WUOMFM

The Environment Report

Tuesdays & Thursdays at 8:50 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

The Environment Report hosted by Rebecca Williams explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan.

markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some government websites are changing what they say about the environment, and a group of researchers is keeping track. Researchers in the U.S. and Canada are continuing to back up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S.

They’re also keeping a close eye on how information is changing on federal websites like the EPA, the State Department and the Department of Energy, along with other federal agency sites, and they've been finding changes are happening.

A salmon fishing boat.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Fish consumption advisories usually focus on one chemical at a time – like mercury – and these advisories tell you how much of each kind of fish you should eat, and what to avoid. But they don’t often tell you much about mixtures of different chemicals in the environment that could be in fish.

Wind turbine
Ken Whytock / Flickr

Two birding groups have filed suit to block the Ohio National Guard from building a commercial-scale wind turbine along the shore of western Lake Erie.

The American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory of Ohio filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington. They say the Ohio Air National Guard’s wind turbine project at Camp Perry, less than a mile from the Lake Erie shoreline, has already violated the Endangered Species Act and other environmental regulations.

Most of us don't think about how much electricity costs at different times of the day. But the state's two largest utilities are planning to change that.

When it's really, really hot and humid out, what do lots of people do when they get home? They turn on, or turn up, the air conditioning.

There are big spikes in electricity demand on the hottest summer days, between 2:00 in the afternoon to 7:00 in the evening.

A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The buildup of nutrients in western Lake Erie can trigger algae growth – and contaminate drinking water in nearby cities. That happened as recently as 2014, when Toledo residents could not drink their water for two days.

Steve Burt / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Here’s one way to react to a warming planet: get smaller.

We know mammals literally shrank, during a massive global warming event 56 million years ago. Imagine an early horse ancestor the size of a cat.

Now back then, the earth was 46 degrees hotter on average than it is right now.

So researchers wanted to know: do mammals still experience shrinking - a.k.a. dwarfing - during other, less intense periods of warming?

ellenm1 / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

You know how in old Disney cartoons and movies, spring arrives and all the birds and woodland creatures just wake up all at once?

That’s kind of how nature works, too.

But new research suggests that what we typically think of as spring: flowers blooming, ice melting... is starting to change.

Chalkboard
user alkruse24 / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some lawmakers want Michigan to dump the Common Core education standards. But that might put them at odds with Governor Snyder’s vision for education in Michigan.

Michigan’s current education standards are Common Core with a twist. But some lawmakers want to use the standards that another state used a few years ago.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines run under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In a new report released today, the National Wildlife Federation took a look at data on currents in the Straits of Mackinac. That’s where Enbridge’s twin pipelines run along the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Mike Shriberg is the executive director of the Federation’s Great Lakes office.

“What this report shows is that there are additional stresses on this pipeline beyond what it was designed for," he says.

A lighthouse on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Richard Hsu / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a health advisory for microcystin. That’s the toxin that shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply in 2014.

It’s released by a kind of cyanobacteria that’s been forming on Lake Erie every year, and it can hurt your liver.

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Early budget indications suggest the Trump administration could slash funding for the Great Lakes.

There are many possible cuts to EPA programs. Great Lakes restoration money could be cut by 97%, and money for beach monitoring could be also at risk.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

President Trump called for a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure this week in his address to Congress.

The Great Lakes Commission has ideas for where some of the money should go. The Commission is an interstate compact agency that represents Great Lakes states. The agency released recommendations today for rebuilding our water infrastructure.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The League of Conservation Voters has released its annual National Environmental Scorecard. It shows how members of Congress voted on environmental issues. This year, the group found a deep partisan divide.

Charlotte Jameson is the government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. The group just published its own scorecard for the state Legislature.

USA National Phenology Network, www.usanpn.org

Scientists have known that spring is arriving earlier across the U.S. because of climate change. Now, you can take a look at new maps from the U.S. Geological Survey to see how early spring is arriving where you live.

Jake Weltzin is an ecologist with the USGS, and the executive director of the National Phenology Network.

"The folks down in the southeastern United States, across much of that region, are seeing spring coming as many as three weeks early this year," he says.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is joining nine other attorneys general to oppose a bill in the U.S. Senate.

It would change how ballast water in ships is regulated. Invasive species can hitch a ride in ballast water.

The bill would create a single, national standard and pre-empt states from creating their own standards.

The shipping industry likes that. But the attorneys general are concerned about losing the ability to have stricter state standards.

Mick Thompson / Flickr

For more than a decade, double crested cormorants could be killed in 24 states in the eastern U.S. In the Great Lakes, it was mainly done to protect sport fish like perch and bass.

But last spring a federal judge stopped the program, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t doing the research on cormorants necessary to justify killing them.

Sport fishing groups hoped that research would have been done by now and the program could resume.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Energy costs can be a huge burden on low-income communities.

That’s especially true in Highland Park. The tiny enclave within Detroit was literally left in the dark after it ran up a big street lighting bill.

But there are some small bright spots popping up—thanks to solar power, and the efforts of one community group.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Microbeads on a penny.
Courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

The International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that advises the United States and Canada, says the two countries should do more to keep microplastics out of the lakes.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are five millimeters or smaller. Microbeads are used in things like soap and toothpaste. Microfibers are tiny fibers that wash off our synthetic clothing, like fleece.

Those tiny plastics can end up in the Great Lakes and can get into fish.

If you see the old label on the left, the piece of upholstered furniture likely contains flame retardants. If you see the new label on the right, it will tell you for sure whether it contains flame retardants.
Mark Brush and Arlene Blum

Flame retardants are in a lot of products we use: furniture, carpet padding, electronics, car seats and baby products. Some types of flame retardants called PBDEs have been phased out because they were getting into people’s bodies and there were concerns about health effects.

Researchers are now finding that some of the replacement chemicals are also showing up in people.

Is Line 5 needed to heat the Upper Peninsula?

Feb 14, 2017
Enbridge's Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

 

An environmental group in Traverse City is challenging the claim that Enbridge’s Line 5 is necessary to keep residents of the U.P. warm. 

The twin pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac deliver natural gas liquids that can be turned into propane.

Posted with permission / EDGI

Shortly after the election, researchers from the U.S. and Canada got together to start backing up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S.

They’re also keeping a close eye on how the Trump Administration is changing federal websites, and they're already finding some changes.

One of the groups heading up this effort is called the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. (You can see EDGI's report on changes to some EPA websites here, and its report on the State Department and Department of Energy here.)

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An administrative law judge has sided with a company called Harrietta Hills Trout Farm that's operating in Grayling. It produced nearly 69,000 pounds of rainbow trout last year.

The state granted a permit to the company in 2014. But some groups challenged that permit, and it ended up in court.

Last week, the judge issued a proposal for decision that the business should keep the permit that’s allowing it to expand.

Opponents of the fish farm are vowing to keep fighting the permit.

Image used with permission from Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

A new study found fluorinated chemicals in one third of the fast food packages researchers tested. The chemicals keep oil and grease from leaking through.

The researchers found that out of 407 food packages tested, 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard contained fluorinated chemicals.

Scientists have found this class of chemicals doesn't break down in the environment, and some kinds of fluorinated chemicals are linked to health problems.

EPA

There’s been a lot going on at the Environmental Protection Agency lately.

First, the Trump administration barred anyone at the EPA from communicating with the public. Then, a White House official announced that EPA research could be subject to review by the administration.

The Trump administration has sent strong signals that it’s going to be friendly to industry.

Grass carp
USGS

There are grass carp in three of the Great Lakes, but it’s not too late to do something about it.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new risk assessment on this type of Asian carp by the United States and Canada.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor is joining a "guerrilla archiving" movement.

Librarians, web developers and other volunteers are working fast to save scientific data from federal agency websites.

It’s called Ann Arbor Data Rescue, and it’s part of a larger project that’s springing up around the U.S. and Canada.

They’re doing this in case the Trump Administration changes or removes data.

The Velsicol Superfund sites in St. Louis Michigan. Cleanup money was approved for the old plant site. They're still working on money for the "burn pit."
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

 

There are a lot of former industrial sites in Michigan that need to be cleaned up. The pollution left behind in one town in the middle of Michigan is particularly bad. The Velsicol Chemical Company (known as Michigan Chemical up until 1976) produced a lot of toxic chemicals in St. Louis, Michigan.

 

A mild weather day
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

2016 was the hottest year on record.

When we talk about climate change, we usually talk about extreme weather events: extreme heat, drought, flooding. But scientists have also studied what’s likely to happen with the best weather days. Days that are not too hot, not too cold, or humid or rainy. Just right.

Honey bees face a number of threats.
cygnus921 / Creative Commons

Researchers have found a chemical that’s widely used on crops such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits can be bad for bees.

They’ve found it makes honey bee larvae more susceptible to deadly viruses.

Gov. Snyder delivers his 2017 State of the State address.
House TV

The environment came up a handful of times in Governor Snyder’s State of the State address.

The governor was often light on details, and he didn't talk about the Flint water crisis until halfway through the speech.

But Snyder did announce some new initiatives. He called for more investment in our aging infrastructure, announced a work group to study environmental justice issues, reminded the Legislature that he wants tighter standards for lead in drinking water.

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