The Environment Report

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The Environment Report hosted by Rebecca Williams explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan. Send us your story ideas by following the link above!

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The Environment Report
2:57 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

You pay about a penny per gallon of gas to clean up pollution, but is that money spent well?

There are thousands of old gas station sites across the state.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Every time you fill up, you pay seven-eighths of a cent per gallon of gas for a “regulatory fee” that was originally set up to help clean up the thousands of old underground storage tanks in Michigan.

Those pennies you pay at the pump add up to a $50 million pot of money each year.

It’s called the Refined Petroleum Fund. The fund worked initially. The money helped remove tens of thousands of old underground storage tanks in Michigan. When those old tanks leak, they can pollute the soil and ruin nearby water sources.

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The Environment Report
11:13 am
Thu April 10, 2014

There could be bad news for Michigan fruit crops; grapevines might have suffered the most

The long, cold winter may have damaged Michigan grapevines.
Credit user: Phil Roeder / Flickr

Farmers are finally able to head out into their fields, orchards and vineyards to see how everything fared over the winter. 

Ken Nye is a commodities specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau. 

He's expecting a lot of damage to Michigan fruits. 

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The Environment Report
8:50 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Michigan beekeepers breeding hardier "survivor bees"

Greg Griswold with some of his bee boxes in Beulah, Michigan in March.
Sara Hoover Interlochen Public Radio

It’s been a tough winter for honeybees. Bees already face several obstacles, including parasitic mites, habitat loss, and pesticides.

Those factors and others are believed to contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon where bees disappear from the hive in large numbers. 

In the face of all these things, beekeepers in Michigan are trying to breed a hardier bee.

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The Environment Report
12:40 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

The extensive ice cover could delay fish migrations in the Great Lakes

Male and female steelhead trout.
NOAA

 

The prolonged winter and the ice cover on the Great Lakes could lead to some lasting effects on wildlife.

For one thing, scientists expect that a lot of the fish that people like to catch will be showing up late to the places they usually spawn.

Solomon David is a research scientist at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

David basically chases fish around for a living.

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The Environment Report
11:04 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Zebra mussel-killing bacteria could help native species in the Great Lakes

Zebra mussels on a Higgins eye mussel
Credit USFWS

A treatment that kills zebra and quagga mussels could soon be available for use in lakes and rivers. It’s very effective and safe.

But it is not likely to undo much of the ecological damage done to Michigan waters by invasive mussels.

It could be good news, though, if you’re a clam.

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The Environment Report
9:05 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Wilderness Proposals Increasingly Divisive On Capitol Hill

Good Harbor Bay is one of five zones of the national lakeshore that are now officially federally protected wilderness areas.
Linda Stephan

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 5:40 pm

Fifty years ago, Congress set out to guarantee future generations would always have access to America’s great outdoors in its most natural state. But several recent requests for wilderness protections have been languishing on Capitol Hill.  

In the past five years, just one new wilderness bill made it to law. This new law guarantees 35 miles of northern Lake Michigan shoreline will be forever left wild.

Good Harbor Bay

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The Environment Report
11:43 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Environmental groups split over proposed tax break for oil recovery

morguefile

The Michigan Legislature recently approved a package of bills that’s causing a split between environmental groups.

The legislation would lower a tax on a certain kind of oil recovery.

Jake Neher is the capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network and he’s been following this story. I spoke with him about these bills for today's Environment Report.

“The main bill in the package would cut the state severance tax from 6.6% to 4% for companies using what’s called enhanced production or enhanced recovery methods to essentially clean out low-producing oil wells. So basically, they pump a bunch of carbon dioxide into the wells to help get relatively little amounts of oil out of them. In other words, companies would pay a lower tax rate on the oil they take out of the ground using that process.”

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The Environment Report
8:50 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Neighbors express concerns about proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea

Mary Mandeville (L) and Tim and Mary Jane Eder on Island Lake. The proposed mine site is west of the lake.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

A Ready-Mix concrete company, McCoig Materials, wants to open up a mine on a site north of Chelsea. The two parcels of land they want to mine are in between the Waterloo and Pinckney Recreation areas. This part of southeast Michigan has a lot of little lakes and unique natural areas.

McCoig Materials wants to operate the mine for 22 to 30 years and remove 11 million tons of sand and gravel.

People who live on the lakes nearby have been raising concerns about that.

Mary Mandeville spends summers in her cottage at Island Lake.

“Just to the west of us is where the proposed gravel mine would be putting in their operations. We’re very concerned about the impact on the environment, on the water table level. We’re concerned about air quality with all the dust from the dumping of the gravel into the trucks.”

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu March 6, 2014

President's budget cuts Great Lakes programs

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides money for habitat restoration, keeping invasive species out of the Lakes, and cleaning up polluted areas.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

President Obama’s 2015 budget includes some cuts to Great Lakes programs.

Obama is asking for $275 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That would be $25 million less than the current funding level.

Todd Ambs is the campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He says if the cuts go through, you'd see projects slow down.

“Whether it’s a contaminated cleanup project that’s underway but not completed, or a habitat restoration effort or dealing with the problems of keeping aquatic invasive species out of the Great Lakes.”

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Invasive lampreys getting too comfortable in Michigan's Inland Waterway?

A face only its mother could love.
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

We spend about $21 million a year keeping invasive sea lampreys in check in the Great Lakes.

But they’re resilient creatures. Even after we spend all that money, we still can’t get rid of them.

Scientists now suspect lampreys are getting a little too comfortable up north.

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The Environment Report
2:52 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

What all the snow and ice will mean for Great Lakes water levels

Icy Lake Michigan channel at Grand Haven in 2011.
R. Greaves NOAA GLERL

It might seem a little counterintuitive, but right now, a bunch of scientists are thinking about how high the water at Great Lakes beaches will be this summer.

Early last year, the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron system hit record low water levels.

It made life tougher for the shipping industry, and it’s hard on people who run Great Lakes ports.

Russell Dzuba is the harbor master in Leland.

“For us, it’s shallow. When we went to dredge this year we had to go a foot deeper and the world was a foot shorter, if you will,” he says.

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The Environment Report
9:50 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Archeologists Diverge On Discovery In Lake Michigan

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 9:18 am

Archeologists studying a wooden beam pulled from northern Lake Michigan this summer can't say whether it is a piece of the first European ship to sail the upper Great Lakes or a post from an old fishing net. The group managing the project is close to issuing a report to the state archeologist, but it won’t reach any firm conclusion.

Read on to discover the evidence that points to each conclusion.

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The Environment Report
12:43 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Enbridge has a new plan for dredging parts of the Kalamazoo River

The Benteler site (green) is where Enbridge will set up for their dredging project.
Enbridge

Enbridge Energy is still cleaning up oil left over from its pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River.  

The company has already recovered most of the oil, but it's still working to comply with an order from the federal regulators, who say they need to clean up another 180,000 gallons. 

According to Enbridge's new plan, they can start that cleanup March 15. But that's all dependent on this crazy weather. Right now, everything is frozen. But, if spring warms things up and there's flooding, that can also be problematic for the dredging process. 

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The Environment Report
11:10 am
Tue February 18, 2014

New farm bill shakes up the way we pay for land conservation

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

The farm bill has about $57 billion for conservation.

Director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Todd Ambs says a lot of people don't realize the farm bill is where we find the largest source of conservation money from the federal government.

"That’s because there are so many activities that happen on the land that bring us our food, that if done improperly can have a very adverse impact on the soil and also to surrounding waterways," he says.

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The Environment Report
10:52 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Backyard farmers to lose Right to Farm protection?

Wendy Banka and one of her salmon faverolle chickens.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Life could soon get a little harder for backyard farmers.

A law passed in 1981 protects Michigan farmers from nuisance lawsuits. It’s called the Right to Farm Act.  It was created to protect farmers from angry neighbors who were moving out into rural areas from cities.

At the moment, the law also protects people who raise chickens and other animals in their backyards.

Wendy Banka lives in Ann Arbor.  She has seven chickens with orange feathers living in a coop in her backyard.

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The Environment Report
3:33 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Study finds liver tumors in mice exposed to low levels of BPA

Bisphenol A lines the inside of most metal food and drink cans.
(Photo courtesy of Sun Ladder at Wikimedia Commons)

We’re all regularly exposed to the chemical Bisphenol A or BPA. Companies have taken it out of baby bottles, and many kinds of those hard plastic water bottles no longer have BPA in them.

But it’s still used on paper receipts and to line most food and drink cans.

Dana Dolinoy is a Searle Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“There is mounting evidence that BPA has negative health effects in both animal models and humans,” says Dolinoy.

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The Environment Report
10:54 am
Thu February 6, 2014

How emergency responders in Michigan are preparing for the next pipeline break

Workers measure pipe before cutting and removing the section from the Enbridge pipeline oil spill site near Marshall, Michigan. This photo was taken on August 6th, 2010.
EPA

There are close to 70,000 miles of underground pipelines in Michigan carrying all kinds of materials around the state – things like natural gas, refined petroleum, and crude oil.

And for the most part, we really don’t notice these pipelines. That was true in Michigan until one summer day three and half years ago when this happened:

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The Environment Report
1:42 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Researcher hunts for new medicines in the Great Lakes

Brian T. Murphy, left, and Mark Sadek, just before boarding the RV Lake Guardian for a week-long sampling mission.
Brian Murphy

Let's call today Throwback Tuesday, and go way, way back to the 1920s.

That's when Sir Alexander Fleming stumbled on a mold that stopped bacteria from growing in a petri dish. He called it penicillin.

Ever since that huge discovery, people have been looking all over the Earth for more organisms that can fight disease.

Brian Murphy has been searching at the bottom of the Great Lakes.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Farm bill likely to help preserve N. Michigan farms

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

The new farm bill should help farmland preservation efforts in northern Michigan.

The way farmland preservation works is farmers sell the right to develop their land, so it can never be divided up for houses or strip malls. The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to protect farmland, and that will continue under the new farm bill.

But the federal dollars need to be matched locally, which can be a challenge in a region where land is so valuable.

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The Environment Report
7:00 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Two stories of Michigan solar power ambitions

Jim Wolter, right, and Ed Brandel of Energy Partners LLC in Muskegon.
Courtesy Photo

First up, a Michigan man who’s trying to win millions of dollars with solar power.

He’s trying to put solar panels on as many Michigan homes and businesses as he possibly can.

Prasad Gullapalli’s Novi-based Srinergy wants you to invest in solar panels – for your home, for your business – doesn’t matter. He’s looking for anybody in Michigan to go solar.

He’s making the offer with no upfront costs.

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