air pollution

According to Nick Schroeck, the incinerator has been cited 21 times for odor violations since 2015.
tEdGuY49 / Flickr -

With thousands of tons of trash burned every day, Detroit has the largest urban incinerator in the country.

Now its long and controversial history has a new chapter. The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center has filed a letter serving notice that it intends to sue Detroit Renewable Power, the operator of the incinerator.

Nick Schroeck, the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, joined Stateside to talk about the lawsuit and why they are filing it.

Wikimedia user Gyre /

The state of Michigan has hit a roadblock in its efforts to cut down on air pollution in Wayne County.

U.S. Steel is suing the state over a rule that requires the company to submit a plan for meeting sulfur dioxide standards at its Great Lakes Works plant in Ecorse.

Michigan has been trying get the Pittsburgh-based company and several others in the Detroit-area to scale back emissions since 2010, when a federal review found that levels were above standards.

Wikimedia user Gyre /

A new study finds reducing air pollution by just a little more would save about 9,000 lives each year in the United States.

Detroit is one of the cities the study finds could benefit the most from slightly tighter air pollution regulations. 

oil field

Eric Kort was looking for methane when he and his team flew a NOAA Twin Otter aircraft over the Bakken formation in May, 2014.

What the University of Michigan climate researcher found was ethane. Lots and lots of ethane.

Kort says the air sample data he collected has solved a mystery. Wwhat caused global ethane emissions to rise between 2009 and 2014, after a significant decline prior to 2009?

MDEQ rejects proposal to limit regulations

Apr 5, 2016
mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr

State regulators have rejected a proposal that would, among other things, limit the number of chemicals monitored in the air.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced this week that it is largely rejecting the recommended changes to air quality regulations. The proposal comes from a 2011 report that evaluated various environmental rules in the state. 

Lynn Fiedler, the MDEQ Air Quality Division Chief, said the department wants to continue its broad range of monitoring. MDEQ tracks the levels of nearly all potential air toxic substances. 

markbwavy / Flickr -

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is moving forward on a new rule to cut air pollution in part of Wayne County.

The rule will limit sulfur dioxide emissions from two US Steel facilities. They’re in southwest Detroit and two downriver suburbs deemed in “non-attainment” of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Barb Rosenbaum is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality division.

She says the agency is still working on a larger sulfur dioxide attainment plan for that area, after getting feedback on an initial draft.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Marathon Petroleum refinery in southwest Detroit is no stranger to controversy. But its request to increase sulfur dioxide emissions has sparked a major backlash. The company has done a huge expansion of its southwest Detroit refinery in the past few years.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Residents living in the heavily industrial area near southwest Detroit’s Marathon oil refinery are furious about a plan to increase emissions there.

And they let state environmental regulators know it at a public hearing Wednesday night.

Marathon wants to start removing sulfur, to meet new federal standards for cleaner-burning gasoline.

But to do that, it wants to increase local emissions — in the already-most-polluted ZIP code in the state.

NASA Goddard Media Studios

It’s possible to track air pollution from space.

NASA scientists did that with high-resolution satellite maps. To gather the data, they used an ozone monitoring instrument on board NASA’s Aura satellite. That tool tracks atmospheric gasses.

The team of NASA scientists tracked emissions of nitrogen dioxide from 2005 to 2014. Nitrogen dioxide comes from cars, power plants, and industries, and it plays a major role in forming smog.

Courtesy: Michigan Department of Transportation

When the Gordie Howe International Bridge from Canada to the U.S. is complete, it’s expected that thousands of trucks a day will travel through the Detroit neighborhood of Delray. Residents there want the government to keep additional pollution to a minimum.


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has a plan to curb sulfur dioxide pollution in Wayne County, and it has plenty of critics.

In 2013, an area of Wayne County that includes part of Detroit and some downriver communities failed to meet new federal ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide.

Two environmental groups say the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) needs to do more to protect local residents from toxic pollutants from a renewable energy power plant in the Upper Peninsula.

The two groups, Michigan-based Friends of the Land of Keweenaw and Massachusetts-based Partnership for Policy Integrity, filed comments today with the MDEQ on the department's draft Renewable Operation Permit for the L'Anse Warden "biomass" plant, charging that the pollution standards at the plant are weak to nonexistent.

Flickr / bitznbitez

The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the state of Michigan, other states, and industry groups in a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions rules.

The justices ruled the EPA was unreasonable when it refused to consider costs in its initial decision to regulate mercury emissions from power plants.

Read the Supreme Court's ruling in Michigan vs. EPA here.

The DeYoung Power Plant in Holland burns coal. The city is switching over to natural gas soon.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the state of Michigan, and many other states and industry groups, in their challenge to emissions rules from the Environmental Protection Agency.

They argued that the EPA should consider the costs and benefits of regulating mercury pollution from power plants.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The quality of Michigan’s air continues to improve. 

That’s the finding of a new report out today.

The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report looks at a variety of issues, from 24-hour to year-long particle pollution to ozone levels.

Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

The landmark 2012 Clean Air Act was the nation's first action focusing on greenhouse gases, with the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025.

Margo Oge was the Environmental Protection Agency's director of the Office of Transportation Air Quality and she helped to shape the Clean Air Act.

Mobile technology can help pinpoint when and where children are exposed to air pollution.
American Chemical Society

A team of researchers in Spain attached sensors to school age kids. Then, they used a smartphone to track how much air pollution (black carbon, a component of soot) they were exposed to at home and school in real time. The researchers did this work as part of a larger epidemiological study on air pollution and brain development.

Mark Nieuwenhuijsen is an author of the study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. He says the real time monitoring fills in gaps in data and gives a better picture of what the children are exposed to during the day.

He says they’re working to make this technology available to everyone.

user: adamshoop / Flicker

The cost of electricity could jump dramatically next month in the Upper Peninsula.

Residents there might have to start paying to keep a coal plant open that isn't entirely needed anymore. The increase will be a harsh blow to a region that struggles economically.

Brimley is a little town at the end of the road on Lake Superior’s south shore. There’s a bar, a casino and a couple motels. Brimley State Park draws campers here in the summer and into Ron Holden’s IGA grocery store.

"Basically the six weeks of summer pay for the rest of the year’s bills, " he says. On the wall of the IGA are deer heads, a black bear rug, and a flag that says, ‘American by choice, Yooper by da grace of God.’

But being a Yooper might cost more starting December 1. Holden expects his store’s electric bill will be $700 a month higher and he has no idea where he’ll get that money.

Environmental groups say a proposal from within state government to weaken Michigan’s toxic air pollutant guidelines would put public health at risk.

Michigan has some of the strictest guidelines in the nation when it comes to toxic air chemicals. It’s one of just nine states to regulate all potentially toxic emissions.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Economists often argue that we should use the market to fight climate change. Cap-and-trade legislation died in Congress back in 2010.  Some people think a tax on carbon dioxide is a better solution, but that would require large companies to pay for their carbon emissions.

Citizen groups are suing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over an air permit it granted to a Dearborn steel plant.

Two months ago, the MDEQ issued the permit to the Severstal plant. It allowed the facility to continue polluting at levels that had previously been cited by the state.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two state lawmakers are calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to step in and help regulate a Dearborn steel mill.

State Representatives Rashida Tlaib and George Darany say the state can no longer be trusted to oversee and enforce environmental laws against the Severstal steel facility.

Joe Gratz / Flickr

The American Lung Association just released its annual report card on air quality, State of the Air.

Detroit and Grand Rapids made the list of most polluted cities for their ozone levels (Detroit ranks 34th worst out of 220 cities; Grand Rapids ranks 30th).

But others made the cleanest cities list: Kalamazoo and East Lansing scored well for particle pollution. Those are very tiny specks found in smoke and exhaust.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Clean air advocates in Michigan are cheering a U.S. Supreme Court decision that will allow stricter regulation of coal-fired power plants.

The high court decided this week to overturn a lower court ruling and allow the Environmental Protection Agency to slap new limits on pollution from power plants.

A Dearborn steel plant wants the state to let it legally emit more air pollution, a prospect that doesn’t sit well with many of the people who live nearby.

The massive, 350-acre Severstal steel complex sits in a heavily industrial area along the Dearborn-Detroit border. It’s been cited 37 times for violating its current state air quality permit.

But Severstal thinks that permit was too strict. In its new permit application, the company wants the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to raise the emissions cap for a number of pollutants, including lead and carbon monoxide.

That angers many south Dearborn residents, like Norieah Ahmed. Speaking at a packed public hearing on the proposed new rules this week, Ahmed said her community already suffers from too much pollution.

“We cannot allow for an increase in permitted levels simply because Severstal once again can’t meet those standards,” Ahmed said.

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

If we asked you to name the areas in Michigan most likely to have poor air quality, chances are pretty good you'd start with the Detroit area, or southeast Michigan. Certainly with all of the vehicles, the industry, and the dense population, it's not too surprising that the Detroit area most often has the most polluted air.

But some of the most beautiful, most scenic areas of Michigan also suffer from poor air quality.

MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to help is find out where and why this is happening.

Listen to the full interview above.

Air pollution is a serious problem in Michigan. It's already linked to health risks like asthma and autism, but now there's evidence it may also be behind the rise in heart attacks.

Sara Adar is one of the researchers at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health releasing this new study. She says, "Every increase in air pollution, it increases the likelihood that your arteries are gonna thicken. We see the same for risks of heart attack and strokes."

Adar says no air is completely clean, but that the Clean Air Act has led to fewer fatalities due to air pollution.

"So when we breathe these particles into our lungs, our bodies respond to those. And it triggers an inflammation response, because you know, it's not enjoying those particles in our lungs."

These new findings suggest even if you eat healthy food and get regular exercise, you still have a slightly greater risk of early heart attack if you live near lots of pollution.

Air quality is improving in some Michigan cities, according to a new report. The American Lung Association’s annual ‘State of the Air’ report is out today.  

Jim Harrington is a field organizer for the American Lung Association. He says particulate pollution, like smog, is down in the region - including the cities of Flint and Detroit.

“In prior years they’d been ranked the worst in the country. They were one of the most polluted regions in the country,” says Harrington, “And over the last five years, they’ve gradually moved down the list. So they’ve been improving at a faster rate than other areas.”

mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A federal appeals court says government regulators can take action when they fear a power company construction project might significantly increase air pollution, without waiting to see if they were right.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued DTE Energy in 2010 because the company replaced key boiler parts at its Monroe Unit 2 without installing pollution controls that are required whenever a utility performs a major overhaul. DTE said the project was only routine maintenance.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman threw out the suit, saying EPA went to court too soon.

But the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his decision Thursday. In a 2-1 ruling, the court says the law doesn't block EPA from challenging suspected violations of its regulations until long after power plants are modified.

Air pollution around a highway in downtown Los Angeles
Ali Azimi / Creative Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new proposal today to cap soot emissions at between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) annually. The current standard is 15 µg/m3 annually. The agency is required to update the standard every five years.

In a press release from the American Lung Association, Albert Rizzo, M.D., chair of the board of the ALA, emphasized the dangers of soot.

"Particle pollution kills — the science is clear, and overwhelming evidence shows that particle pollution at levels currently labeled as officially 'safe' causes heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks," Rizzo said.

"The Clean Air Act gives the American public the truth about pollution that is threatening their lives and health—just as they would expect the truth from their doctor," he added.    

Last year the ALA, the Clean Air Task Force and Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law firm, released a report warning of the dangers of soot and urging the EPA to set stricter emissions standards.

Their analysis estimated that capping emissions at 11 µg/m3 annually and 25 µg/m3 daily would prevent:

  • 35,700 premature deaths
  • 2,350 heart attacks
  • 23,290 hospital and emergency room visits
  • 29,800 cases of acute bronchitis
  • 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma

According to the report, these standards would save about $281 billion in medical costs annually.