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Environment & Science

screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, has introduced a bill that could force Enbridge Energy to replace its aging pipeline under the straits of Mackinac.   The so-called Great Lakes Oil Spill Prevention Act would require strict maintenance of any oil pipeline in the Great Lakes -- which means Enbridge's controversial Line 5.  The act would require pipeline operators to submit status reports regularly, and immediately report problems, to PHMSA, the federal pipeline safety agency, and requires that agency to keep the state informed as well.  The act also has a provision to requrie the replacement of pipeline materials over 50 years old.  ine 5 was built in 1953, so it is 64 years old now. 

wind turbine
Courtesy Consumers Energy

DTE Energy plans to move out of the state's reliably windy Thumb region for its next wind farm.

The utility has signed up 120 landowners so far in Branch County, which is in the middle of the state near the Indiana border.

Matt Wagner is manager of renewable energy development for DTE.

He says wind in Branch County can produce electricity about 37 percent of the time, as opposed to roughly 43 percent of the time in the Thumb.

But today's bigger engines and bigger blades can make up the difference.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Livingston County's Hamburg Township is expected to be swarming with meteorite hunters this weekend.

People have found more than a half-dozen suspected fragments from a meteor that streaked through the night sky early this week.

Stateside 1.18.2018

Jan 18, 2018

Today on Stateside, we check in on the sentencing hearing for former sports doctor Larry Nassar, and a PFAS expert answers basic questions about the chemicals. Also today, an inventor explains how he turned satellite dishes into wind turbines that help irrigate crops and charge phones.

Courtesy of Mike Hankey / American Meteor Society

After Michigan's meteor show Tuesday night, the hunt was on to find fragments.

Meteorite hunters Larry Atkins and Robert Ward flew here from Arizona in hopes of finding a piece, and today they were successful. They located several meteorites on a frozen lake near Hamburg, Michigan.

glass of water
Enid Martindale / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 

 

PFAS is an acronym for a group of industrial chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. 

They've been used since the '50s, in everything from firefighting foam to fast-food paper wrappers to stain-resistant textiles and carpeting, waterproof shoes and boots, non-stick pots and pans, and more.

Ross and Donna Tingley
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

At least 14 communities in Michigan have water contaminated with a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

One of those sites, in West Michigan, has gotten a lot of attention recently. This month, the state abruptly announced a cleanup standard for PFAS.

But these chemicals have been a pollution problem in the state for years.

In Oscoda, some residents are wondering why remediation is taking so long.

Stateside 1.17.2018

Jan 17, 2018

Today on Stateside, a meteorite hunter explains just what caused that bright flash of light in Tuesday night's sky. And, we learn how Muskegon "snurfers" plowed the way for snowboarding's popularity. We also discuss whether a sandhill crane hunt is coming to Michigan soon, and we hear why Michigan Radio's sports commentator John U. Bacon calls MSU President Simon's appearance in court today little more than "political expediency."

Courtesy of Elizabeth LaPensée

The name “America” was drawn from the first name of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who died in 1512. But the first inhabitants of what we now call “North America” call it "Turtle Island."

A new video game called Thunderbird Strike lets players protect Turtle Island, particularly from the oil industry.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Copperwood Resources, a subsidiary of Highland Copper, has entered into a legal settlement with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over part of its exploratory drilling operation at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

The agreement concerns environmental damage from the mining company's test drilling last spring along a county road right-of-way (233 feet on each side of the road) at the park.

Donna Dewhurst / USFWS

A new study in the journal Science finds there are genetic differences in yellow warblers that live in different parts of the U.S. and Canada, and some of those populations seem to be more genetically vulnerable to climate change than others.

Rachael Bay is the lead author of the study, at the University of California-Davis.

“We did some genome sequencing and we found a bunch of genes that seem to be associated with whether yellow warblers live in warmer or drier or hotter or colder areas," she says.

Lake Superior
Helena Jacoba / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

More than three centuries of thriving marine commerce and those notorious storms in the Great Lakes have given Michigan a wealth of historic shipwrecks. There are nearly a thousand on the bottomlands of the state's 13 designated underwater preserves alone. But Michigan's mostly volunteer system of protecting the shipwrecks is showing signs of trouble. 

Ryan Utz / Chatham University

There’s too much salt getting into our rivers and streams.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds over the past 50 years, freshwater systems across the country have become saltier, and that can cause problems for people, wildlife and our infrastructure.

TROUT UNLIMITED

Michigan has set new cleanup rules for chemicals that have contaminated drinking water sources all around the state. The chemicals in question are per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

They were used in firefighting foam and in a wide range of products, from fast-food paper wrappers to textiles and carpeting, pesticides, printing inks, and more. They have since been linked to some cancers and other health problems.

FLICKR USER USFWS MIDWEST / FLICKR / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Scientists might have found a new way to combat white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a fungus killing millions of bats in the U.S. and Canada.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI.
From Goole map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

Residents in Kent County might have to wait a bit longer before they know all of the health effects of the chemicals in their groundwater.

A study about the effects of PFAS exposure is being delayed while Kent County officials get help from federal health experts.

Tiny satellites present big opportunity for UP startup

Jan 4, 2018
TACOPHISH05 / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

The Next Idea

Innovation centers can come in all shapes, sizes, and locations.

That's the message from Orbion Space Technology, a recent grand prize winner in this year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

Ben Abbott / Courtesy MSU

Streams can tell us a lot about the health of an ecosystem. But some researchers say we can do a better job of paying attention to those streams.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

Getting exposed every day to certain kinds of air pollution can lead to a higher risk of premature death if you’re over 65.

That's the finding of a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Francesca Dominici is a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and an author of the study.

REBECCA WILLIAMS / MICHIGAN RADIO

There are about 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes. About 30 of them have year-round residents – people who stick it out through the long winter.

Now, Great Lakes islanders are banding together.

School plane
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

There are about 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes. Most are uninhabited. But for those who live year-round on about 30 of them, it can be an isolating experience. Now, Great Lakes islanders are getting together to tackle some of the problems they have in common.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Since Michigan is the Great Lakes State, it's no surprise that environmental reporting continues to be relevant year after year, and 2017 was no different.

Here are some of the biggest environmental stories from the year:

LITTLE TRAVERSE BAY BANDS OF ODAWA INDIANS

Wildlife specialists will soon be in the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, tracking wolves. 

The Department of Natural Resources last conducted a wolf census in 2016, when it estimated more than 600 wolves prowled in the U.P.

The DNR's Kevin Swanson says they don't know what to expect. But he says conditions may be right for an increase in the wolf population. 

"We have a lot more deer on the landscape now," says Swanson. 

But Swanson says there are other factors, like canine distemper, that could negatively affect the wolf population. 

tuchodl / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Two additional firearm deer hunts are planned for January 4-7 and 11-14 in portions of Ionia and Montcalm counties, according to an announcement of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The goal of the extra hunts is to help with monitoring chronic wasting disease that has been found in some deer in these counties.

Participants in the hunt will be required to turn in the heads of the deer they kill for testing. 

The DNR advises not to eat the deer until test results are back.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A new study may ease some of the concern among Flint parents about the future of their children exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water. 

Flint children who've tested with high blood lead levels from their drinking water may experience learning problems as they age. Some scientific research, in particular a 2008 University of Cincinnati study, suggests the children may also be prone to criminal behavior later in life. 

However, new research refutes that. 

pine grosbeak in tree with berries
Don Henise / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As the rest of us are snuggled up with hot cocoa this holiday season, Michigan birders have been heading out in the snow and cold for the annual Christmas bird count.

"The first Christmas bird count actually did happen on Christmas back in 1900,” says Rachelle Roake, conservation science coordinator for Michigan Audubon.

snowy owl being released
David Kenyon / Michigan DNR

Snowy owls have descended on the Great Lakes region and northeastern U.S. in huge numbers in recent weeks, to the delight of birdwatchers.

The mass migration we’re seeing this winter is what’s known as an irruption.

"For snowies, that's usually largely influenced by whether or not they had a really good breeding year,” said Rachelle Roake, a conservation scientist at Michigan Audubon.

And snowy owl breeding is influenced by how much food those snowy owls have access to during the breeding season.

Rogue River
Trout Unlimited

More Kent County residents will have their private wells tested for toxic chemicals after the state expanded its testing zone this week.

Wolverine Worldwide manufactures shoes for brands like Hush Puppies and Merrell. The company is believed to be the source of the groundwater contamination.

Cheyna Roth / Michigan Public Radio Network

The call to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 continues.

That’s the pipeline that carries oil and natural gas liquid under the Straits of Mackinac.

Protestors gathered outside the State Capitol today. They marched to the governor’s office and Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office. Once there, they delivered over 25,000 comments calling for the line to be shut down.

Should we ever leave invasives alone?

Dec 21, 2017
Rebecca Thiele

Invasive plants and animals are an expensive problem in the United States.

Federal agencies spent more than $104 million last year to control them. But a study on the garlic mustard plant shows that it might be better to leave some invasives alone. 

Garlic mustard is a forest plant with heart-like leaves and clusters of white flowers. It can grow up to about four feet tall and is often the first green plant you’ll see in the spring.

Europeans settlers brought it to the United States in the 1800s as an herb for cooking. It was also used to treat ulcers and gangrene.

Paul Vugteveen, a chef in Battle Creek, uses the plant in his cooking. He says it has a garlicky, oniony flavor and is best served raw. 

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