Environment & Science

Environment & Science
5:04 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Michigan proposes updates to "fracking" rules for oil and gas drillers

Credit Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to their rules for oil and gas drilling in the state.

MDEQ leaders say they've had a successful record regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state for more than five decades, but new practices by the oil and gas industry are leading to the rule changes.

The industry's practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, known commonly as "fracking," has allowed companies to extract a lot more oil and gas from the ground.

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The Environment Report
4:27 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Pushing to expand the ban on a lawn care ingredient

Fertilizer without phosphorus, indicated by the 0 on the bag.
Credit Julie Grant

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

Algal blooms continue to plague Lake Erie. Farms and wastewater have gotten a lot of attention for contributing nutrients that create these harmful blooms.

More recently, the spotlight has focused on lawn care. Grass fertilizers can also contain phosphorus that winds up in waterways. Michigan and other states around the Great Lakes have already banned lawn fertilizers that contain phosphorus. Now international regulators and others are pushing Ohio and Pennsylvania to do the same.

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Environment & Science
6:01 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Construction resumes on Tuscola Co. wind farm

Wind Turbines
Credit Morgue File

With the return of warm weather, Consumers Energy has resumed construction of a wind farm in Tuscola County in Michigan's Thumb.  Construction began last October and went on hold during the winter months.

The facility is the company's second wind farm. It will include 62 wind turbines.

Brian Wheeler, spokesperson for Consumers Energy, said the facility should produce enough energy for about 60,000 households.

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Stateside
3:53 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Chief barista for Zingerman's shares her thoughts on the future of coffee

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

It's pretty tough to imagine an American city that does not have a coffee shop.

For many places, Starbucks blazed the trail, followed by other chains. And, of course, the hip, locally owned coffee shops.

The variety of flavors and roasts has certainly evolved, from the big brands – the Folgers and the Maxwell Houses – to regionally labeled coffees, and now to beans that are sourced from farms, not just from countries.

So, what's in the future for coffee shops, now that so many of us have discovered we can't do without a really fine cup of coffee?

Anya Pomykala is the chief barista at Zingerman's Coffee Company in Ann Arbor. She joined us to share her thoughts.

*Listen to the interview above.

Environment & Science
1:25 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Next steps for proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea

Site of the proposed mine near the Pinckney and Waterloo State Recreation areas. This map shows watershed boundaries as well.
Lyndon Township

A Ready Mix concrete company wants to dig for sand and gravel on a site north of Chelsea, Michigan. McCoig Materials is planning the mine right in the middle of the Pinckney and Waterloo State Recreation Areas (see the map above for the location of the proposed site).

The plan has drawn opposition from hundreds of residents and other advocates who fear the mine could affect water resources in the area. They also are concerned about the truck traffic that would roll through downtown Chelsea.

Lyndon Township officials will vote on whether the mine should move forward. A meeting has been scheduled next month. From the township:

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Environment & Science
10:58 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Anger, concern over petroleum drilling in Scio Township

Drilling is already happening at several sites across Michigan.
Credit Bureau of Land Management

"How many of you are here to stop the drilling?" one woman asked the crowd of about 200 at a town forum in Scio Township last night.

Big applause broke out.

It was the first indication that the crowd was not going to be a friendly one for the executives from West Bay Exploration, a Traverse City-based drilling company that has asked several landowners in Scio Township to sign over leases for their mineral rights.

The town forum was billed as an opportunity to "become educated about oil and gas leasing."

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2:51 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

State of Opportunity documentary: Growing up in poverty and pollution

Lead in text: 
At 3:00 p.m today you can tune into Lester Graham's documentary, "Growing up in poverty and pollution," produced for State of Opportunity. Or, you can listen to the compelling stories these families anytime over at State of Opportunity.
In Michigan, thousands of kids suffer with diseases that are worsened by poverty and pollution. It's a combination that's costing society far more than
The Environment Report
9:33 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Why do some trout that dine on small invasive fish die? Researchers gaining clues

NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Labratory scientists examining a catch of alewives in Lake Michigan near Muskegon.
Credit R/V Laurentian NOAA / Creative Commons

You’ve probably heard about the big bad invasive silver or bighead carp, also known as Asian carp.

But there’s another invasive fish that’s roughly a third the size of the carp that’s already done a lot of damage to Great Lakes fisheries. Alewives have been a particular menace in Lakes Michigan and Huron. The invasive fish cause all kinds of problems for native lake trout.

Alewives scarf down lake trout eggs and very young fish. But even once lake trout grow big enough to turn the tables and eat the alewives, the invasive fish still cause problems.

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The Environment Report
8:46 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Sections of the Kalamazoo River closed to finish oil cleanup

The areas of Morrow Lake to be dredged are highlighted in pink.
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s been nearly four years since the Enbridge Energy oil spill. Enbridge has already recovered more than a million gallons of heavy tar sands oil from the Kalamazoo River. But federal regulators have ordered the company to clean up another 180,000 gallons that’s mixed in with sediment on the river bottom.

Now that spring is here, work is underway again.

Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith says dredge work is nearly finished on a section of river near Battle Creek. Workers will remove Ceresco Dam closer to Marshall this summer.

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Environment & Science
5:38 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Census shows fewer wolves in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

The DNR claims there are 636 wolves roaming the U.P. That’s down from 658 in 2013.
Credit USFWS Midwest

There are fewer wolves living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

State wildlife biologists report a slight dip in the wolf population following last fall’s controversial hunt.

The Department of Natural Resources has just completed a census of wolves in the Upper Peninsula. The DNR admits the count is more of an estimate than an accurate head count.

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Environment & Science
5:37 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Lester Graham's upcoming documentary, "Growing up in Poverty and Pollution"

Brianna Allgood gets a checkup on her asthma.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Children growing up in poverty face huge challenges. One challenge that might not come to the top of the mind, though, is pollution.

As part of Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, reporter Lester Graham spent the past three months exploring the problem.

His documentary, "Growing up in Poverty and Pollution," will air tomorrow at 3 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Lester joined us today to talk about his project.

*Listen to the audio above.

Environment & Science
12:32 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

'Poor soil and a short growing season': How U.P. farmers are building a new ag. industry

Harvesting over winter spinach in a hoop house.
Shawn Malone UP Second Wave

With its rocky soil, thick forests and painfully short growing season, the Upper Peninsula is never going to look like Iowa or Kansas – and that's okay. For more than a century, a hardy batch of growers and livestock farmers have managed to survive and prosper in these less-than-ideal conditions. Thanks to new technologies and some decidedly low-tech solutions, the U.P.'s latest generation of ag workers are more productive than ever. Ultimately, the fruits of their labor may be felt – and tasted – far beyond the region's borders.

Age-Old Limitations
If you're a U.P. native, you don't need an advanced degree to understand why agriculture is challenging here. But Alger County MSU Extension Director Jim Isleib has one, so people tend to listen to his thoughts on this issue. "Poor soils and a short growing season – that about sums it up," he says. 

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Stateside
4:17 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

What can Finnish moths tell us about climate change?

Mark Hunter
Credit webapps.lsa.umich.edu/

Today marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. Many consider April 22, 1970 to be the birth of the modern environmental movement.

At that time, Earth Day organizers had an advantage: The environmental problems were highly visible, tangible problems that people came up against in their daily lives, such as toxic effluent from factories spilled into streams and rivers. Kids couldn't swim in lakes and rivers because they were too polluted.  Parks and highways were strewn with trash and air pollution made people sick.

You could draw a direct connection between these problems and the need for environmental action to improve the quality of life for everyone.

Many of today's biggest environmental concerns seem more abstract even though they are perhaps even more threatening than the burning river in Cleveland. Global warming is one example.

That's why a study by our next guest caught our eye. He found that what is happening to moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that we're underestimating the impacts of climate change because much of the harm is hidden from view.

Mark Hunter is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

The Environment Report
2:16 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Students celebrate Earth Day by planting sequoia clones

Thousands of cuttings from ancient redwoods grow in a mist chamber at Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Copemish, Michigan.
Sara Hoover Interlochen Public Radio

Listen to today's Environment Report above.

Students in northern Michigan are planting clones of ancient sequoias today.

There's a grove of sequoias along the shores of Lake Michigan on the site of a former Morton Salt factory.

Sequoia trees are not native to Michigan, but this grove has grown in Manistee for more than 65 years when they were brought here from the West Coast. Now, those trees are going to take another trip, or their clones will.

Students who attend Interlochen Arts Academy are planting them on campus along Green Lake. The clones are from Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.

David Milarch is the group's co-founder. He says they’re planting clones of redwoods around the world today.

“Ninety-six percent of all of our redwoods have been cut down, butchered and sold,” Milarch says.

Here's a look at how the group collects genetic material from these old growth trees:

Both the Interlochen Center for the Arts and nearby Interlochen State Park have lost many trees recently due to disease and bug infestation.

Head park ranger Chris Stark has mixed feelings about the planting. He'd prefer to plant native varieties, such as the white pine.

The Environment Report
8:50 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Explore a century-old freighter, "dive" on a shipwreck at new Great Lakes museum

The National Museum of the Great Lakes. It cost $12 million to build, with the vast majority of the money coming from public sources.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above (the museum story starts a minute in).

I thought I knew a lot about the Great Lakes, until I met Chris Gillcrist. He’s the kind of guy you want on your Trivial Pursuit team.

This is the kind of fact I learned from him every few minutes:

“The first millionaire in American history is John Jacob Astor. It’s a guy trading beaver pelts from the Great Lakes and sending them to Europe.”

Gillcrist is the executive director of the new National Museum of the Great Lakes. It opens this Saturday, April 26, in Toledo.

There are a lot about shipwrecks here, sure,  but Gillcrist wants you to know it’s much more than that.

“We look at it as retrofitting American history to more accurately depict how the Great Lakes impacted the nation as a whole over the past 300 years,” he says.

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Environment & Science
1:29 pm
Sun April 20, 2014

Crews working to remove propane tanks from river

Hardy Dam on the Muskegon River in Newaygo County
Credit Wikimedia Commons/Larry Pieniazek

EVART, Mich. (AP) - State emergency officials say they are working to remove dozens of propane tanks floating in the Muskegon River as part of flood-recovery efforts in western Michigan.

State Emergency Operations Center spokesman Ron Leix said Saturday that more than 40 tanks have been retrieved by state and local crews working with propane safety experts on flat-bottom boats. He says floodwaters dislodged them from the residential properties along the river.

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Environment & Science
12:00 pm
Sat April 19, 2014

Great Lakes residents concerned about water

The Great Lakes are the focus of a recent survey, carried out by the University of Michigan and other schools in the Great Lakes basin.
Credit NOAA

Residents of the Great Lakes basin are worried about their water.

Whether pollution, energy or invasive species like Asian carp, many of the 1,250 people surveyed in late 2013 by schools like the University of Michigan felt that the Great Lakes were ok, but could be better. This is despite tons of efforts to clean them up, says Barry Rabe, a public policy professor at U-M who was part of the survey.

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Environment & Science
12:58 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

What you can do to help Michigan's bats

A little brown bat with symptoms of white-nose syndrome.
Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / U.S. government

Things are not looking good for Michigan’s bats.

As Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported earlier this week, bats infected with the deadly white-nose syndrome have been found in Michigan.

The disease, which has killed more than six million bats in North America since 2006, wakes up bats during hibernation once a week – twice the normal amount of hibernation disturbance.

According to Allen Kurta, a biology professor at Eastern Michigan University, when the fungus keeps the bats waking up, they use up their stored fat too quickly:

“So, by arousing much more frequently, they’re using up their fat much more frequently; they are then running out of that fat come February and March, and essentially they will die of starvation because there are no flying insects out there to give them food.”

And in short, the spread of the disease is threatening the livelihood of the state's bats. 

“I think that this is one of the worst wildlife calamities ever in the history of North America,” said Kurta. “You’re looking at potential extinction of multiple species of bats.”

Luckily, there are a few things we can do to help out the little guys.

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The Environment Report
12:19 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Restaurants and markets running low on a popular Great Lakes fish

Bernie Fritzsch gets ready for the lunch rush at Monahan's Seafood Market.
Credit Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

Monahan’s Seafood Market in Ann Arbor carries soft-shell crabs from Maryland, Alaskan salmon, and Florida red snapper.

But at the moment, they’re fresh out of Great Lakes whitefish.

Bernie Fritzsch manages the fish market.

“We’re hoping to see it today, but we haven’t seen it for the last week,” he says.

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Environment & Science
4:25 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

An MSU physicist believes he has solved the "black hole information paradox"

A simulated view of a black hole. A real black hole can't be observed.
user Alain r Wikimedia Commons

Ever since Stephen Hawking came out with his theory about how black holes work, physicists – including Hawking himself – have been wrestling with a "hole" in that theory.

Hawking postulated that if you threw something like a chair into a black hole, given enough time that chair would "dematerialize." It would disappear, leaving no trace of its existence.

But the laws of physics don't allow for things to simply disappear. Things can change, or be altered, but they can't disappear. You can burn a piece of paper, and it's no longer there, but the carbon, water, and other molecules still exist somewhere. Again, it can't simply disappear.

It's called the black hole information paradox.

PBS' Kate Becker quoted Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind in describing Hawking's theory in her post "Do Black Holes Destroy Information?":

As Leonard Susskind wrote in “The Black Hole War,” his 2008 book on the problem of black holes and information loss, “The possibility of hiding information in a vault would hardly be a cause for alarm, but what if when the door was shut, the vault evaporated right in front of your eyes? That’s exactly what Hawking predicted would happen to the black hole.”

The solution?

Now comes a theoretical physicist and computational biologist from Michigan State University who believes he has solved Hawking's black hole information paradox.

Chris Adami joined us today on Stateside. (You can listen to how he explains his theory above.)

Hawking discovered that black holes emit a glow called the “Hawking radiation.” That radiation, Hawking theorized, consumes the black hole and all things in the hole are lost. Poof! Nothing left.

Adami theorizes that a copy of the chair is made before it goes into the black hole.

More on Adami’s solution from MSU:

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