom to provide cheaper raw materials.

However, the editorial warns against a gold-rush mentality and cautions the industry to do things right. It quotes Ohio’s state attorney general, Mike DeWine, cautioning landowners to beware of sharp operators who might try to trick them into signing away rights to the gas and oil on their property too cheaply. The editorial also states that protecting the environment should be given equal priority to developing the business.

In a bit of encouraging news, the editorial says that Gov. Kasich sent a letter to dozens of oil and gas companies in May inviting them to consider the opportunities in Ohio, but also noted the need to protect public safety and the environment, asking them to make a “commitment to responsible corporate citizenship.”

The editorial closes by saying ,”Kasich declared himself “simply thrilled” to hear the bullish Chesapeake report, predicting a boom to the state and if the shale-gas reserves prove as rich as reported and can be extracted without damaging Ohio’s surface and ground water, he’s right to be. “

In other related news, Larry Wickstrom, state geologist, said that the shale resources can transform the state’s economy. “I believe that we could be at the beginning of a new and extended positive chapter in Ohio’s economy, and it’s essential that we properly marshal our economic development, job training, environmental and regulatory assets to make this work right and work well for Ohio,” he said.

In a “it could be good or it could be bad” category a federal panel just released a report approving the fracking process but qualified its announcement by saying the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can continue safely as long as companies disclose more about their practices and monitor their environmental impact.

The committee’s report could pave the way for more gas exploration but calls for new standards to limit harmful air emissions. In 2001 shale gas accounted for less than 2% of the total U.S. natural gas production, today it is 30%, and the Energy Information Administration projects that it will amount to 45% by 2035.

The U.S. Department of Energy says companies must do more to reduce air pollution and threats to groundwater. The report also says companies should follow best practices to limit leaks of methane and other air pollutants to safeguard streams and groundwater.

The report also calls for:

  • ·         Companies to use better seismic monitoring to ensure that only gas bearing shale is fractured
  • ·         Full disclosure on the chemicals used for fracking
  • ·         More research on the potential of shale gas to contaminate groundwater and drinking water supplies.

It is encouraging to see that some recommendations are coming out at the beginning of this boom, however, only time will tell if these recommendations carry any weight. It would be great if this country could become completely independent of foreign oil, maintain a cheaper supply of energy at home, and extract this fuel in a clean and safe manner. It is up to the public to maintain vigilance and continue to pressure the companies to provide a safe environment.



Fracking Fray Still in the News

Even though I haven’t discussed fracking lately it is still very much in the news. Over the weekend it was revealed that what appears to be a handbook for conning (or convincing) landowners to sign leases for natural gas drilling was found by a Greene County resident near her driveway.

The handbook outlines tactics and talking points for “landmen” or door-to-door energy company representatives. It paints Ohio residents as friendly but gullible and advises the representatives to deal with the men whenever possible warning that the women will ask more questions and the men are more likely to sign. It also instructs the landmen not to mention groundwater contamination or lost property values and to downplay natural gas drilling and rather emphasize they are drilling for oil. It also says to describe the hydraulic fracturing drilling process (fracking) as being radioactive free even though it concedes that it is not.

Many Greene County residents and environmentalists feel the memo belonged to Jim Bucher, a landman for West Bay Exploration Co., based in Traverse City, Mich.; however, executive vice president Tom Stewart of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association is convinced the memo is a hoax backed by the environmentalists.

Laura Skidmore,who found the memo inside a binder, said she was stunned by the contents. Residents say many of the talking points outlined in the memo were used by Bucher in his talks with the residents. Beginning last fall Bucher began sending packets containing lease documents to Greene County residents and followed up with home visits and phone calls. Meanwhile, local environmentalists were busy educating the public as to the hazards of natural gas drilling and fracking and the documentary Gasland was shown at the local theater.

Skidmore and her neighbor, T.J. Turner, took the notebook to Victoria Hennessey, president of the Greene County Environmental Coalition, who took action to publicize it. She scanned the memo and posted it on the organization’s website, called the media, and notified lawmakers. The memo can be viewed at

Please click on the link above and read the memo—it is quite an eye-opener.

Also in the news, big figures are being thrown about by oil and gas companies. The Chesapeake Energy Company said it expects to generate $15 billion to $20 billion from drilling in the Utica shale in eastern Ohio. For a comparison, Ohio had $665 million in oil and gas production in 2009. These are figures from only one company but several other companies are also planning to enter the state such as Devon Energy, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Chevron Corp. These figures from the Oklahoma based Chesapeake Co. are significant as they represent the first estimates related to the Utica shale in Ohio. The Marcellus formation is already producing returns in the southeastern part of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and nearby states. These formations have previously been inaccessible but with the introduction of hydraulic fracturing or fracking the rich gas can now be harvested from the shale.  The Utica shale is several thousand feet below the Marcellus layer and runs across the eastern half of the state, including the Columbus area.

 “There is a great deal of potential, but it’s really hard to determine how big it will be,” said Jerry Jordan, chairman of Knox Energy in Columbus. His company owns about 500 oil and gas wells in central Ohio. If the Utica lives up to its promise, Knox is one of many local businesses that stand to share in the windfall because of existing lease rights.

Jordan, 75, comes from an oil-business family, and he has been in the business all of his life. That experience, along with his training in geology, makes him skeptical when big numbers are thrown around. He points out that most of the state’s oil and gas companies are family owned and cannot compete with larger corporations who can afford to drill deeper into the Utica layer and maintain a series of wells. This could mean most of the profits will go to larger companies out-of-state.

However, as I have written about previously, this process comes with many risks including contamination to air and water including ground water and drinking water. In addition, the EPA has raised concerns about the disposal of the liquid waste that is a byproduct of fracking.

“We’re really pretty far from where we need to be in order for this activity to take place in Ohio, to protect our natural resources and community health,” said Ellen Mee, director of environmental-health policy for the Ohio Environmental Council, an advocacy group. She urges the state to look at what is happening in other states. She also points out there is now more doubt about shale gas than publicly portrayed. A report was published in the New York Times citing internal emails from the industry voicing doubts.

Gov. John Kasich told the Columbus Metropolitan Club recently that shale gas is “the revolution that’s come to Ohio.” He said the state needs to “answer the environmental concerns that are out there” and that “Ohio can be the model for how to get this right.”

I’m hoping this is one promise a politician can keep. I am not entirely against harvesting this resource. After all, I like an environmentally controlled house that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter just like everybody else. And we all agree this state could use another source of income. But I also want to know that the air we breathe and the water we drink is safe and clean. The challenge before our state leaders and citizens is to make these two elements compatible. Can we harvest this natural resource in a safe and clean manner without harming our environment? The challenge is now before Ohio to make us a leader in the field.






Summer in all her glory

Summer is here in all her glory. Daisies and Black-eyed Susans adorn the pond with the colors of moonbeams and sunrays while dragonflies circle the area looking for a tasty mosquito or insect to snack on.

The world is baking under a scorching sun and the tall trees spread their limbs to shade the man or beast who must venture out into the blistering heat. The world moves at a slower pace on these days. Every movement is an effort. Heat and humidity can drain a person of energy but a slow walk by the pond can restore the soul on a summer’s evening. Lightening bugs float above the fields creating a fairy land that out shines anything Disney can do.

Mother ducks proudly lead their new chicks to the pond for their first swimming lesson. They grow quickly and each day they venture farther away from their mothers. The mortality rate is high for young ducks as they are a prize dinner for the snapping turtles and the occasional hawk that swoops down unseen from above. The smart mothers have learned where the turtles live and carefully maintain their nurseries in the marshes and streams leading into the pond. The muskrats gather grass along the banks and quickly dive into their carefully sculpted tunnels when anyone appears. They then sit inside the tunnels thinking no one sees them as they observe us walking by. The ducks and muskrats must have an understanding because they live side by side in apparent harmony. We could learn from them if more people would take the time to stop and observe nature’s lessons.

The heron stands as a sentential at the mouth of the pond looking tall and stately like one of the queen’s palace guards. He then spreads his outsized wings and rises above us all on a gentle breeze. It always lifts my spirits to watch him circle the pond and then gracefully disappear beyond the tree tops.

Summer is here and her beauty is so very temporary so pour yourself a tall cold glass of ice tea or lemonade and find a porch, deck, patio, or park and enjoy the moment. You will be wishing you could relive this moment some frigid day in January.


Companies over-hyping wells, some experts say | The Columbus Dispatch

Drilling for natural gas may not be the gold mine everyone thinks it is. Some industry officials are warning this could be another dot com bubble or giant Ponzi scheme.

Companies over-hyping wells, some experts say | The Columbus Dispatch.