energy

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new oil pipeline is going underground in Michigan.

Enbridge Energy says this new pipeline will be bigger (36 inches vs. 30 inches) - it will pump more oil to the Marathon refinery in Detroit - and they say the pipeline will be safer. (The map in the slideshow above shows where the new line is going in.)

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University’s dairy farm is helping the university cut down on its electricity bill. It may also someday help small Michigan farms meet their energy needs.

South of the East Lansing campus, MSU maintains about 180 dairy cows. The cows produce more than milk of course. Now, university researchers have something to do with all that waste.

University officials this week cut the ribbon on an anaerobic digester. The digester takes organic waste and creates methane. The methane can be used to create electricity or meet other energy needs.

Holland BPW

Michigan has a new commercial scale power plant; the first new power plant in Michigan in 25 years.

Coal is still the dominant fuel source in the state, but this plant's existence means there will be a little less coal being imported into Michigan.

At the ceremony today celebrating its opening, the Lansing Board of Water & Light sang the new "REO Town" plant's praises:

Lansing Board of Water & Light

The Lansing Board of Water & Light say this new power plant will be "the first new utility power plant built in Michigan in 25 years."

Following a national trend away from coal, this power plant will burn natural gas.

According to their press release, the municipally-owned utility expects to cut is greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to the coal-fired steam and electric units the new power plant will replace. They list other benefits as well:

- Eliminate the need to burn 351,000 tons of coal compared to the steam and electric units that the new plant will replace.

- Lower mercury and SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions by over 99 percent, and NOx (oxides of nitrogen) by over 85 percent compared to the coal-fired boilers that are now retired.

The power plant called the "REO Town plant" will be fully operational Monday.

It's part $182 million project that also includes a headquarters building and a restored Grand Trunk Western Railroad depot for the BWL Board of Commissioners meetings.

The plant is expected to generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing, replacing the Moores Park Steam Plant. It also will provide 100 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the utility's electric generation.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light offers water, electric, steam and chilled water service to more than 100,000 residential and business customers.

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It’s been written "you will know them by their fruits." And what some congregations of faith are harvesting these days is energy - saving energy, and producing energy from the sun and from the wind.

Julie Lyons Bricker is the executive director of Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that aims to get Michigan faith communities involved with promoting and implementing energy efficient practices. 

Bricker joined us in the studio today.

Listen to the full interview above.

We begin a week-long look at energy in Michigan. Today, we focused on solar energy and what it could mean for our state.

And, we turned to Lansing where some Democrats in the state House are introducing legislation to allow gay marriage in Michigan.

Also, we spoke with Charles Ballard and Rick Haglund about whether Michigan is going to make an economic comeback.

First on the show, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has issued its annual Kids Count report on the well-being of children across the nation. In Michigan, the outline is a mixed bag, but overall Michigan is last among Great Lakes states for child well-being.

There were improvements in how well kids are doing in school, some improvements in the area of the health of kids and the number who have health insurance, but in every category of economic well-being, children in Michigan are in worse shape.

Patrick McCarthy is the President and Chief Executive author of Kids Count, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In West Michigan, crews are continuing to try and figure out what caused the release of slightly radioactive water from the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwest Michigan.

The plant was shut down a little over a week ago because of the leak, and crews say they have discovered a new crack in a water tank that's been leaking on and off for at least two years.

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith joined us today to talk about

Listen to the full interview above.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced he will not run for re-election. What does this means for the city moving forward while currently under emergency management?

And we took a look at what's behind Michigan's high infant mortality rate.

And author, theologian, preacher, and social activist Jim Wallis joined us to talk about his book and The Common Good for America.

But first in the show, we got an update on the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, where crews are trying to figure out what caused the release of slightly radioactive water.

The plant was shut down a little over a week ago because of the leak, and crews say they have discovered a new crack in a water tank that has been leaking on and off for at least two years. Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith discussed the issue with us.

cford3 / Wikipedia

Burning coal in a power plant creates byproducts called fly ash and bottom ash.  That ash contains a lot of bad stuff - mercury, lead, arsenic, to name a few.

While some plants ship the dry ash to landfills that accept hazardous materials, others mix the ash with water to make a slurry, which is moved into holding ponds.

Eventually, the water in those ponds is released into the nearest waterway.

University of Michigan

Michigan Radio recently co-hosted a town hall meeting with the University of Michigan's School of Engineering on the future of horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Michigan.

We also live-tweeted the event on hashtag #fracktopia. Here's one of the more revelatory facts that came out of that discussion:

Those are gas wells. Not necessarily horizontally fractured wells. Horizontal fracturing is still in the experimental stage in Michigan. One industry representative at the meeting said "the jury is still out" on whether horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Michigan would be a good investment.

The town hall discussion featured a screening of Fracktopia, a short film about the latest techniques to recover natural gas and oil and their potential consequences. Michigan Radio's Lester Graham then led a discussion and Q-and-A session with the following panelists:

You can watch the town hall meeting in full on the U-M School of Engineering's website.

Just click on the "View On-Demand" link.

Two utilities have been given permission to build new coal-fired power plants in northern and western Michigan. The state Court of Appeals has tossed out legal challenges to their permits. But, that doesn't mean the plants will be built.

Environmental groups went to court to challenge the permits. The state Department of Environmental Quality says the utilities demonstrated there was a demand for electricity. And the agency says the proposed coal plants in Holland and Rogers City met state and federal pollution standards.

Nio_nl / Flickr

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Here’s an alternative energy source you may not think about everyday - sour milk, rejected batches of baby food, restaurant grease, hog and pig manure.

You get the picture, but when you mix all those ghastly ingredients together you can get energy.

In this segment of Stateside, we interviewed Dana Kirk from the Anaerobic Research and Education Center at Michigan State University.

He spoke with us about the prospects for being able to power your house with waste.

Callum Black / Flickr

With all the buzz around the fiscal cliff in Congress, something happened that you might’ve missed.

There’s a federal tax credit. It’s called the wind energy Production Tax Credit, and it was about to expire at the end of last year.

At the final hour, Congress extended that tax credit, and President Obama signed the bill.

It now covers wind projects that start construction in 2013.

Peter Kelley, a spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association, says the credit gives tax relief for the first ten years of a wind farm.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

Michigan Radio has been following the problems at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant for the last several years.

Our West Michigan reporter, Lindsey Smith, has been on top of all the leaks, shutdowns, public meetings and visits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Last February, after five shutdowns in one year, the NRC downgraded Palisades' safety rating. It was rated as one of the four worst in the country.

Stateside: The renewable energy question

Oct 31, 2012
Tim Wang / Flickr

Continuing our examination of the six proposals on Michigan's ballot, we turn to Proposal 3: The renewable energy question.

 Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams, host of "The Environment Report," spoke with Cyndy about how the proposal would affect the state if passed.

Listen to the segment above.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A small farming community in West Michigan is celebrating the opening of plant that will turn organic waste into electricity.

Colonies of specialized bacteria will do the bulk of the work.

“The little fellows are just hungry as heck,” said Anand Gangadharan, president of Novi Energy. The company designed and will help manage the new Fremont Community Digester. They held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the digester’s opening Tuesday.

Nuclear waste cools off in a storage pool, before being stored in dry casks. Most waste is stored on-site at nuclear power plants around the country.
NRC

Nuclear waste is the 800 lb gorilla for the nuclear power industry.

Where do you stash waste that can have a half-life of tens of thousands of years?

The federal government has been trying to figure out a long term nuclear waste plan for decades. Yucca Mountain in Nevada was to be the site, but that plan was defunded by the Obama Administration in 2010.

Without a long-term solution, nuclear waste is typically stored on-site at nuclear power plants around the nation.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has begun a special inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan.

The inspectors will be following up on two incidents in 2011 that caused the plant's safety rating to be downgraded, making it among the nation's poorest performing nuclear plants.

One problem was an electrical fault that caused a reactor shutdown and the other was failure of a water pump that cools safety equipment.

NRC spokeswoman Prema Chandrathil said Monday the eight-member inspector team began work Monday and will remain at Palisades for about two weeks. They'll be determining whether problem areas have been fixed and examining the plant's safety culture.

Afterward, they'll prepare a report that will determine whether Palisades' rating will go up, down or stay the same.

Great blue heron covered in oil from the 2010 Enbridge oil spill near Marshall, Michigan.
Michigan's oil response Flickr page / State of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Transportation has closed its pollution case against the owner of a pipeline that ruptured in 2010, spewing oil into the Kalamazoo River.

Federal regulators say Enbridge paid a $3.7 million fine to the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) last month.

The company is responsible for the largest inland, freshwater oil spill in U.S. history.

user vaxomatic / flickr

The campaigns for and against Proposal 3 on the November ballot are arguing the economic merits of renewable fuels versus coal and gas.

Proposal 3 would require 25 percent of the state’s electricity be generated using wind, the sun, or bio-fuels by 2025.

Ken Sikkema conducted a study for the campaign against Proposal 3.

He compared the costs of renewable generation to the costs of using coal or natural gas.

He found renewable energy will be more expensive. Sikkema says businesses, in particular, need flexibility in planning for their energy needs.

"We don’t know what the cost of fuel’s going to be – for example, natural gas prices are on a downward spiral," says Sikkema. "That could be a factor in, if you need new generation, what do you use? Do you use wind? Do you use natural gas, or coal?"

The campaign for Proposal 3 says the ballot question would help stabilize energy costs, because the cost of wind and solar energy is not as volatile as fossil fuels.

The campaign also says the 25 percent target would help make renewable energy more affordable.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A federal program that tries to get homeowners to invest in energy efficient home improvement projects is nearly over.

The program provides a detailed home energy audit for a super low price. Homeowners who want to make improvements based on the audit can take out a low interest loan.

One consultant says Holland should convert its coal plant to natural gas.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People and interest groups are expected to weigh in on the City of Holland’s long term energy plan at two public hearings tonight and Wednesday.

Angela Badran, with Holland’s Board of Public Works, says the city is trying to figure out the best way to supply residents and industry with baseload energy for the next few decades.

"It’s very complex sort of situation that we’re looking at in, how can we best fit the needs of Holland for the next 25 years," says Badran.

The biggest decision facing the city-owned utility is what to do with its aging coal plant.

An independent consultant says the city would get the best return on investment if it converts the coal plant to burn natural gas instead.

Holland is taking input on several proposed plans at this week's public hearings.

Logan Chadde / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy plans to build a bigger oil pipeline across the state. The company says, not only will it be bigger and move more oil. They say it will also be safer than the line that broke in 2010.

The Michigan Public Service Commission approved the first phase of the project last May, but some landowners have sued. They say they weren’t properly notified that the construction work could force them to give up more land. And that Enbridge could remove more trees.

Kevin Lund, a senior geologist at the MDEQ's Department of Remediation, kicks over gravel to reveal the pollution along the Huron River.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Starting today, DTE plans to bring in the heavy equipment needed for the pollution cleanup along the Huron River west of the Broadway Bridge in Ann Arbor.

Black, oily coal tar pollution has been underground for decades.

It was left behind by an old manufactured gas plant owned by the utility company. Two years ago regulators discovered the coal tar was getting into the river. Now, DTE plans to spend between $2-3 million digging it out.

user wheat_in_your_hair / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - About 8,000 DTE Energy Co. customers in Oakland County will receive credits on future bills after losing service this summer due to a substation fire.

The Detroit News reports Friday that the credits will range from $25 to $250 and show up on bills over the next several months.

Residences and businesses in Royal Oak and Berkley, north of Detroit, lost power for two days last month.

DTE Energy spokesman Len Singer says the amount of the credits will depend on the length of time customers were without electricity.

The newspaper reports that customers can seek a $25 credit if an outage lasts more than 16 hours under normal conditions or more than 120 hours under catastrophic conditions.

A news investigation found two natural gas companies might have colluded when bidding on drilling rights in Michigan. Reuters obtained e-mails exchanged between officials from Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Encana Corp. The paper says the e-mails show "that top executives of the two rivals plotted in 2010 to avoid bidding against each other in a state auction and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners." State lawmakers are pushing for resolution with an investigation.

NTSB

A report released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board shows employees in an Enbridge control center located in Edmonton, Alberta did not know they were pressurizing a ruptured oil pipeline in Michigan.

Employees in the control center felt they were dealing with false alarms due to pressure losses in the pipeline after a planned shutdown.

The pressure losses were not due to "column separation" as some thought (air and vapor pockets between slugs of oil in the pipeline). They were caused by a break in the line.

The rupture led to the spill, and the continued pumping made it worse. More than 840,000 gallons of oil spilled, according to Enbridge.

However, the EPA estimates that more than 1 million gallons of thick, tar sands oil have been removed from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River so far. The spill is still being cleaned up nearly two years later.

The NTSB estimates the pipeline ruptured around 5:58 p.m. on Sunday, July 25, 2010. Enbridge officials didn't know they had a spill on their hands for nearly 17 hours after the initial break.

In fact, employees increased the pressure in the pipeline - twice.

user vaxomatic / flickr

Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce officials said today they opposed a ballot initiative aimed at creating a new renewable electric energy standard for the state, according to MLive. The state is currently working toward a standard that calls for generating 10 percent of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

The ballot initiative seeks to bump up that mandate to 25 percent by 2025. From MLive:

Chamber officials said any changes to Michigan’s renewable energy standard should wait until the current standard has been fully evaluated in three years.

“Michigan is already on an intelligent and affordable clean energy path because of the 2008 energy law, which passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, said Chamber president and CEO Sandy K. Baruah in a statement.

The Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs campaign is still seeking to collect enough signatures to get the proposal on the November ballot.

Last week, during a segment for the Environment Report, James Clift, Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), said Michigan currently gets around 3.5 percent of its energy from renewable resources.

The MEC supports the ballot initiative. Clift said a new standard would continue the progress made after the 2015 standard is met (adding about 1.5 to 2 percent of renewable energy each year).

"The Michigan Environmental Council commissioned a report last year looking at the nine oldest coal plants in Michigan, said Clift. "That report found that Michigan residents have health care costs and damages of about $1.5 billion a year – just from those nine oldest coal plants. So, transitioning away from coal to clean more renewable energy, we hope will put a significant dent in those health costs that we are currently occurring. "

Utility companies oppose increasing the renewable electric energy standard saying such a standard should not be set by amending the state constitution, which the ballot proposal calls for.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark spoke with Brad Williams of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce about the issue:

"We’re looking at this as a protection of the constitution," said Williams. "There are legislators who can serve their full fourteen years in Lansing without having a good grasp of energy policy. And, so, to ask voters to make this decision and embed it into the constitution really isn’t fair to voters."

Logan Chadde/Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy operates the pipeline that ruptured in Marshall almost two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of thick tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.  The oil spill is still being cleaned up.

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline. It’s known as Line 6B.

Now, the company plans to replace the entire pipeline from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan. 

Enbridge Inc.

Enbridge Inc. has been replacing and repairing parts of line "6B" as part of its maintenance and rehabilitation program. The pipeline was built in 1969.

Now company officials want to replace 200 miles of the oil pipeline in Michigan.

The "6B" pipeline broke open near Marshall, Michigan in 2010 and spilled more that 840,000 gallons of thick tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. There are still pockets of thick oil at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

The 6B pipeline has been operating at reduced capacity since the spill.

Crystal Garcia of the Times Herald of Port Huron reported on Enbridge's plan today.

She writes the existing pipeline is pumping around "243,000 barrels of oil a day with the pressure restrictions." A company spokesman, Joe Martucci, said the new pipeline would produce about 500,000 barrels of oil a day.

If plans are approved, Garcia reports the existing pipeline will be taken offline and remain in place, and the new pipeline will be built about 25 feet from the existing line.

Replacing the pipeline will be done in two phases, Martucci said.

Part of the first phase — which includes two five-mile segments east of pumping stations near Griffith and LaPorte, Ind. and three five-mile segments east of Niles, Mendon and Marshall — already has been approved. The other part of the first phase — a 50-mile segment between Stockbridge and Ortonville — is near approval. Work on the first phase will be done this year, Martucci said...

Phase two includes 210 miles of pipeline from Griffith, Ind. to Marysville that was not replaced during phase one. A preliminary hearing for the phase two proposal will be at 9 a.m. June 6 in Lansing

The Times Herald reports if the plans are approved, most of the construction work would be done in 2013.

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