Environment & Science

Environment & Science
4:11 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Solar power in the not-so-sunny UP

Can solar power be used the Upper Peninsula?
Ford Motor Company Flickr

When we think solar power and solar panels, what comes to mind? 

The sun, of course. So what are the prospects for solar power in areas that tend to be cloudy, snowy, and cold? Places with short days and long nights? Places like Michigan's Upper Peninsula?

Upper Peninsula Second Wave writer Sam Eggleston joins us from Marquette to discuss what might happen when solar power meets the UP.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Environment & Science
3:02 pm
Sat February 15, 2014

Gap in concrete wall found at nuclear plant near Toledo

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Ohio’s first nuclear power plant, is located 35 miles east of Toledo. The plant produces 40% of the electricity used by residences, businesses and industries in northwestern Ohio.
FirstEnergy

OAK HARBOR, Ohio (AP) - Operators of a northern Ohio nuclear plant that sits along Lake Erie say workers there found a gap within the concrete of a protective wall.

Officials at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo describe the gap as an air pocket and say they don't believe it affected the structural integrity of the shield wall.

The gap was discovered Thursday while the plant was shut down to replace two steam generators.

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Environment & Science
4:30 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Judge allows cancer lawsuit against Whirlpool to move forward

City building in Clyde, Ohio
City of Clyde

A federal judge in Ohio is allowing a cancer lawsuit against the Whirlpool Corporation to go ahead.

After documenting a high incidence of childhood cancer around the company's Clyde, OH plant, several families filed suit, accusing the Benton Harbor company of polluting the air and water. Clyde is about 50 miles from Michigan.

Whirlpool asked that the case be dismissed for lack of proof.

Attorney Chuck Boyk represents the families. He says the ruling will force Whirlpool to reveal what chemicals they use at the plant.

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The Environment Report
10:52 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Backyard farmers to lose Right to Farm protection?

Wendy Banka and one of her salmon faverolle chickens.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Take a listen to Wendy Banka and her chickens, and MPRN's Jake Neher describing why some state officials say backyard farms should not be covered by the Right to Farm Act.

Life could soon get a little harder for backyard farmers.

A law passed in 1981 protects Michigan farmers from nuisance lawsuits. It’s called the Right to Farm Act.  It was created to protect farmers from angry neighbors who were moving out into rural areas from cities.

At the moment, the law also protects people who raise chickens and other animals in their backyards.

Wendy Banka lives in Ann Arbor.  She has seven chickens with orange feathers living in a coop in her backyard.

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Environment & Science
10:00 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Enbridge unveils new plans to dredge oily sediment from Kalamazoo River

The pink areas in the Morrow Lake delta are where dredging needs to be completed. The two proposed locations for dredge pads are also highlighted.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy has new plans to finish dredging oil from the Kalamazoo River spill in 2010. The spill was the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The cleanup has cost the company more than a billion dollars so far.

The roughly 180,000 gallons of crude oil that was left on the river bottom before dredging began isn’t really oil anymore. It's tiny particles of weathered material that’s mixed in with sediment.

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The Environment Report
3:33 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Study finds liver tumors in mice exposed to low levels of BPA

Bisphenol A lines the inside of most metal food and drink cans.
(Photo courtesy of Sun Ladder at Wikimedia Commons)

We’re all regularly exposed to the chemical Bisphenol A or BPA. Companies have taken it out of baby bottles, and many kinds of those hard plastic water bottles no longer have BPA in them.

But it’s still used on paper receipts and to line most food and drink cans.

Dana Dolinoy is a Searle Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“There is mounting evidence that BPA has negative health effects in both animal models and humans,” says Dolinoy.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue February 11, 2014

How bad (or wonderful) is this winter?

It might be cold, but it sure is pretty.
Mark Brush

Barbara Mayes Boustead on the "misery index" - or "index of greatness" for you winter lovers. (Story starts about a minute in)

Maybe you think this is the best winter ever.  Or maybe you’ve had some choice words for Punxsatawney Phil.

So, just how bad - or how fabulous - is this winter? There’s a scientist in Nebraska who has put a number on it.

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Environment & Science
12:29 pm
Sat February 8, 2014

Gov. Snyder talks about economy, bridge and pandas (?)

The Detroit News says Snyder repeated many points from his State of the State address during an appearance at the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Panda bears at the Detroit Zoo?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder tells business leaders that he'd like to see it happen, although he acknowledged Friday that the bears are expensive and hard to obtain. He's been interested since traveling to China on trade missions.

The Detroit News says Snyder repeated many points from his State of the State address during an appearance at the Detroit Regional Chamber. He also repeated his criticism of the federal government for its failure so far to agree to a U.S. Customs plaza at a new bridge linking Detroit and Canada.

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Environment & Science
3:02 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Ice bridge to Isle Royale is complete, will new wolves cross it?

Lake Superior on Feb. 4, 2014. Can you find the ice bridge to Isle Royale in this photo? It's there.
MODIS NASA

The last time I checked, the ice bridge to Isle Royale had not fully formed, but there's an ice bridge now.

Michigan Technological University's Rolf Peterson confirmed it in an e-mail to me last night.

"There's been a good ice bridge for the past 10 days."

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The Environment Report
10:54 am
Thu February 6, 2014

How emergency responders in Michigan are preparing for the next pipeline break

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

There are close to 70,000 miles of underground pipelines in Michigan carrying all kinds of materials around the state – things like natural gas, refined petroleum, and crude oil.

And for the most part, we really don’t notice these pipelines. That was true in Michigan until one summer day three and half years ago when this happened:

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Stateside
5:25 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

What will the country's farm bill mean for Michigan?

President Barack Obama
(Official White House photo)

It’s official. The country will have a farm bill. On Friday, President Obama plans to sign the nearly $1 trillion bill into law on his trip in East Lansing. On today’s show we take a closer look at the farm bill and explore what all this means to Michigan farmers.

Listen to the audio above.

Environment & Science
9:28 am
Wed February 5, 2014

200-300 gallons of fuel spill into Detroit River

USCGC Mackinaw
United States Coast Guard

DETROIT (AP) — About 200 to 300 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Detroit River while a U.S. Coast Guard ship was taking on fuel, officials said.

The discharge from the Cutter Mackinaw happened Tuesday afternoon near the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Coast Guard said the ship's crew secured the source of fuel and conducted initial cleanup operations onboard. Crewmembers also deployed a boom around the fuel to prevent further spread. A contractor is expected to finish cleanup efforts.

"We take our role as environmental stewards seriously, and any accidental discharge of fuel is regrettable," Capt. Eric Johnson, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Incident Management Branch, said in a statement. "We are already at work mitigating any potential impacts."

The cause of the discharge is under investigation, Johnson said, and the Coast Guard wants to ensure that another spill doesn't happen.

Ice breaking work is keeping Coast Guard crews busy on the Great Lakes, and the Mackinaw was cleared Tuesday to leave for an ice breaking operation.

The Environment Report
1:42 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Researcher hunts for new medicines in the Great Lakes

Brian T. Murphy, left, and Mark Sadek, just before boarding the RV Lake Guardian for a week-long sampling mission.
Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy talks about his hunt for bacteria at the bottom of the Great Lakes that could lead to new medicines.

Let's call today Throwback Tuesday, and go way, way back to the 1920s.

That's when Sir Alexander Fleming stumbled on a mold that stopped bacteria from growing in a petri dish. He called it penicillin.

Ever since that huge discovery, people have been looking all over the Earth for more organisms that can fight disease.

Brian Murphy has been searching at the bottom of the Great Lakes.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Farm bill likely to help preserve N. Michigan farms

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

The new farm bill should help farmland preservation efforts in northern Michigan.

The way farmland preservation works is farmers sell the right to develop their land, so it can never be divided up for houses or strip malls. The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to protect farmland, and that will continue under the new farm bill.

But the federal dollars need to be matched locally, which can be a challenge in a region where land is so valuable.

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Environment & Science
12:42 pm
Sat February 1, 2014

Ohio wind turbine project stopped near Lake Erie

The American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory say National Guard officials in Washington sent out a letter this past week announcing it was pulling out of the project.
Carleton College

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Federal officials have put a stop to plans for a wind turbine along Lake Erie in northern Ohio.

The decision comes just weeks after a group of birding enthusiasts threatened to sue the Ohio National Guard over the wind turbine project at the guard's Camp Perry site near Port Clinton.

The American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory say National Guard officials in Washington sent out a letter this past week announcing it was pulling out of the project.

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Energy
5:39 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Palisades Nuclear Plant proposes new design for historically problematic mechanisms

The control rod drive mechanisms are a part of the nuclear reactor, which is inside the circular building on the left.
Mark Savage Entergy Nuclear Operations

The Palisades power plant is proposing a new design that officials hope will help end a recurring problem.

The heat generated by its nuclear reactor is restrained in part by 45 control rods. The rod mechanisms at Palisades have an uncommon design (one of only two plants in the country) and have had a lot more problems than at other plants.

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The Environment Report
10:16 am
Thu January 30, 2014

The case of the mysterious rocks and signs related to the Kalamazoo River oil spill

Craig Ritter's mysterious rock formations he started finding this summer on the banks of the Kalamazoo River.
Craig Ritter

In case you’re new in town, three and a half years ago an Enbridge pipeline broke, causing a huge oil spill near Marshall, Michigan.

The case of the mystery rocks

A couple of years ago, I met Craig Ritter while doing some reporting on the river cleanup.

He’s your typical, passionate, Michigan out-of-doors type.

He says he was out fishing last summer.

“I started noticing these weird formations that I’d never seen before,” Ritter said.

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Environment & Science
12:15 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

A Michigan company is making snow for the Olympics

This is a shaman. Altai shamans have a ritual to encourage snowfall, which the Sochi Organizing Committee is using.
user: arzarubin Flickr

SMI Snowmakers of Midland is involved in the snowmaking and the snowmaking design in Sochi, Russia. SMI is working with Skado (a local Russian company) to design and carry out the process.

According to SMI's website, there are several challenges the company is facing at the Rosa Khutor Resort near Sochi:

The snowmaking design and owner objectives were extremely challenging due to the big vertical, marginal temperatures, wide slopes, environmental aspects, energy and logistics. 

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Environment & Science
8:20 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Environmental groups divided over possible tax break for oil and gas companies

morguefile

Oil and gas companies in Michigan could soon get a tax break for better utilizing wells, and the proposed measure is causing a split among environmental groups in the state.

A state House panel held its first hearing Tuesday on a bill meant to encourage companies not to abandon oil and gas wells once they’re no longer profitable. Supporters of the legislation say it is meant to encourage an extraction method that pumps carbon dioxide into older or low-producing wells to get relatively small amounts of oil out.

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The Environment Report
7:00 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Two stories of Michigan solar power ambitions

Jim Wolter, right, and Ed Brandel of Energy Partners LLC in Muskegon.
Courtesy Photo

First up, a Michigan man who’s trying to win millions of dollars with solar power.

He’s trying to put solar panels on as many Michigan homes and businesses as he possibly can.

Prasad Gullapalli’s Novi-based Srinergy wants you to invest in solar panels – for your home, for your business – doesn’t matter. He’s looking for anybody in Michigan to go solar.

He’s making the offer with no upfront costs.

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