Environment & Science

Stateside
9:39 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Scientist sheds new light on proposed nuclear waste site on Lake Huron

The blue pin shows the site of the proposed nuclear waste storage site near Kincardine, Ontario.
Credit Google Maps

Its official name is the Deep Geologic Repository project (DGR).

It's a proposed underground site to store nuclear waste. A site that would be located less than a mile from Lake Huron near the town of Kincardine, Ontario. It’s about 11 miles northeast of Port Huron on the Canadian side of the lake.

If Ontario Power Generation wins approval, its underground site could store 52 million gallons of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste – again, less than a mile from the source of drinking water for many millions of Americans and Canadians.

Nuclear scientist Frank Greening once worked for Ontario Power Generation.

He says some of the materials that would be stored underground are hundreds of times more radioactive than what was told to Canadian government officials who are considering the site.

*Listen to our interview with Frank Greening above.

Environment & Science
5:24 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Global warming threatens Michigan wildlife, says NWF

Polar bears are among the many species facing a risk of extinction due to climate change caused by humans. Humans are also at risk, as rising sea levels threaten coastal regions, and droughts become more severe.
Credit Photo courtesy of Joel Garlich-Miller, USFWS

The National Wildlife Federation says climate change and global warming are threatening a number of Michigan species.

The environmental group says there are clear signs of trouble for native species that need cooler weather to reproduce.

That includes brook trout, lake sturgeon, and moose.

The Federation's Brenda Archambo says it's time to stop treating global warming as a political issue.

"There are, sadly, a number of people who have decision-making authority that continue to refuse to put solutions in place that actually can change the course we are on," Archambo says. "And we are out of time."

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The Environment Report
3:46 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Lessons from a tiny, extremely destructive pest

Look at this cute little face! How bad could it be? BAD. Really bad.
Credit USDA Forest Service

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The emerald ash borer is a little shiny green beetle that loves to feast on ash trees. The adult beetles only nibble on the leaves. It's the larvae you've got to watch out for. They munch on the inner bark of the ash tree, and mess with the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients.

The pest has killed tens of millions of ash trees in Michigan alone and tens of millions more in the states and provinces around our region.

Now researchers know a little bit more about how the emerald ash borer ate its way through the state.

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Two of Michigan's biggest industrial polluters get "updated" permits

Credit user c braun / flickr

State environmental officials have agreed to update air quality permits for two of the state’s biggest and most polluting industrial facilities.

Dearborn’s Marathon oil refinery and Dearborn’s Severstal steel plants have had trouble complying with their state permits in recent years.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality now agrees with the companies contention that some of the old standards were too strict. The updated permits relax some emissions rules, while strengthening others.

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The Environment Report
9:24 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Proposed trout farm near “holy waters” of Au Sable River would be Michigan’s biggest

Harrietta Hills Trout Farms co-owner Dan Vogler wants to produce up to 300,000 pounds of trout at the historic Grayling Fish Hatchery.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

If you’re a fly fisherman, there are few rivers this side of the Rocky Mountains that compare with Michigan’s Au Sable River. There’s a particular nine-mile stretch east of Grayling known as the Holy Waters.

The water is clean, cold, easy to wade through, and packed with more than 100 pounds of wild trout per acre.

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Environment & Science
12:56 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

New research finds that the emerald ash borer may have arrived in the early 1990s

Credit USDA Forest Service

Researchers are uncovering evidence for a timeline for the arrival of an invasive beetle that has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. and Canada.

The emerald ash borer is native to China. Scientists think it arrived in the U.S. via wood packing crates. The beetle eats through the living part of an ash tree underneath the bark and cuts off the tree's water and food supply. This starves the tree to death.

The ash borer continues to spread across the U.S. The researchers found that it may have arrived in North America a decade before it first was detected.

More from the Associated Press:

Michigan State University researchers collected cores from trunks of more than 1,000 ash trees in six southeastern Michigan counties. By studying them, they determined the year each tree was killed by the emerald ash borer and found trees killed as early as 1997.

The ash borer was detected in southeast Michigan in 2002. The researchers say it would take several years before the beetle population was large enough to kill trees, so they concluded it had been in southeast Michigan since at least 1992 or 1993.

The study is published in the journal Diversity and Distributions.

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Environment & Science
7:32 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Scientists will work this summer to find the cause of mystery holes on Mount Baldy

Even Erin Argyilan and Bruce Rowe aren't allowed to access Mount Baldy for now because of the conditions.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A popular summer spot in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is closed indefinitely. Scientists are trying to figure out the mystery of why some dangerous sinkholes have been developing in the dunes.

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Environment & Science
7:00 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Lawmakers ask for EPA oversight at Dearborn steel mill, call state permitting process "tainted"

Dearborn and Detroit residents protesting against Severstal's effort to relax state pollution limits
Credit 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.

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The Environment Report
8:50 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Watchdog groups wary of proposed fracking rules

Credit Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

This story has been updated. 5/9/2014

New rules proposed for oil and gas drilling in Michigan are getting a mixed response, at best, from watchdog groups. The rules would apply to a type of drilling often referred to as “fracking.” Critics say the proposed changes continue to favor the oil and gas industry over neighbors and the public.

The official line in Michigan has long been that drilling for oil and gas is well-regulated and done safely. But many people are not convinced.

Hal Fitch is the head of the Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals. He says they are responding to those concerns.

"We saw some need to make some changes, some improvements, partly because of changing technology, partly because of public concern out there over hydraulic fracturing," he says.

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Stateside
4:59 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Looking at the results of Michigan's wolf hunt

Credit endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com

The 45-day wolf hunting season that began November 15 inflamed passions, both pro and con.

Now that the first-ever wolf hunt is wrapped up, what were the results?

John Barnes explored the impact of the hunt in a recent piece for MLive, which breaks down the ages of the 22 wolves killed over the course of the hunt. He joined us on Stateside today (you can listen to the audio above).

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Environment & Science
4:44 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Harsh winter may have damaging effects on pine trees

Michigan's harsh winter may have had damaging effects on our pine trees.
Credit user: Njaelkies Lea / Wikimedia Commons

If you've been wondering why your favorite pine tree has been turning brown as the weather warms up, you can stop wondering and start blaming winter.

Bert Cregg is an associate professor in the horticulture department at Michigan State University. He joined us to explain what the snow, cold and wind has done to our conifer trees. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Environment & Science
1:06 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Northern Michigan To Be Featured On National Parks Pass

Courtney Kotewa of southern Michigan was the grand prize winner with this image of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in northern Michigan along the shore of Lake Superior.

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 1:08 pm

A snapshot of Pictured Rocks Lakeshore in northern Michigan will be featured on the 2015 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The annual passes are sold nationwide and for use at any national park. Courtney Kotewa of southern Michigan took the photo during a family outing. The image selected as the winning photo of the National Park Foundation's photo contest. 

Nearly 20,000 photos were submitted to the 2013 Share the Experience contest. Share the Experience is the official photo contest of America's national parks and federal recreation lands. 

Kotewa said the photo almost didn’t happen as she was not sure she would take her phone with her on the kayak trip for fear of dropping it in the choppy waters of Lake Superior. Although she grew up in southern Michigan, this trip was Kotewa’s first time to Pictured Rocks. The grand-prize winner said visiting was on her mom’s bucket list. 

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The Environment Report
5:35 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Wolves barely hanging on, moose "on vacation" on Isle Royale

Credit www.isleroyalewolf.org

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

It’s the 56th year of the study of Isle Royale’s wolves and moose. Researchers at Michigan Tech have just finished this year’s Winter Study.

Rolf Peterson is a research professor at Michigan Tech and he just spent his 44th winter on the island. I called him up to find out how the animals are doing. This year, the team counted nine wolves, up from eight last year.

“I guess I’d say they’re bumping along at the bottom, the bottom of where they’ve been for the last 56 years. So for the last three years, there have been either eight or nine animals total, and that’s as low as we’ve seen them.”

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Environment & Science
4:51 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Dark Sky status sought for 3 Michigan parks

Credit Morguefile

Friends organizations for two state parks and a state recreation area in Michigan's Lower Peninsula are working together with local officials to have the sites designated as Dark Sky preserves.

Eric Ostrander is supervisor of two of the sites, Negwegon State Park and Rockport State Recreation Area. The third site is Thompson's Harbor State Park. 

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The Environment Report
8:50 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Michigan cities graded on air pollution

Credit 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.

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Environment & Science
5:44 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

More Michigan officials seek assurances on pipeline in Straits of Mackinac

Enbridge Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
NWF screenshot from YouTube video

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan's attorney general and chief environmental regulator have asked the company that owns two oil pipelines stretched beneath an ecologically sensitive area of the Great Lakes for evidence that the 61-year-old lines are properly maintained and in good condition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, posed a lengthy series of questions and requested stacks of documentation in a letter sent Tuesday to Enbridge Inc. and made public Wednesday. They said the pipelines, which run beneath the Straits of Mackinac — the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan — pose a unique safety risk.

"Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects," their letter said. "And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes."

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Environment & Science
6:57 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Mystery holes in popular Lake Michigan sand dune cause summer closure

Hole found on top of Mount Baldy
Credit National Park Service Collection

A popular spot in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will remain closed for the summer because of the mysterious appearance of holes in the 126-foot sand dune's surface.

Last July, a six-year-old boy was almost killed when a collapsing hole at Mount Baldy buried him in sand. Since then, two more holes and some depressions have been found.

So far scientists cannot explain why. That's despite the use of ground-penetrating radar and research analysis by scientists from the National Park Service, Indiana University, and the Indiana Geological Survey.

Scientists are getting ready for a more comprehensive investigation of the sand dune this summer.

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Environment & Science
5:04 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Michigan proposes updates to "fracking" rules for oil and gas drillers

Credit Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to their rules for oil and gas drilling in the state.

MDEQ leaders say they've had a successful record regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state for more than five decades, but new practices by the oil and gas industry are leading to the rule changes.

The industry's practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, known commonly as "fracking," has allowed companies to extract a lot more oil and gas from the ground.

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The Environment Report
4:27 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Pushing to expand the ban on a lawn care ingredient

Fertilizer without phosphorus, indicated by the 0 on the bag.
Credit Julie Grant

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

Algal blooms continue to plague Lake Erie. Farms and wastewater have gotten a lot of attention for contributing nutrients that create these harmful blooms.

More recently, the spotlight has focused on lawn care. Grass fertilizers can also contain phosphorus that winds up in waterways. Michigan and other states around the Great Lakes have already banned lawn fertilizers that contain phosphorus. Now international regulators and others are pushing Ohio and Pennsylvania to do the same.

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Environment & Science
6:01 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Construction resumes on Tuscola Co. wind farm

Wind Turbines
Credit Morgue File

With the return of warm weather, Consumers Energy has resumed construction of a wind farm in Tuscola County in Michigan's Thumb.  Construction began last October and went on hold during the winter months.

The facility is the company's second wind farm. It will include 62 wind turbines.

Brian Wheeler, spokesperson for Consumers Energy, said the facility should produce enough energy for about 60,000 households.

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