Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
Detroit’s deal Last night, the Detroit City Council voted to approve a consent agreement with the state to avoid takeover by an emergency manager. That means, as long as the governor signs the deal as expected and the courts don’t strike the deal down, Detroit finally has the first step in a plan to avoid bankruptcy. Partner station Michigan Radio reports on what it all means.
Chicago’s debt problem The Chicago Sun-Times went looking for reasons why Chicago would turn to private partnerships to fund its new multi-billion dollar plan to rebuild infrastructure. One major reason: the city’s staggering debt. Chicago can’t take out any more bonds to pay for improvements because the city spends almost 23 percent of its annual budget paying off the $7.3 billion in debt it already has.
No more coal ash The Ludington Daily News reports the city’s historic car ferry has received a grant to convert its fuel source. Without the grant, the coal powered ferry would have been forced to shut down by the EPA. The historic vessel dumps about 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan every year.
Groupon’s bad week It’s been a rough couple of days for Chicago-based Groupon. The coupon website was forced to revise its previous financial statements, and admit it has “material weakness” in its accounting practices. The SEC is reportedly looking into the problems. And now, the Chicago Tribune says a shareholder has filed a class action lawsuit.
Wasteland BusinessWeek reports on how Ohio has become a dumping ground for the chemical-laced wastewater brine that’s a byproduct of new natural gas drilling in the U.S. BusinessWeek says Ohio has 176 storage wells for the “fracking” fluids. In comparison, Pennsylvania has just six such wells.
Gambling go-ahead Partner station Michigan Radio reports last night the Lansing city council voted to approve a new $245 million casino. The casino would be built in the city’s downtown. It still needs federal approval.
Not the Abba song, right? Wisconsin governor Scott Walker talked to Greta Van Susteren of Fox News last night. He said the recall against him is a “Waterloo” for unions.
So much for pancakes this year Maple syrup producers in Wisconsin say this is their worst year in memory, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Because of the warm weather, sap only ran for one day in some places. Usually, it runs for weeks.
A “Mid-biennium Review” sounds like just about the least exciting thing in the world.
But Ohio governor John Kasich used his “Mid-biennium” budget talk yesterday for a ground-shaking announcement. Among a number of proposals unveiled, the governor announced new taxes for the many companies that are trying to extract natural gas and oil from Ohio shale.
If you haven’t heard by now, Ohio is sitting on an oil and gas bonanza. Up until a few years ago, no one could get at it, because it’s locked away in Ohio’s shale formations. But because of a new drilling procedure you’ve probably heard of called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” all that gas and oil is now available.
As our own Dan Bobkoff reported in December, there is no shortage of hype about the possibilites for fracking in Ohio. The industry says it will create, or sustain 200,000 jobs. $200 billion could be invested over the next twenty years.
Natural gas extracted from shale rock, some say, is the most positive development in the nation’s energy outlook in 50 years. Ohio sits atop some of the largest deposits.
Big name oil and gas companies are flocking to the Buckeye State in a frenzy of preparation for “fracking” – that’s the innovative and controversial technology used to drill through and “fracture” the shale. It un-traps natural gas that lies within large layers of rock.
Ohio John Kasich is one of the industry’s biggest cheerleaders, saying it could be a real “game changer” for the state’s economy. This week he also said tough, new regulations are needed to make sure “fracking” doesn’t harm the environment. From our Changing Gears project, Mhari Saito and Dan Bobkoff have this overview on the new “natural gas economy.”