Environment & Science

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.

Environment & Science
3:58 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

EPA tells Enbridge more clean up is needed on the Kalamazoo River

Crews use "stingers" to pump water into the sediment and flush oil to the surface.
EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told Canadian energy company Enbridge today that more work is needed to clean up the Kalamazoo River.

The cleanup is part of an ongoing effort to remove oil from the river after a pipeline ruptured in 2010, resulting in the largest inland, freshwater oil spill in U.S. history.

Federal regulators specified that further action is needed upstream of Ceresco Dam, upstream of the Battle Creek Dam, and in the delta upstream of Morrow Lake.

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Environment & Science
11:26 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

New report: "25 x '25" ballot proposal would have negligible effects on utility rates

wikimedia commons

A ballot proposal to increase Michigan’s renewable energy usage wouldn't have a big impact on utility rates, according to a new report commissioned by supporters of Proposal 3.

That "25 x '25" measure would require amend the state constitution to require Michigan to generate 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

The Michigan Environmental Council sponsored the report, performed by independent analysts Martin Cohen and George Sansoucy.

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Environment & Science
3:14 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

High concentration of PCBs found in River Raisin

Dredging on the River Raisin. A mechanical dredge removing material on July 11, 2012.
USEPA

High levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been uncovered during a cleanup in the River Raisin, reports Charles Slat of the Monroe News:

Readings upwards of 10,000 parts per billion — some of the highest levels initially found during a 2007 partial clean-up at the site — also have been found during the recent dredging.

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The Environment Report
8:52 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Regulators see “no indications of bad practice” leading to Palisades leak; final review pending

NRC.gov

The federal agency that regulates nuclear power plants released more information on Monday about a leak over the summer at the Palisades plant near South Haven. The plant has one of the worst safety ratings in the US after a number of problems last year.

There have been at least three water leaks at Palisades in the past several months.

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Environment & Science
2:27 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

Michigan bow season springs into action today

Michigan's archery season began this morning.
Charles Dawley flickr

Michigan’s deer season has officially begun.

Thousands of archers took to the woods this morning to mark the start of bow season, which runs through November 14, then resumes from December 1 – January 1.

According to a state report, over 300,000 archers participated during last year’s ten week season.

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Energy
10:52 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Inspector discovers new water leak at Palisades nuclear plant

Lake Michigan viewed from the Palisades plant. The latest leak is from the system that uses Lake Michigan water to cool equipment. The leaking valve is in one of the secondary buildings at the location.
Mark Savage Entergy

Documents released this week show a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector based at Palisades discovered the leak during a routine inspection on September 20th.  

Palisades is under more scrutiny this year after a series of problems earned it one of the worst safety ratings in the country. This is at least the third water leak (depending on exactly how you tally them) at the nuclear plant this year. You can find more details about the first leak from a large water tank above the control room here, and the second water leak from the actual reactor here.

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Energy
12:36 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

TIMELINE: Problems at Palisades, 7 shutdowns in last 2 years

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 and visits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

There's been so much news of late, it can get a little confusing.

To clear up what's been happening at Michigan's oldest operating nuclear power plant, we created this timeline.

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energy
8:20 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Research buoy shows offshore winds average at least 22 mph in middle of Lake Michigan

The wind buoy sits on a pier in Muskegon before it first launched back in October 2011.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Wind speed in the middle of Lake Michigan appears to be some of the best in the state for developing wind energy. That’s according to preliminary data from a high-tech research buoy that’s been anchored there all summer.

It’s pretty common knowledge that it’s windy out here off the Lake Michigan shore. But exactly how windy, and when, and what direction, details about bats and birds; none of that information has been available until now.

“I suspect that will ramp up some levels of interest in what we’re doing,” said Arn Boezaart.

Boezaart heads the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center that’s operating the buoy. He revealed the preliminary data at the center’s annual business meeting Monday afternoon.

“I think we’re demonstrating that we now have the ability to go out onto the Great Lakes and do a very credible and scientifically relevant job of measuring wind speeds, wind capacity that others can use to make whatever decisions they might,” Boezaart said.

Early data show the average offshore wind speed is at least 22 miles an hour. Wind farms have been built on land in Michigan where wind speeds average around 17 miles an hour.

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Environment & Science
3:48 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

States to cut way back on Lake Michigan Chinook stocking

A male Chinook salmon in spawning phase.
USGS

Lake Michigan's Chinook salmon are doing so well that Michigan and other states and tribes in the region have decided to sharply reduce stocking rates of the popular game fish.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Monday that it will cut its annual Chinook stocking in the lake by two-thirds, from 1.67 million to 560,000. The change begins in spring 2013.

The MDNR says because the fish are reproducing naturally in significant numbers in Michigan, the state "will shoulder the majority of the stocking reduction."

Michigan will reduce stocking by 1.13 million spring fingerlings, or 67 percent of the 1.69 million recently stocked by the state. Wisconsin will reduce by 440,000; Indiana will reduce by 25,000; and Illinois will reduce by 20,000.

The state agencies are following recommendations of the Lake Michigan Committee.

The Lake Michigan Committee is comprised of fisheries managers from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and five Michigan tribes that are party to the 2000 Consent Decree.

In total stocking will be cut in half, going from 3.3 million to 1.7 million annually.

Naturalists say overstocking of predator fish threatens the population of other lake species and upsets the ecological balance. Half the Chinook in the lake now are the result of natural reproduction.

The MDNR says the decision to reduce stocking is part of an "adaptive management strategy." They say they will monitor indicators in the lake, such as Chinook salmon growth, and adjust to the conditions in Lake Michigan.

If conditions improve or get worse, stocking will be increased or decreased accordingly, and more quickly.

"This will give the DNR more flexibility to adaptively manage the lake," said Jay Wesley, Southern Lake Michigan Unit manager. "Traditionally, we have made changes in stocking and waited five years to evaluate it, and another two years to implement changes. Now we have the ability, through a defined and accepted process, to make changes as they are needed."

Environment & Science
2:01 pm
Sun September 23, 2012

Michigan wildlife officials hope to hear from hunters about the spread of a deadly deer virus

A white tail deer showing symptoms of Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD)
mwanner_wc creative commons

Thousands of deer have died in Michigan due to a virus in the last few months.

State wildlife officials hope to hear from deer hunters this week as they try to track the disease.

This past weekend, thousands of Michigan deer hunters took to the woods.  A few were legally allowed to hunt deer, but most of them just to track deer they will try to bag when bow season starts next month.

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Environment & Science
4:13 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Michigan energy company withdraws gas drilling application

The U.S. Forest Service says that Savoy Energy has informed federal agencies it's withdrawing an application to drill below a site called the Mason Tract in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
user {inercia} Flickr

A Traverse City company is abandoning a nearly decade-long effort to extract natural gas in  an environmentally sensitive area. 

The U.S. Forest Service says that Savoy Energy has informed federal agencies it's withdrawing an application to drill below a site called the Mason Tract in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula. 

Agriculture
1:45 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Stateside: Bad year for apples, good year for grapes

Grape vines in west Michigan.
user rkramer62 Flickr

2012 will go down as an "annus horribilis" for most fruit-growers in Michigan. Apples, cherries, pears have been hit hard by the big March warm-up followed by a spring frost, then a hot, dry summer.

But if you are a wine producer in Michigan, you might be feeling happier about the weather we've had this year!

Eddie O'Keefe is the President of Chateau Grand Traverse Wines on the beautiful Old Mission Peninsula.

There was a lot of nail biting amongst growers early in the season said Mr. O’Keefe.

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