Environment & Science

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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Stateside
3:53 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Chief barista for Zingerman's shares her thoughts on the future of coffee

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

It's pretty tough to imagine an American city that does not have a coffee shop.

For many places, Starbucks blazed the trail, followed by other chains. And, of course, the hip, locally owned coffee shops.

The variety of flavors and roasts has certainly evolved, from the big brands – the Folgers and the Maxwell Houses – to regionally labeled coffees, and now to beans that are sourced from farms, not just from countries.

So, what's in the future for coffee shops, now that so many of us have discovered we can't do without a really fine cup of coffee?

Anya Pomykala is the chief barista at Zingerman's Coffee Company in Ann Arbor. She joined us to share her thoughts.

*Listen to the interview above.

Environment & Science
1:25 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Next steps for proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea

Site of the proposed mine near the Pinckney and Waterloo State Recreation areas. This map shows watershed boundaries as well.
Lyndon Township

A Ready Mix concrete company wants to dig for sand and gravel on a site north of Chelsea, Michigan. McCoig Materials is planning the mine right in the middle of the Pinckney and Waterloo State Recreation Areas (see the map above for the location of the proposed site).

The plan has drawn opposition from hundreds of residents and other advocates who fear the mine could affect water resources in the area. They also are concerned about the truck traffic that would roll through downtown Chelsea.

Lyndon Township officials will vote on whether the mine should move forward. A meeting has been scheduled next month. From the township:

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Environment & Science
10:58 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Anger, concern over petroleum drilling in Scio Township

Drilling is already happening at several sites across Michigan.
Credit Bureau of Land Management

"How many of you are here to stop the drilling?" one woman asked the crowd of about 200 at a town forum in Scio Township last night.

Big applause broke out.

It was the first indication that the crowd was not going to be a friendly one for the executives from West Bay Exploration, a Traverse City-based drilling company that has asked several landowners in Scio Township to sign over leases for their mineral rights.

The town forum was billed as an opportunity to "become educated about oil and gas leasing."

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2:51 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

State of Opportunity documentary: Growing up in poverty and pollution

Lead in text: 
At 3:00 p.m today you can tune into Lester Graham's documentary, "Growing up in poverty and pollution," produced for State of Opportunity. Or, you can listen to the compelling stories these families anytime over at State of Opportunity.
In Michigan, thousands of kids suffer with diseases that are worsened by poverty and pollution. It's a combination that's costing society far more than
The Environment Report
9:33 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Why do some trout that dine on small invasive fish die? Researchers gaining clues

NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Labratory scientists examining a catch of alewives in Lake Michigan near Muskegon.
Credit R/V Laurentian NOAA / Creative Commons

You’ve probably heard about the big bad invasive silver or bighead carp, also known as Asian carp.

But there’s another invasive fish that’s roughly a third the size of the carp that’s already done a lot of damage to Great Lakes fisheries. Alewives have been a particular menace in Lakes Michigan and Huron. The invasive fish cause all kinds of problems for native lake trout.

Alewives scarf down lake trout eggs and very young fish. But even once lake trout grow big enough to turn the tables and eat the alewives, the invasive fish still cause problems.

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The Environment Report
8:46 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Sections of the Kalamazoo River closed to finish oil cleanup

The areas of Morrow Lake to be dredged are highlighted in pink.
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s been nearly four years since the Enbridge Energy oil spill. Enbridge has already recovered more than a million gallons of heavy tar sands oil from the Kalamazoo River. But federal regulators have ordered the company to clean up another 180,000 gallons that’s mixed in with sediment on the river bottom.

Now that spring is here, work is underway again.

Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith says dredge work is nearly finished on a section of river near Battle Creek. Workers will remove Ceresco Dam closer to Marshall this summer.

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Environment & Science
5:38 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Census shows fewer wolves in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

The DNR claims there are 636 wolves roaming the U.P. That’s down from 658 in 2013.
Credit USFWS Midwest

There are fewer wolves living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

State wildlife biologists report a slight dip in the wolf population following last fall’s controversial hunt.

The Department of Natural Resources has just completed a census of wolves in the Upper Peninsula. The DNR admits the count is more of an estimate than an accurate head count.

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