Environment & Science

Environment & Science
11:30 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Sandy's arms and wind reaching out to mid-Michigan

Sandy's current location.
NOAA

Update, October 31, 11:30 a.m.

Hurricane Sandy's winds have weakened but its effects linger.

About 40,000 of DTE's customers were without power Wednesday morning, the utility reports. The company expects to have power back to 90 percent of their customers by the end of the day.

CMS Energy says about 600 of its customers remain without power.

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Environment & Science
4:11 pm
Tue October 30, 2012

Scammers follow in the wake of Hurricane

Hurricane Sandy may be creating new business for scam artists.

Websites and phone solicitors can mimic legitimate charities that change where the donations are sent.

In the wake of Hurricanes, scammers try to snare people with claims that sound great like “all proceeds go to the charity.”  Or they'll set up what appear to be legitimate Email and websites asking for contributions to help victims, but that actually go directly into their pockets.

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Environment & Science
10:39 am
Mon October 29, 2012

Michigan utilities preparing for Hurricane Sandy

Michigan utilities are making their own preparations for Hurricane Sandy.

The storm is expected to strike the East Coast later today, but the hurricane's outer bands are being felt as far west as Michigan.

“Well, right now we’re monitoring the storm….and seeing how it might impact our southeast Michigan service area,” says Scott Simon, a DE Energy spokesman.

DTE has already freed up about a hundred contract linemen to help restore electric power in the Mid-Atlantic States that are expected to take the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.

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Environment & Science
8:58 am
Mon October 29, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff & MSU's FRIB project

Congress is expected to tackle the ‘fiscal cliff’ after next month’s election.

The “fiscal cliff’s” combination of programmed tax increases and spending cuts have many people concerned, including officials at Michigan State University.

The federal government is supposed to pick up most of the cost of MSU’s new nuclear physics research lab known as the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. FRIB is expected to cost more than 600 million dollars.

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Environment & Science
6:45 pm
Sun October 28, 2012

Tracking Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the east coast. You can track the storm with WNYC's map:

Food
3:29 pm
Sun October 28, 2012

A year of eating an indigenous diet

Eating a native diet
Credit NMU Center for Native American Studies

Imagine eating the same foods that Native Americans in the Great Lakes region ate before European settlers arrived. That’s the idea behind a one-year study at Northern Michigan University.

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Environment & Science
5:50 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Worried about fracking, citizens group sues the DNR

Steve Losher lives in Barry county, and he's worried. So worried, he and the rest of the citizens in the non-profit group called the Michigan Land Air Water Defense are suing the state. 

They're upset about what they believe could happen once the Department of Natural Resources auctions off the mineral rights to gaming areas in Barry and Allagen counties. It's a totally typical auction - the DNR does this kind of thing twice a year since about 1920. 

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Environment & Science
2:44 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

New study looks at cancer risk near nuclear facilities, including one in Michigan

The Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant in Charlevoix, Michigan. The plant was decommissioned in 1997.
NRC

A new federal study will look at cancer risk around nuclear facilities.

The National Academy of Sciences study will look at cancer types in infants and the general population near six nuclear power plants and one nuclear-fuel plant for the Navy.

The sites being studied are in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Tennessee.

Researchers will look at the area around the decommissioned Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant in Charlevoix, Michigan.

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Environment & Science
4:06 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Stateside: A fungus threatening Michigan's bats

Michigan bats are at risk of being infected by white-nose syndrome.
By Jim Conrad [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a disruption in our caves. Hibernating bats across the United States are suffering from white-nose syndrome. Named after the white fungus that grows on bats’ muzzles, the disease has killed millions of bats across North America.

Allen Kurta, a biology professor at Eastern Michigan University, spoke with Stateside’s Cyndy Canty about the future of Michigan’s bat population.

“We are dealing with a disease that is potentially going to wipe out numerous species of bats,” said Kurta.

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Environment & Science
7:00 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Radiation gone, but contamination cleanup at Harbor Shores golf course continues

Tonight the Environmental Protection Agency will host a public meeting in Benton Harbor. The federal agency wants to update the community on its efforts to clean up a 17 acre site that’s now part of the Harbor Shores golf course.

Nefertiti DiCosmo is the remedial project manager of the site, known as the former Aircraft Components site, for the EPA. She says they want to get public feedback and provide an update on the EPA’s work.

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Energy
3:41 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Unresolved issues remain but “no significant findings” in August leak at Palisades plant

A photo of the control rod drive mechanism that cracked, causing a leak and subsequent shut down of Palisades in August.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Operators of the Palisades nuclear power plant did not do anything wrong during a water leak that shut the plant down in August. At least nothing that resulted in any “significant findings” according to a report recently released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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Environment & Science
3:28 pm
Sat October 20, 2012

Mount Clemens wins contest for best water

H20
Flickr user Carol VanHook

Mount Clemens in southeastern Michigan has been honored for the best drinking water.

The Macomb Daily says Mount Clemens recently received the nod from the Michigan branch of the American Water Works Association. The competition was conducted by a state engineer, and three judges graded the city's water and others on clarity, taste and odor.

Mount Clemens water comes from Lake St. Clair. The city has its own water department and doesn't rely on Detroit, a major supplier of water to the suburbs.

2:10 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

A lunker is landed, new record set

Lead in text: 
He doesn't look all that thrilled, but he did fight this thing for two hours, so maybe he's a little tired.
At 58 pounds and 59 inches, a new state-record Great Lakes muskellunge was caught by a Portage man on Antrim County's Lake Bellaire last Saturday, the Department of Natural Resources announced today. Joseph Seeberger was fishing for bass with a minnow when the big muskie bit.
Environment & Science
1:18 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Report: Oil pipeline plans put Michigan vacation destination at risk

The Straits of Mackinac
GoogleEarth image

A national environmental group says plans to expand an oil pipeline near Mackinac Island presents a serious ecological threat.

The National Wildlife Federation opposes Enbridge Energy’s plans to expand the nearly 60 year old pipeline that passes through the Straits of Mackinac.

Beth Wallace, with the National Wildlife Federation, said the age of the pipeline, the Straits of Mackinac's dangerous currents, and a lack of safety equipment close by threatens to put the vacation destination at risk of a major spill.

"With Enbridge’s estimates and average current speeds for the Straits, we believe oil could spread to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island in the three hours it would take them to respond," said Wallace.

"If six hours passed, oil could spread to Wilderness State Park. Twelve hours, and oil could be all the way to Cheboygan [Michigan],” said Wallace,  “and the damage from a spill, without a doubt, would be devastating."

It took Enbridge 17 hours to realize it had a broken pipeline near Marshall, Michigan in 2010.   

That spill released more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil. The cleanup of Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River has cost close to a billion dollars.

There is still oil in the river.

An Enbridge spokesman says the Calgary-based oil company is reviewing the National Wildlife Federation's report.

Jeannie Layson, PHMSA's Director for Governmental, International, and Public Affairs, issued a written statement on the NWF report:

Pipeline safety is a top priority at PHMSA, and we hold pipeline operators accountable when they violate federal requirements. For example, Enbridge just paid thehighest civil penalty in the agency’s history for the Marshall, Michigan spill. In addition, PHMSA executed a consent agreement which imposed morestringent safety requirements for the entire Lakehead System, including Line 5.

Pipeline safety requires a combination of enforcement, information sharing and transparency and public education. PHMSA  created  the Stakeholder Communications website to provide the public comprehensive, searchable information on the safety records of pipeline companies, such as incident rates and PHMSA’s oversight actions and enforcement activities including fines, warnings, and violations. Additional information on pipeline operators in Michigan can be found on our Michigan State Pipeline Safety Profilepage.

Environment & Science
1:54 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Agencies begin new search for Asian carp near Lake Michigan

Silver carp leaping out of a river.
glfc.org

Crews will begin an intensive search for Asian carp in the Chicago area tomorrow after finding more DNA evidence of the fish in waterways close to Lake Michigan.  Officials found the genetic material above a system of electric barriers that are intended to keep carp out of Lake Michigan.

Chris McCloud is with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He says crews will go out this week on the North Shore Channel and an area of the Chicago River and look for carp.

"We are very confident that if there are Asian carp present in the Chicago Area Waterway System, that they are in very, very low numbers."

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Environment & Science
1:09 pm
Fri October 12, 2012

Proposal 3: 25 x '25 would amend Michigan's Constitution to increase use of renewables

cwwycoff1 flickr

This is a story I produced for NPR's Morning Edition.  Editors were interested in Proposal 3 in Michigan because, if it passes, it would be the first time a state constitution would be amended for a Renewable Portfolio Standard. We'll be looking at this proposal in more detail in future reports.

There are business effects to some of the more than 170 statewide ballot measures to be decided in next month's elections. In California, voters will determine if labels should be required on genetically-modified food. People in Arkansas will vote whether to increase taxes for highways and bridges. And one measure in Michigan is capturing attention - whether the state constitution should be amended to change how utilities get their electricity.

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Energy
5:09 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Fremont digester turning food scraps into electricity, fertilizer and compost

Bacteria insode the Fremont Community Digester will turn organic waste into energy, compost and liquid fertilizer.
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.

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Energy
2:01 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Chair of House Energy and Commerce Committee suggests cutting subsidies for oil and gas companies

Congressman Fred Upton
Republican Conference Creative Commons

Congressman Fred Upton says he’s in favor of getting rid of federal subsidies for the oil and gas industry.

He made the comments during a debate last Monday night in Kalamazoo. The debate was hosted by The Kalamazoo Gazette/Mlive.com and public radio station WMUK. You can hear the entire debate on their website.

During a discussion about renewable energy, Upton said the country “doesn’t need tax subsidies” for any energy companies.

Upton railed against President Obama’s investment in failed solar panel company Solyndra.

“We don’t need subsidies like this, particularly when the taxpayer losses every dime in their pocket. So I’m for putting all of these on an even footing. Let’s look at the oil and gas subsidies. Let’s taken them away. Let’s let them compete just like everyone else at the same level. We can do that with the tax code to take those special provisions away,” Upton said.

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Energy
1:57 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Palisades sues federal government over lack of waste storage

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.

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Environment & Science
2:36 pm
Sun October 7, 2012

Grant program to help fix or remove aging dams in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering grants to help maintain or remove aging dams.

The $2.3 million program will provide funding and technical assistance to state agencies, local governments, nonprofits and other applicants.

DNR Director Keith Creagh says more than 90 percent of Michigan's dams will reach or exceed the lifespan for which they were designed by 2020. Most were built decades ago for power generation, transporting logs, recreation or other purposes.

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