Person with a questionWhy isn't the Ohio EPA taking care of this?

That's a good question, and one that hundreds of Ohioans have asked when they start to investigate pollution in their communities. What people soon discover is that, rather than seeing its job as protecting Ohioans from polluting facilities, the Ohio EPA thinks its purpose is to provide factories with permits to pollute. From the Ohio EPA's point of view, then, neighbors are an obstacle to doing its job.

From our point of view, good neighbor campaigns are the alternative to waiting around for the government to do something. Stringent laws and stringent enforcement remain a fantasy. Stringent neighbors are not a fantasy. We can get the job done ourselves.

Here is documentation on why we don't rely on the Ohio EPA, and some efforts to fix it. More evidence can be found on the website pages dedicated to each good neighbor campaign.

Feb 4, 2010: Judge: Small Ohio polluters can't skirt air rules; EPA improperly granted exemptions

COLUMBUS -- "Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, said the environmental advocacy group is pleased with the decision. Her group is part of an overall challenge to the rules EPA created under the 2006 law, which she believes may be bolstered by it. The case is pending before the state Environmental Review Appeals Commission. 'All states have to get authority from the federal government to implement their clean air rules,' she said. 'Frankly, Ohio has been on the verge of losing their status (as compliant) for some time now because they're doing such a bad job,'" Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- Ohio exceptions to Clean Air Act ruled illegal, Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Feb 3, 2010: Federal judge rules Ohio EPA in violation of Clean Air Act

Magistrate Judge Abel
COLUMBUS -- "In a significant environmental decision, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Abel ruled yesterday that Ohio EPA has violated the Federal Clean Air Act by failing to require the use of 'best available technology' for thousands of air pollution sources in Ohio. Judge Abel's ruling reversed a decision he had made in September 2009, which the plaintiffs petitioned that he reconsider. The case was brought by the Sierra Club and individual members of the Sierra Club who live near polluting facilities. They were represented in court by Cincinnati attorney David Altman.

Judge Abel issued an injunction against Ohio EPA, preventing the agency from continuing to exempt the air pollution sources from the requirement of using the best available technology to prevent pollution. The ruling affects all sources of under ten tons of dangerous air pollutants, including lead, soot, sulfur dioxide and others. These sources are found at thousands of facilities, both large and small across the state of Ohio.

Ohio EPA had implemented the new rules in response to legislation passed in August 2006. Environmental groups, including Ohio Citizen Action, have also challenged these rules at the state Environmental Reviwe Appeals Commission. That case is currently scheduled to be heard in September 2010," Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Jun 4, 2007: EPA plans to speed permits
Cutting paperwork for small businesses will ease backlog, state says; critics predict less public input

rubber stamp COLUMBUS -- "A state plan to reduce paperwork for thousands of businesses also would cut public input about air-pollution concerns, advocates warn. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency leaders say their proposal is a necessary overhaul that could help attract businesses to Ohio. Teresa Mills, leader of the Buckeye Environmental Network, said Ohio residents are able to request public hearings before each permit is issued. The change would reduce opportunities for hearings, and the proposed reporting process will keep pollution information from the people, she said," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Mar 11, 2007: Toxic secrets: Local plans for coping with chemical spills aren’t always disclosed

COLUMBUS -- "The Ohio attorney general’s office says state law gives officials the right to shield some records containing information that could endanger security. Because the law is vague, local authorities are left to decide what qualifies. As a result, lists of chemical storage locations, details about how the chemicals are transported and descriptions of possible evacuation routes during emergencies are public information in some counties but not all," Meredith Heagney, Columbus Dispatch.

Feb 28, 2007: Strickland proposes plan to streamline business regulations, invite growth

COLUMBUS -- "On Tuesday, Gov. Strickland established Advantage Ohio, a regulatory reform initiative. 'We must make sure that business regulation is clear, predictable and stable to allow businesses to plan and invest in Ohio,' Strickland said. 'I think it's funny when a Democrat starts talking like a Republican or the Chamber of Commerce,' said a skeptical Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action, a citizen advocacy group," Paul Kostyu, Canton Repository.

Jan 8, 2007: Catherine Turcer blasts odor rule change:
Something stinks in Ohio

stink COLUMBUS -- "Something stinks in Ohio today, and it’s not just the odor of chemical emissions which pervade many of our communities.  It’s the process by which the Taft administration apparently decided to do a last-minute favor for its contributors from the chemical, oil, and manufacturing sectors by gutting Ohio’s nuisance rules.   These polluters have long sought ways to avoid environmental enforcement.  These proposed rules represent one of their most bald-faced moves," testimony of Catherine Turcer, Ohio Citizen Action.

COLUMBUS -- Comments on odor nuisance rule change, D. David Altman on behalf of Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action; Marilyn Wall, Sierra Club; Teresa Mills, Buckeye Environmental Network; Laura Rench, Citizens for the Responsible Destruction of Chemical Weapons; Marti Sinclair, Environmental Community Organization. 731 Kb pdf.

Feb 24, 2006:  Activists blast plan for filing complaints
‘Verified’ list of injuries and broken laws would ease process, EPA says

COLUMBUS -- "The EPA proposal would make those who file complaints show how they were injured by a factory, landfill, business or plant, and list specific laws that a company violated before the agency would act. Activists said that would make complaints harder to file and easier to dismiss... Sandy Buchanan, director of the advocacy group Ohio Citizen Action, said neighbors of polluters should not have to prove they are ill to get the EPA involved. 'If you have emissions of something that’s known to cause cancer, you don’t have to have someone dying to say that has to be cleaned up,' Buchanan said," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Apr 28, 2005:  Ohio EPA trying again to loosen reins

COLUMBUS -- "Ohio is pushing a new plan that would eliminate air-pollution permits for small businesses. . . 'Writing a separate permit for each of these facilities is very time-consuming,' said Linda Fee Oros, an EPA spokeswoman. . . Mike Hopkins, an EPA air-quality manager, said public health would not be at risk because the agency still could investigate complaints and order tougher protections when needed. But Teresa Mills, leader of the Buckeye Environmental Network, said neighbors would not be able to review pollution records unless the EPA investigates. . . A panel of state lawmakers is expected to hold a public hearing on the current proposal within the next three months," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

Apr 20, 2005:  Ohio EPA proposal would eliminate public right-to-know for up to 20,000 pollution sources

Karen Arnett
Karen Arnett
CINCINNATI -- "After a six-month hiatus, Ohio EPA has resurfaced a proposal to eliminate permits for up to 20,000 air pollution sources in Ohio. The proposal, which was written by a committee of representatives of the Ohio EPA and the industries it regulates, would eliminate individual permits for up to 20,000 air pollution sources, including auto body repair shops, print shops, boilers, and gas stations. Under the proposal, the companies involved would automatically receive exemptions from individual permits by filing a notification with Ohio EPA, and would keep their records at their own facilities rather than submitting them to Ohio EPA. Now, if a citizen wants information about a polluter in their neighborhood, they can obtain public records from the Ohio EPA and insist on compliance with the law. This avenue of citizen enforcement would disappear under Ohio EPA's proposal," release, Karen Arnett, ECO: Environmental Community Organization, Staci Putney McLennan, Ohio Environmental Council, Teresa Mills, Buckeye Environmental Network, Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action, 25 KB doc.

Jan 14, 2005:  Businesses get big role in writing new pollution rules

COLUMBUS -- "The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, chief protector of the state's air, water and soil, recently convened a committee that drafted proposed rules concerning the emission of airborne pollutants. The committee was comprised solely of government officials and representatives of and lobbyists for manufacturing, energy, oil and chemical companies. The agency's Web site describes the committee as 'a collaborative effort between Ohio EPA, U.S. EPA and members of several business and trade associations.' The size and composition of the committee has varied since Jones established it in 2001, but 14 government workers and 51 industry representatives have served on it since that time. The committee's January 2002 report indicates that the Ohio Manufacturers Association was a significant driver of the initiative to relax Ohio's pollution permit process. . . Representatives from two of Ohio's largest environmental advocacy groups, Ohio Citizen Action and the Sierra Club, say neither was invited to sit on the permit processing committee, nor was either aware of the meeting at which the agency offered the invitation," Pete Shuler, Cincinnati CityBeat.

Nov 9, 2004:  New EPA view on pollution merits close monitoring

MARIETTA -- "We're concerned about an Associated Press report that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is going to allow some small industries to emit pollution into the air unchecked to cut down on paperwork. According to the report, thousands of industries across the state could get the OK to operate without state permits regulating airborne pollutants. Some environmentalists are concerned the proposal puts the public at risk. The EPA says that may not be the case, and in some instances, the pollutants released overall could be less because, instead of wasting time on small polluters, the agency can focus more of its attention on larger ones. It's a confusing issue. Apparently Ohio keeps tabs on as many as 80,000 different polluters while other states with a similar amount of industry may track as few as 20,000. While becoming more efficient is a goal worth achieving for the EPA, we're not sure some smaller industries should receive a blank check of sorts when it comes to their emissions," Editorial, Marietta Times.

Nov 6, 2004:  Too much paperwork, agency says
Businesses may not need air permits

TOLEDO -- ". . . environmental activists were incensed upon learning that many of the Ohio EPA's recommendations for its draft proposal came from a committee of industry lobbyists. [Ohio EPA spokeswoman Linda] Oros said environmental groups were invited to participate, but declined. 'I haven't found anybody [from an environmental group] who was invited. We weren't and we're the largest environmental group in the state,' said Sandy Buchanan, the executive director of Ohio Citizen Action. At least 10 state or national environmental groups filed objections," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
May 20, 2002: Pressure pushes EPA to get tough
As officials threaten action, state agency jumps on polluters

COLUMBUS -- "Four Ohio environmental groups -- Ohio Citizen Action, the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, Rivers Unlimited and the Sierra Club -- had petitioned the federal EPA to strip the Ohio agency of its authority to enforce anti-pollution laws. They asked the federal EPA to revoke Ohio's policing authority to oversee clean air, clean water and toxic waste rules. Last fall, after a 20-month review, the federal EPA issued a preliminary report calling on Ohio to upgrade its clean-air programs or face a federal takeover," Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal.

May 19, 2002: Gadflies use state law
Area residents who object to pollution problems from nearby businesses have way to get heard
Woman bugs chicken farm with gripes

NIMISHILLEN TWP -- "The Ohio EPA typically gets between 10 and 30 verified complaints a year; most allege environmental problems or wrongdoing, said agency spokeswoman Kara Allison. Under state law, the notarized complaints must be promptly and thoroughly investigated. A report is submitted to EPA Director Christopher Jones, who can order corrective action or dismiss the complaint. . . .Residents used such complaints in Mogadore, citing sickening odors from a GenCorp chemical plant in the village on the Summit-Portage county line. The company spent millions in the 1990s to reduce odors from its latex chemical plant. It is now owned and operated by a GenCorp spinoff, Omnova Solutions Inc. of Fairlawn. 'I think it helped. GenCorp really cleaned up its act,' said Mogadore resident Carol McClellan of the grass-roots group Worried About Toxic Chemical Hazards, which was active when odors were a big community issue," Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal.

May 15, 2002: State EPA steps up enforcement in wake of critical federal report

COLUMBUS -- "In a report issued on Tuesday, the agency said it collected $2.2 million in fines in 2001. That's slightly less than the year before but double the amount collected in 1999. Enforcement orders filed by the agency also are on the rise after declining during the late 1990s. The state EPA issued 146 administrative actions against polluters last year, more than the 103 issued in 2000 but still well below the 266 issued in 1991. . . . .Four environmental groups -- Ohio Citizen Action, the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, Rivers Unlimited and the Sierra Club -- petitioned the federal agency to strip Ohio of its authority to enforce laws governing air, water and hazardous waste," Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- "Watch group critical of Ohio EPA enforcement report," Nate Ellis, Columbus Daily Reporter.

COLUMBUS -- "Ohio EPA cleaning up act by fining more polluters," Michael Hawthorne, Columbus Dispatch. "'You can tell the agency is feeling the heat,' said Jennifer O'Donnell of Ohio Citizen Action. 'Still, if I lived next to a facility that is poisoning my air, land or water, I would think two years is an incredibly long time to resolve a complaint.'"

Feb 20, 2002: Proposal would impose limit on time to assess penalties

COLUMBUS -- "The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jay Hottinger, a Newark Republican, would give the EPA five years from the discovery of a problem to begin an investigation that could result in a court- or agency-ordered penalty. It would help resolve cases quickly, said Rep. James Trakas of Independence, the No. 5 Republican in the House. The EPA would also have two years from the bill's enactment to impose fines in cases where it was aware of a problem for at least three years. The Senate passed the bill Nov. 15. It currently is in the House Energy and Environment Committee, where it was scheduled for a hearing on Thursday. The committee likely will vote on the bill next week, committee Chairwoman Nancy Hollister, a Marietta Republican, said," John McCarthy, Associated Press.

Feb 14, 2002: Opposition testimony: S.B. 105
A bill establishing a five-year statute of limitations for civil actions brought under certain environmental laws

COLUMBUS -- "This bill recognizes that Ohio EPA has failed to do its job, but fails to provide any remedy. It does nothing to solve the pollution problems that citizens from around the state have brought to Ohio EPA. It takes away the economic disincentive to violate the environmental laws. The effect would be something like pouring gallons and gallons of water through a funnel with a tiny opening - some water will go through the funnel, but most will spill over the sides. If I were a polluter looking to cut corners, I'd like my odds of getting away with it under S.B. 105," Jennifer O'Donnell, Ohio Citizen Action, testimony before the Ohio House Energy and Environment Committee.

Feb 7, 2002: Ohio EPA Director Chris Jones: "Ohio EPA does not have an 'enemies list'"

COLUMBUS -- "I received your e-mail of the editor's column in Cleveland Scene regarding Ohio EPA's decision to decline interviews with that publication. I also am aware of a subsequent reference to an Ohio EPA "enemies list" on Ohio Citizen Action's Web page. . . .Our decision to decline future interviews with Cleveland Scene will enable us to better utilize our resources to communicate with the public through more reliable channels," Chris Jones, Director, Ohio EPA [letter dated Jan 30, 2002].

Jan 31, 2002: Environmental calendar takes aim at Schregardus record

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Ohio's top environmental regulator during the eight years that U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) was governor is featured in an unflattering light on a 2002 calendar being circulated nationally. Don Schregardus, former Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director, made the Earthjustice [Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund] calendar because the Washington-based activist group cited him as one of the 12 worst nominations for high-level environmental jobs that President Bush made during his first year in office," Toledo Blade.

Jan 28, 2002: Taft's EPA starts an "enemies list"

COLUMBUS -- "Representatives of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, including technical staff and media coordinators, will no longer be providing media interviews to the staff of Cleveland Scene. Ohio EPA has not been represented accurately or fairly in several recent articles published in Cleveland Scene and we continue to be disappointed by the staff of Cleveland Scene and its refusal to print the facts or fairly represent Ohio EPA's position in its publication," Kara Allison, Ohio EPA. Letter dated Jan 8.

Jan 24, 2002: Thin Skin Alert! The EPA's ego is bleeding.

CLEVELAND -- "In November, [Ohio EPA spokeswoman Kara] Allison told Scene that her agency doesn't have the power or funding to truly enforce environmental laws, and that cleanup plans must come with a company's blessing -- and a willingness to pay for them. It's like the Cleveland Police saying, 'We'd like to nab that serial rapist, but he just won't agree to be arrested.' Of course, the Ohio EPA has loads of power. It just won't use it, preferring to massage its ego and tend to its thin skin. And it will do so in silence. When you're in the business of ineptitude and neglect, leaving leukemia-stricken kids in your wake, what more is there to say?" Pete Kotz, Cleveland Scene.

Jan 14, 2002: "The mind and soul of a polluter trapped in the body of a regulator"

Petitioners comments on the draft report on U.S. EPA review of Ohio environmental programs, submitted by attorneys D. David Altman, Amy Leonard, Lance Himes, for petitioners Ohio Citizen Action, Sierra Club, Ohio Public Interest Research Group, Rivers Unlimited (208KB .doc).

News from 1999 - 2001

For more information:
Sandy Buchanan
Ohio Citizen Action
(216) 861-5200