Friday, Apr 20, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Tom Henry

From toxic sediment to toxic air ...

What? You were expecting to read about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll in this column?

OK, let's get to work.

First, a word about arcane legislation called the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008, introduced Thursday by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich) and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio).

Boring, I know.

Here's the deal: It holds the key for North Toledo's Ottawa River, Ohio's most abused waterway.

If you've been here long enough, you've heard about the millions of dollars that were spent to cap the number of landfills along the Ottawa's waterfront between Stickney Avenue and Lagrange Street, a real hot spot for cancer-causing PCBs and other industrial waste that has leached out of them.

Capping the landfills - i.e. turning off the spigot by keeping falling rain from pushing out more leachate - is only the beginning. Officials have been kicking around the idea of an environmental dredging project, in conjunction with local industries, to get the Ottawa's worst sediment outta here.

It's enormously expensive. To wit: Some $50 million was spent in recent years to do that out in Ashtabula, Ohio. The Ottawa needs an estimated $11 million to $20 million of such work.

Enter the new and improved Great Lakes Legacy Act, which provides seed money for removing contaminated sediments from Great Lakes harbors and tributaries (while requiring a 35 percent nonfederal match).

If approved, the region could get up to $150 million a year, up from the $50 million max.

Not that the full amount ever will be authorized, mind you. Congress has yet to fund the existing act at its full $50 million level in any single year since it began six years ago. Yet not for lack of effort on President Bush's part: For this program, he's always recommended more money than Congress has released. Go figure.

Speaking of arcane bureaucracy that really means something, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Wednesday it's now taking ideas on how best to spend $1 billion that had been earmarked for the Bush Administration's much-ballyhooed FutureGen project.

FutureGen, you may recall, was at one time this administration's big energy bonanza. Ohio wanted it bad. It was to be the nation's first coal-fired power plant that released virtually no emissions, the prototype for all others to follow. There was an intensive beauty pageant, with the winner becoming the nation's hub for clean-coal research and, therefore, a big magnet for jobs.

Lo and behold, some Texan in the White House was rumored to be displeased by the fact that a site in central Illinois was chosen over the Lone Star State's finalists. The project was dismantled, with talk of using the government's money to help stimulate advances in the private sector.

Not surprisingly, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich weighed in right after the latest Energy Department announcement. The Illinois governor reiterated his plea for FutureGen to be kept intact and move forward as originally planned in Mattoon, Ill.

Though Ohio and Michigan have been relegated to observer-only status, they got some encouraging news this week on a related matter: the release of another $61.1 million for the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership being run out of Columbus by Batelle Memorial Laboratories.

The money is for more carbon capture and sequestration research, which, if ever perfected, will do more to save coal-fired power plants than Babe Ruth did for baseball.

That partnership, one of several, includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York.

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