WUOMFM

Environment & Science

Drilling permits at 89-year low in Michigan

Dec 20, 2016
Sam Corden / Interlochen Public Radio

2016 will soon close as the second slowest year in history for Michigan oil and gas development. State officials say so far, only 12 oil wells have been drilled, and six of those have been dry.

Data from the state show that last year, only 100 permits were issued for well drilling. That’s the lowest number since 1927. This year, that number’s plummeted to a mere 40.

A lot of factors are at play, including a growing market for alternative energy. But experts say the decline can be mostly attributed to an over-saturated global market.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The sub-zero temperatures across the state of Michigan this morning do not mean that global warming isn't real. 

Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology for Weather Underground, is explaining this a lot these days.  He says the long-term trend is clearly a warming planet.  But global warming doesn't mean 'no more winter.'

"The earth is still tilted on its axis," says Masters, "which means we get unequal heating of the poles, and that causes the seasons, and the seasons haven't gone away.  We still expect cold weather, just less of it."

The Great Lakes from space in April 2003.
NASA

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A U.S.-Canadian agency is considering additional ways to measure the safety of Great Lakes water for drinking and activities such as swimming and fishing.

The proposals were developed by researchers with the International Joint Commission, which advises both nations on issues involving shared waterways.

Scientists who advise the commission say assuring good water quality in the Great Lakes will require accurate measurements of not just treated drinking water, but also the sources of that water.

Map shows the extent of the underground 1,4 dioxane plume under Ann Arbor.
SCIO RESIDENTS FOR SAFE WATER

A lawsuit to force a cleanup of Ann Arbor's contaminated water appears to have set a new precedent. The judge allowed a watershed advocacy group to become one of the plaintiffs. That's despite both the polluter and the state attorney general arguing against it.

The Huron River Watershed Council says no one in the lawsuit was advocating for the river itself, including aquatic life and the risk to people swimming, fishing and boating.

Dana and Charles Banks in front of their Flint home, shortly before they sold it..
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A year ago, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency in the city. Now, officials say the water is improving, but it’s still not safe to drink without a filter.

The water crisis has forced some people to make tough choices.

Dana Banks and her husband Charles were both born and raised in Flint, and they still have a lot of family here. Their church is here. Their house, right near downtown, is the first home they bought together.

Gray wolf
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians

Wolves are on the federal endangered species list. If they are ever taken off the list, the legislation would allow them to be hunted. 

Two years ago, voters rejected wolf hunting in a statewide referendum. Another effort to allow wolf hunting was struck down in court.

Flickr user/United Nations Photo / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Word came down recently that Shell — the second-largest oil company in the world — has announced that it will link top executive bonuses to progress being made on managing greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, if they don’t hit targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they’ll get hit in the wallet.

It’s yet another example of business — in this case, a mammoth oil company — recognizing that its long-term survival depends on its ability to reduce the environmental impact of what it’s producing.

Kate Langwig and her team have found evidence that some bats may be developing resistance to the deadly disease.
Jennifer Redel

There’s some hopeful news about a disease that’s killing bats.

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 29 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

But there might be a glimmer of hope. Researchers have found some bats in the U.S. appear to have developed resistance to the disease.

A bioretention garden on Evergreen Avenue in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood.
Dave Brenner

The Next Idea

My work in ecological design leads me to think about how the billions of dollars that governments must invest to replace and repair infrastructure can achieve more for American cities. Over the past several years I’ve focused my work on Detroit. Many cities, including Detroit, have some pipes more than a century old moving wastewater, stormwater, or drinking water underground. A handful of cities with industrial legacies, like Detroit, also have thousands of abandoned structures awaiting demolition. When a road is rebuilt, new pipes are laid, or when a building is demolished, I see the possibility of achieving many different, complementary benefits for residents and the environment at the same time.

Device generates energy from movement

Dec 9, 2016
Smart phone
Johan Larsson / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A new device developed by researchers from Michigan State University may soon be available for development of wearable devices that harvest energy from walking, touching, or other human motions. The film-like device produces an electrical potential when moved. The researchers showed that it can power an LCD screen, a bank of 20 LED lights, and a keyboard. 

graph
MDEQ

New tests show lead levels in Flints water are back within federal standards.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the new data shows more than 96% of the samples are at or below the 15 parts per billion (ppb) federal lead action level. It’s the sixth round of sentinel testing that has produced results within the federal lead action level.

The MDEQ’s results come after new independent testing by researchers from Virginia Tech University, which also showed improvement in Flint’s lead tainted tap water.

snow covered graveyard
Sarah Courbet / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

A recent court case in London has been raising the profile of the cryonics industry in general. But it has brought special attention to the Clinton-township based Cryonics Institute. At dispute in the court case were the rights of a terminally-ill 14-year-old British girl who wanted to have her body frozen upon death.

Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

Wolf hunting is back on the agenda for Michigan’s legislature. The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would legalize wolf hunting in Michigan, if the animal is taken off the federal endangered species list.

Similar legislation was struck down by voters in the past. But Senator Tom Casperson said those statewide votes don’t really reflect the needs of those dealing with wolves in their backyard.

Caviar, climate change and a Great Lakes fish

Dec 6, 2016
Lake herring
Peter Payette

Scientists have been worried about the herring population in Lake Superior recently. In fact, last year they warned it might collapse.

Lake Superior is the only one of the Great Lakes with a large population of this native fish.

This fall, new rules protecting herring took effect in Wisconsin and Minnesota and things appear more stable.

But there may still be a big problem lying beneath the surface.

Zhu “Joyce” Ni, Min Tang, Pan Ji, Mariah Gnegy / Virginia Tech

Researchers from Virginia Tech announced the results of their fourth round of water testing in Flint today.

The tests show that lead levels continue to drop, that water disinfection by-products in the water are normal, and that the drinking water in the city continues to improve.

“We’re now approaching the end of the public health crisis,” said Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech University.

Edwards says even with the improvements, citizens in Flint should still be protecting themselves.

Asbestos sign
Michael Coghlan / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Environmental Protection Agency just put out a list of ten high priority chemicals.

These are the first chemicals the agency will review for risks to human health and the environment under a new law that Congress passed this summer.

Courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / Flickr Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The International Joint Commission (IJC) says the U.S. and Canada should create a strategy to reduce toxic chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the Great Lakes. This comes from a new IJC report released Wednesday.

"The PBDEs polluting our Great Lakes are toxic substances of great concern," says the Canadian Section's IJC chair Gordon Walker in a press release

Courtesy of Doug Darling

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump said that he would rescind the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which outlines what kinds of water bodies are federally protected.

Environmentalists say the rule is necessary to safeguard our ecosystems and drinking water.

But many in the agriculture industry don’t like the rule—they say it’s an over-reach, and they’re worried it will give the federal government more say over what they can (and can’t) do on their fields.

wikimedia commons

It's going to take more time and work than originally expected to fix a methane problem at an old Kent County landfill. 

In August, county officials discovered during routine tests that the methane from a landfill next door to the Kentwood City Office Building was migrating outside its perimeter.

Methane is a flammable gas created by the decomposition of organic matter.

Director of Public Works Darwin Baas says the subsequent investigation revealed a surprising amount of methane being produced.

prettyemmy / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Spend time on Black Friday in the great outdoors - not just in stores. 

That's the message of the #OptOutside campaign started last year by the outdoor recreation retailer, REI, and supported by Michigan's Department of Natural Resources and hundreds of agencies across the U.S.

This year the Michigan DNR will waive park entry fees to all 103 state parks and recreation areas on the day after Thanksgiving. 

According to Maia Turek of the DNR, the agency does not get general tax dollars to support Michigan's parks.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Congressman Dan Kildee wants the Air Force to do more to help Oscoda residents whose groundwater is contaminated by perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs. The Wurtsmith Air Force Base used firefighting foams containing PFCs on its property in Oscoda for decades. The base is now closed.

Kildee sent a letter to the Air Force this week, outlining a long list of concerns.

When it is complete, Afterhouse will support the cultivation of crops such as figs and pomegranates.
Steven Mankouche

The Next Idea

It wasn’t too long ago that the house located at 3347 Burnside St. in northeast Detroit was a true eyesore.

Long since abandoned, it had been damaged beyond repair by fire and vandalism. There were boards over the windows and spray-paint on the walls—all the telltale signs of the kind of blight that has afflicted neighborhoods throughout Detroit.

The DeYoung Power Plant in Holland.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This year is likely to be the hottest on record. Scientists with the World Meteorological Organization announced that recently, as world leaders met in Morocco to talk about limiting the impacts of climate change.

President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, and he’s said he’ll withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Andy Hoffman is a professor with the Ross School of Business and education director for the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan.

He says we don’t really know what the president-elect’s climate policy will look like.

Courtesy http://underclassrising.net/ / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A 14-year old London girl’s remains are being preserved in Michigan with the hope that she’ll be brought back to life, Mike Householder with The Associated Press reports.

She’s doing so through Cryonics: a technique where legally-dead people are cooled with liquid nitrogen to the extent that physical decay essentially stops, according to the cryonics institute.

More from Householder:

On Stateside today, we learn how the recent discovery of a potential dwarf planet could lead astronomers to the evasive Planet Nine. We also hear an expert's take on the possible effects to come if President-elect Trump pulls back on efforts to reduce climate change.

Gerdes likened finding DeeDee and objects like it to looking for a really small needle in a very, very large haystack.
flickr user Eurpoean Southern Observatory / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


We're learning a lot about our tiny corner of the cosmos these days. That's thanks to improving technology and the increasing number of probes we're sending into the solar system.

But as much as we learned so far, there’s still a lot about space that we don't know.

Recently, researchers have been trying to track down a theoretical Planet Nine. (That's the title formerly held by Pluto. Sorry, Pluto.)

University of Michigan astronomers recently came across a planetary surprise that might get us closer to that discovery. And it turns out Pluto might have a friend out there after all.

Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography

Animals, get your best pose ready. 

The University of Michigan is snapping pictures of wild animals in an effort to document how populations of meat-eating animals vary across terrain, according to a press release.

Photographs are being taken in three areas: The U-M Biological Station, the upper peninsula and a wildlife refuge near Saginaw.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

New test results show lead levels in Kalamazoo’s water system have dropped.

The federal limit for lead in water is 15 parts per billion. Last time the city tested, in 2014, Kalamazoo’s lead level was 13 parts per billion. Now it's down to 4 ppb.

13 ppb was close enough to worry Shannan Deater, Kalamazoo’s Environmental Services Programs Manager. She says some of the higher lead results in 2014 weren’t really a good, representative sample. 

Animal bones found in the Saints Rest privy.
Courtesy of Autumn Byers

Archeology is not just about digging into prehistory, coming up with arrowheads, pottery shards and mastodon bones.

It can also give us a window into the not-too-distant past.

Say, the campus of Michigan State University in the mid-1800s.

That’s what Autumn Beyer is doing in her work with the MSU Campus Archeology Program. She’s studying what students and professors ate in the early days at Michigan State and how they got that food.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

President-elect Donald Trump has called global warming "a very expensive hoax," despite agreement among the vast majority of climate scientists that climate change is happening now and is mainly human-caused. Trump has also put climate change skeptic Myron Ebell in charge of his EPA transition team.

Pages