Environment & Science

Environment & Science
10:06 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Enbridge employees compared to 'Keystone Cops' in 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill

6 and a half foot long rupture in Line 6B.
NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board is not pulling its punches against Enbridge Energy in a highly critical report of the company’s handling of the July, 2010 oil spill near Marshall.

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Environment & Science
9:05 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Report: Waterfowl doing well in 'America's duck factory'

In a narrow swath of grass in a roadside ditch, a mallard hen nests her second brood of the season, a rare event for these ducks. Her first ducklings were killed by a predator.
Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

If you’re a duck, this is a good news, bad news story. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes surveys of the ten most abundant duck species every year. 

Brad Bortner is Chief of the Division of Migratory Bird Management at the Fish and Wildlife Service.  He says this year’s survey recorded 48.6 million ducks. That’s the highest number of ducks recorded since the agency started keeping records in 1955.

"We’ve had a series of very good years on the prairies, with excellent water conditions and great habitat management and restoration programs," he said.

He says more than half of North America’s duck breeding happens in the prairie pothole region of the Dakotas and eastern Montana.  It’s nicknamed America’s duck factory.

Bortner says species such as mallards, gadwalls and redheads are all doing great, and he says the breeding duck populations in Michigan are doing well, too.

So, that’s the good news.  The bad news: some other duck species are not doing so well. 

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Retooling brake pads for salmon

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Washington and California recently adopted laws that ban all but traces of copper in automotive brake pads by the year 2021. The two states say the metal gets into watersheds and hurts endangered salmon. The decision could change the way brakes are made around the world.

Copper is a great material for brakes. It's durable, and it absorbs heat and noise. But it comes with an environmental price.

"Each time a driver uses their brakes, a small amount of the material gets worn off, and when it rains, that can be washed into streams and rivers," said Ian Wesley, who's with the Washington State Department of Ecology.

About a third of the copper in some watersheds in California and Washington State comes from brakes. And copper is not good for salmon, because it wreaks havoc with their ability to smell.

Salmon release a pheromone when they perceive a threat. Other salmon react to the scent by dropping to the bottom of the water and staying there, very still.

"When they do that, it helps them avoid the predators, but if there's even very low levels of copper in the water, they can't smell this pheromone, and they continue to swim around kind of oblivious to the danger that's nearby," said Wesley.

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Environment & Science
4:48 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Federal officials to release report on Enbridge oil spill on Tuesday

The section of Line 6B that ruptured on July 25th, 2010 near Marshall, Michigan
NTSB

Federal regulators will release a report tomorrow on the reasons why an oil pipeline broke near Marshall.

Environmentalists want to see if problems with federal oversight of the pipeline industry will be cited in the report.

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Environment & Science
4:34 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

The search resumes Tuesday for possible Asian Carp in Illinois lake close to Lake Michigan

Bighead Asian carp caught in 2010
Illinois DNR

An intensive four day search for the invasive Asian Carp gets underway near Chicago tomorrow. The search area is a short swim from Lake Michigan.

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Environment & Science
10:00 am
Sat July 7, 2012

Hunt for Asian Carp resumes near Lake Michigan

Juvenile silver carp, seen here, can grow up to weigh 100 pounds.
user MirkoB Wikimedia Commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Authorities plan another intensive search for Asian carp next week after repeatedly detecting DNA from the invasive fish in Chicago's Lake Calumet.

Officials said Friday that genetic material from silver carp was found in samples taken in May and June. Policy requires stepped-up efforts to find the fish whenever their DNA turns up during three consecutive rounds of sampling in the same area.

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2:56 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Michigan scientists aid apparent discovery of 'God particle,' one wins $100 from Stephen Hawking

Lead in text: 
In addition to the attention he's receiving for contributing to the possible discovery of the the Higgs boson, or "God particle," University of Michigan professor Gordon Kane is also set to cash in on $100 in bet money from Stephen Hawking.
  • Source: Mlive
  • | Via: Elaine Ezekiel
Stephen Hawking is not often wrong, but when he is, the world's most famous physicist is willing to pay up. Hawking confirmed this week that he owes $100 to University of Michigan Professor Gordon Kane, with whom he had a long-standing bet that the theoretical Higgs boson particle never would be found.
Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Q & A: Filmmaker talks about a night sky without stars

The Milky Way above an AZ observatory.
Wicked Delicate Films, LLC.

When was the last time you were someplace so dark that you could look up at the night sky and actually see the stars? Not just a handful, but hundreds or thousands?

“The Milky Way when it rises here looks like a thunderstorm coming toward you.  And you think, oh my god, it’s going to cloud over and it’s not, it’s the Milky Way rising, it’s the edge of our galaxy coming up.”

That’s a scene from a new documentary. It’s called The City Dark and it airs on PBS stations starting tonight (check your local listings).

The film takes a look at our love affair with artificial light – and why humans and wildlife need the night sky.  Ian Cheney directed and produced The City Dark and we spoke with him for today's Environment Report.  Cheney grew up in rural Maine but has been working in New York City. I asked him why he wanted to make this film.

Ian Cheney: Well, when I moved to New York City, one of the first things I realized was that I was missing the night sky, and that launched me on a journey to explore this broader topic of light pollution and how artificial light affects our world.

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Environment & Science
8:55 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Researchers measure role of urban greenery in carbon dioxide exchange

Emily Peters measures photosynthesis on trees in a suburban neighborhood from an aerial lift truck.
University of California-Santa Barbara

Scientists know a lot about how natural places process carbon dioxide.  But there hasn’t been a lot of research into what happens throughout the year in the green spaces in cities and suburbs.

Emily Peters is an author of a paper out this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research.  She’s been looking at how plants and trees in one suburban neighborhood take in carbon dioxide during the year... and how they offset the carbon dioxide people in the neighborhood emit – by say, driving their cars.

“In the summer we found the uptake of carbon dioxide from the vegetation is enough to offset fossil fuel emissions – just in the summer.”

She says evergreen and leafy trees took in more CO2 during the middle of the summer. Lawns did the best job of taking in CO2 during the spring and fall.  But Peters says those plants did NOT balance out the total amount of carbon dioxide released in the suburban neighborhood by burning fossil fuels over the year. 

If you're wondering: do certain species of trees do a better job than others?

"That is the question everybody wants answered - we can’t go out with this study and tell city foresters they should plant more of this kind of tree vs. this kind of tree."

Environment & Science
7:49 am
Wed July 4, 2012

MSU President Simon expects F-RIB strategy in 2-3 weeks

MSU President Lou Anna Simon
Courtesy of MSU

 Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon says she expects to announce a strategy for the shool's much anticipated F-RIB project in two to three weeks. 

 The comment comes on the heels of an encouraging federal review of critical aspects of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

Simon stresses the importance of ongoing support from Michigan legislators in Washington.

energy
8:55 am
Tue July 3, 2012

Federal investigators probe Entergy over leaky tank at Palisades

Palisades pictured from the nearby Van Buren State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This story has been modified to correct a metric conversion and the reference to the substance tritium.

The Palisades plant near South Haven has an aluminum water tank that’s used in case of emergencies or when the plant needs to be refueled. Last month, Entergy, the company that owns the plant, shut the reactor down to fix a leak in the tank.

Palisades knew the tank was leaking for longer than the company first said

It appears that the water tank has been leaking for a lot longer than the company first admitted.

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Environment & Science
5:37 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Enbridge may face record civil penalty for 2010 oil spill

EPA

Enbridge Energy may have to pay a record federal fine for the July 2010 oil spill near Marshall.

But the proposed fine is well below the expected cost of the nearly two-year-long cleanup.

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Environment & Science
9:06 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

State says it’s okay to eat fish from stretch of Kalamazoo River affected by oil spill

A woman catches a bigmouth bass near Hope, Michigan.
LadyDragonFlyCC Creative Commons

It’s another sign things are starting to get back to normal… two years after the spill. Earlier this month the state opened up the river to swimmers and boaters for the first time since the spill.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says it’s now safe to eat fish from a thirty-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River affected by a massive oil spill.

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energy
2:01 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Federal agents launch investigation of Entergy; company that operates Palisades Nuclear Power Plant

The water tank in question is located above Palisades' control room, pictured here during a plant tour in April 2012.
Mark Savage Entergy Corporation

The investigation launched this week concerns a leaking water tank. Two weeks ago, Palisades shut down so crews could repair the leaky tank. At that time, Entergy reported they knew about the leak for several weeks. But Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors at the plant say they’ve been monitoring the leak for more than a year.

The tank is used in emergencies or planned refueling outages. The plant remains shut down, and the company never shares how long they expect planned outages to last.

The special federal agents are from the NRC’s Office of Investigations.

According to the NRC’s website:

“OI (Office of Investigations) may commence appropriate investigative activity when a matter is brought to the attention of OI indicating that wrongdoing is alleged to have been committed by a person or entity within NRC jurisdiction. Investigations may also be conducted of any matter within NRC jurisdiction that the Commission desires to be investigated.”

The office “assists the NRC staff in pursuing enforcement options and the Department of Justice in prosecution of criminal violations.”

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu June 28, 2012

More tar sands oil in Michigan pipeline?

Workers measure pipe before cutting and removing the section from the Enbridge pipeline oil spill site near Marshall, Michigan. This photo was taken on August 6th, 2010.
EPA

Enbridge Energy is planning to replace an old pipeline that runs through Michigan.

It’s called Line 6B. That’s the same line that broke in Marshall nearly two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. 

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline.   

Joe Martucci is a spokesperson for Enbridge. He says the new pipeline will cut down on the number of repairs they’ll have to make.

"The purpose and need of it is integrity driven and also to increase the capacity of the line at the same time."

After the Marshall spill, Enbridge was ordered to reduce the pressure in Line 6B.  That means there’s a lot less oil flowing through that pipeline now than there was before the spill.

Martucci says the new pipeline will allow Enbridge to double the amount of oil they can transport, up to 500,000 barrels per day.  There is the potential for the pipeline to move as much as 800,000 barrels per day. But Joe Martucci says they would have to add more equipment to do so, and file a new application with the state of Michigan.

He says oil from Alberta’s tar sands region will be the main product in their new pipeline. 

"The refiners and others are telling us they want more access to this oil and you know, it’s our job to try and provide them with a transportation capacity that makes that available."

Some landowners and environmental groups are worried about the idea of more tar sands oil moving through the Great Lakes region.

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Environment & Science
1:01 am
Thu June 28, 2012

Triple digit temperatures in the forecast for parts of Michigan today

charlesandhudson.com

Electric utilities in Michigan are expecting to see a big spike in demand today, as temperatures are expected to climb to 100 degrees in parts of Michigan.

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Environment & Science
10:52 am
Tue June 26, 2012

Bee Palooza showcases backyard bee habitats

A native bee hotel on display at Bee Palooza. The bee experts from Michigan State University say a bee hotel is easy to build.
Logan Chadde Michigan Radio

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating about one of every three bites of food we eat.

Rufus Isaacs is an entomology professor at Michigan State University. He studies pollination of berry crops.

"Honeybees are, if we’re talking about commercial agriculture, they’re the most important pollinator. We have tens of thousands of those bees that come into Michigan every spring, and they do the lion’s share of the work to get our cherry crop, our blueberry crop, our apple crop, our pickling cucumber crop pollinated."

But since 2006, beekeepers have been reporting major honeybee losses. That’s because of something called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Honeybees are not native to Michigan, but there are 400 native bee species in the state. Isaacs says these native bees also pollinate crops and wild flowers.  But he says the overall health of native bee populations is unclear.

"To be honest, we don't really know anything about long-term trends in their populations because there hasn't been any careful monitoring of them over the years," he said.

A few days ago, Isaacs and others in MSU’s entomology department put on an event called Bee Palooza.

The bee experts say human development is threatening the habitats that native bees use. So they wanted to show people how to build homes for native bees in their backyards.

Emily May is a graduate student at MSU. She’s standing next to a structure that’s shaped like a house. It’s made out of logs, bamboo and pieces of wood with a lot of holes in them. May calls it a bee hotel.

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Environment & Science
11:56 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Enbridge Energy holds open house on oil pipeline plans

During an open house in Marshall, a couple looks at a map of the proposed route of a new crude oil pipeline that would travel along a diagonal line across southern Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, dozens of people in Marshall had a chance to look at plans for a new oil pipeline that would run through their mid-Michigan community.

The new pipeline would replace an older one that ruptured two years ago, resulting in a massive oil spill.

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Environment & Science
10:33 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Debate heats up over proposal to increase Michigan's renewable energy standard

Michigan already has a renewable energy  standard on the books. 10 % of the energy utility companies provide has to come from renewable sources by 2015. But the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition wants to bump that number up to 25% by the year 2025. The group is gathering signatures for a ballot proposal to create an amendment to the state constitution.

Stephen Transeth is with the Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan Coalition. It's a group that is trying to defeat the so called 25-by-25 ballot proposal. He says he supports the current standard but does not think the new proposal is appropriate to put in the state constitution.

"When you put a proposal like this into the constitution, you are effectively limiting your options in the future, the way we generate and use electricity in the next five, 10, 20 years from now, is going
to look so much different than today."

But the organizers behind 25-by-25 say utilities are already ahead of schedule to meet the current standard and it’s been cheaper than expected.

Mark Pischea is with the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition. He says Michigan companies are already sending wind turbine parts to places like Spain and China.

"Michigan has the opportunity to again be the hub to export products made in Michigan to the world, just like what we did 100 years ago with the automobile."

330,000 signatures are needed to put the proposal on the ballot in November.

-Emily Fox, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
1:01 am
Mon June 25, 2012

Enbridge will outline plans for new oil pipeline tonight in Marshall

Marshall's idyllic downtown park
city of Marshall

Enbridge Energy officials will to meet tonight with people in Marshall to lay out their plans for a new oil pipeline.

Two years ago, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, leaking more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil.   Only last week, state and federal officials announced the reopening of most of the Kalamazoo River, which has been closed to the public so crews could clean up the oil spill.

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