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Environment & Science

Canola's low pour point and high oil content make it an ideal candidate for biodiesel. One kilogram of canola seeds, center, produces the amount of oil in the flask on the left.
Oregon State University / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

From ethanol made with corn to diesel fuel made from soy beans, the agriculture industry loves biofuels. The Environmental Protection Agency is also pushing biofuels. They're seen as cleaner burning, and burning the fuels creates less of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change than do fossil fuels such as oil. All good, right? Well, it turns out those claims might be hyped a bit.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines runs under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Congress has ordered stronger safety measures for pipelines carrying oil and other fuels in the Great Lakes region. The requirement is contained in a bill that cleared the Senate on Monday and the House last week. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. The measure re-authorizes a federal program that regulates 2.6 million miles of pipelines nationwide. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan says it designates the Great Lakes as an "unusually sensitive area," where pipelines must meet...

A snapping turtle
Jessica Kosiara

A recent study published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessments finds turtles are getting doses of heavy metals such as lead and copper. Matt Cooper is one of the co-authors of this study. He’s a research scientist at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin.

Headed out to go salmon fishing on Lake Michigan near Grand Haven.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

50 years ago, officials put Pacific salmon into the Great Lakes to eat an invasive fish called the alewife, and a huge sport fishery was born. These days, you can still catch both coho and chinook salmon. But people are worried there's not enough food in Lake Michigan for chinook salmon.

Pixabay

Eating fish is the biggest source of mercury contamination for people, and as Michiganders gear up for the Free Fishing Weekend, there are calls for better protections.

More than 50 Michigan scientists sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Schuette requesting he drop his fight against the Environmental Protection Agency's federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which require power plants to reduce mercury emissions.

Joel Blum, a professor of earth and...

A grass carp.
Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

Researchers say they’ve found grass carp eggs in the Sandusky River for the first time. The river flows into Lake Erie near Cedar Point. Grass carp are a type of invasive Asian carp. This is the first time scientists have had direct confirmation that the fish are reproducing in the river. Holly Embke found the eggs. She’s a master’s student at the University of Toledo. “The reason we were looking where we were looking in the Sandusky River was because we thought there was the possibility of...

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

DTE Energy is the state’s largest utility. It provides electricity to more than two million people in southeast Michigan. Until very recently, DTE leaned on coal-fired power to generate about 3/4 of that electricity. But that’s about to change dramatically. The news came down this week that DTE will close three of its remaining coal-fired power plants between 2020 and 2023. Two of those plants are just south of Detroit, in River Rouge and Trenton. The other is in St. Clair County. Brian...

Lawmakers want to head off local laws regulating plastic shopping bags.
Flickr user Kate Ter Haar / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Michigan Legislature has itself a showdown — over plastic bags. Washtenaw and Muskegon counties were planning to ban stores from providing plastic bags to customers in order to tackle problems like litter and waste. The Michigan Senate is looking to head off efforts like that. It's passed a bill to prohibit local legislatures from banning plastic bags. The bill's backers claim it’s not fair to retailers with stores in multiple counties across the state. How have plastic bag bans fared...

Dave Reckhow is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s water is still not safe to drink without a filter. A lot of people have been asking whether the water is safe for bathing. Federal and state agencies say it is.

Steve Chrypinski/Michigan Radio

Issues & Ale visited Bill’s Beer Garden in Ann Arbor last night to discuss the Gelman Sciences 1,4 dioxane plume of toxic pollution making its way through the city’s groundwater. Host Lester Graham led a panel of experts through the discussion. Together they answered residents’ questions and discussed ways to reduce risks associated with the contamination. MLive reporter Ryan Stanton, who covers this issue, was one of the panelists. Stanton said the Department of Environmental Quality has...

Courtesy of Tony Reidsma

Lake Michigan residents and business owners are expressing concern over rising water levels. Just three years ago, however, the concern was about record low water levels in the Great Lakes. Al Steinman , president of the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University, told Stateside that there’s no need to worry about such a significant fluctuation in lake levels. “People need to be patient,” Steinman said. “These water levels go up and down. It’s part of the natural cycle.”

Double-crested cormorant
USFWS

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has halted programs to reduce the number of cormorants in the Great Lakes region. The federal government and tribes in Michigan kill the birds to protect yellow perch, walleye and other fish. But the judge said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service overstepped its bounds when it authorized killing cormorants in more than 20 states. Peter Payette visited the Les Cheneaux Islands in Michigan this week to talk to people who live there.

DTE Energy

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has submitted a final plan to curb sulfur dioxide pollution in Wayne County to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA deemed part of the county, including southwest Detroit and some downriver communities, in violation of new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide in 2013. The MDEQ says the area as a whole now meets those standards, and the plan requires “four industrial sources in the area to make...

Decaying sea walls on Lake Michigan in Chicago.
Flickr user Mike Boehmer/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron were at record lows three years ago. At the same time, water levels for the other Great Lakes were well below average. This year is a bit different. Lake Michigan could be at a near-record high. The lake has risen four feet since that all-time low in January 2013. Kathleen Torrenson is the president of Torreson Marine in Muskegon. She joined us today on Stateside to discuss how the changing water levels have affected her business and others located along the shoreline. Torreson said these new high water levels are good for the boating business in the Great Lakes. “It allows our customers and the people using the water a lot more flexibility in where they’re going and what they’re using,” she said. But it’s not all good news. “On the other side of the coin, high water tends to be really, really tough on fixed objects, like sea walls and fixed docks and things like that, things that were built when water levels were at other depths,” Torrenson said. “And as the water comes up and up, they become more prone to damage and erosion, kind of like what they’ve been seeing along the beaches.” Torrenson said another effect of the sea level rise is that there’s “a lot less beach” compared to a couple years ago. Another flip side, however, is businesses like hers have had to do far less dredging to keep the lake deep enough for boats coming in near the shore.

PM Environmental

The U- Environmental Protection Agency is awarding Oakland County $600,000 to assess and clean up polluted sites. The idea is to prepare those sites for redevelopment. "If you can show some economic development going into it, where you're actually investing the property, creating jobs, then it's eligible for funding," said Mike Kulka, founder and CEO of PM Environmental which helped apply for the grant. The grants are awarded to communities deemed underserved and economically disadvantaged,...

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Water experts from across the country are dismissing warnings from an environmental group of high levels of contaminants in Flint’s drinking water. The experts say new data actually show Flint’s water improving since the switch back to Detroit water last fall. The water is still not safe to drink or cook with unfiltered. At a news conference today in Flint, researchers from Virginia Tech University, Wayne State University and the University of Massachusetts outlined the findings of their...

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

There’s a coalition of federal and state agencies working to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. It’s called the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee . It just came out with its carp plan for this year.

photo of a monarch butterfly
user Jim, the Photographer / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The federal government has a competitive program for state wildlife grants. Michigan and Wisconsin are getting $500,000 to help protect several species of bees and butterflies that are in trouble. Jim Hodgson is with the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They’re partnering together to restore grassland, prairie, and savanna habitats that will benefit the rusty patched bumblebee, the yellow patched bumblebee, monarch butterflies, the frosted elfin, mottled dusty wing...

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new Michigan State University study suggests, if you spent time this past weekend with a beer in your hand, it may be because of something you saw on social media. MSU researchers say when participants in a study of social media’s influence were exposed to ads touting beer, as opposed to those selling bottled water, they were more inclined to consider drinking alcohol. They studied the behavior of 121 test subjects. They were divided into two groups. Group one was exposed to beer ads on...

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

According to a new report, Google Trends can not only tell you about the latest celebrity news, but also if there’s a chicken pox outbreak. Kevin Bakker has been pouring over a decade’s worth of Google Trends data. He’s a doctoral student in the UM Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He wanted to see what it told him about chicken pox. Or more precisely, what parents were asking about the disease. Bakker noticed that those Google searches declined sharply, after government...

user braun / Flickr

Detroit’s Marathon refinery will have to cut emissions, under new permits issued this week by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Marathon needs to meet new federal requirements for low-sulfur gasoline. Because it needed to remove that sulfur, Marathon initially asked to increase its sulfur dioxide emissions, in a heavily-industrial area already considered the state’s most polluted ZIP code. But after a fierce public backlash, Marathon and the Michigan Department of...

a drinking fountain
Ian Sane / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Drinking fountains in two buildings on Wayne State University's campus have tested positive for lead, according to university officials. In a letter to the campus community, the university said it had tested water in 11 campus buildings, and found lead above the EPA action levels in two buildings – the College of Education Building and the Meyer L. Prentis Cancer Center Building. The water inlets to the buildings were free of lead. The affected fountains have been shut off, and the University...

Asian Carp
Kate Gardiner / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

For nearly two decades, The Environment Report and its predecessor The Great Lakes Radio Consortium have been reporting about invasive species on Michigan Radio. More and more kinds of pests are being introduced into the lakes, often by cargo ships bringing in critters from foreign ports. And it's a lot more than just Asian Carp , which has received plenty of headlines in recent years.

Life stages of ticks.
CDC

It's tick season once again, and according to Michigan Radio's The Environment Report , Michiganders should be diligent when they're outdoors this summer.

According to Rebecca Williams' recent story , the tick that we should be concerned about is the blacklegged tick. However, if you're starting to look for them now, good luck. They are currently in the nymph stage and are about the size of a poppy seed.

Williams' report says they originate from the west side of the...

Auchter's Art: Tough to be a Michigander

May 27, 2016
John Auchter / www.auchtoon.com

CARTOONIST POV: How much do I like beer? Well, I can tell you this: My wife and I recently traded a large and well-maintained trampoline for a single 12 ounce bottle of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout . Those who know me would likely say that was out of character. (Not the trading things for alcohol — that actually is in my wheelhouse.) No, I'm talking about the deep appreciation for something like Founders KBS — a high-end, critically praised consumable. I'm really more of a eat-because-I'm-hungry, water-from-the-faucet, breakfast-cereal-for-dinner kind of guy.

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

People who want Enbridge Energy's Line 5 shut down plan to make it an issue at next week's policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The oil pipeline runs under the Straits of Mackinac, near the island.

Enbridge Energy is the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S history, which happened when the company's Line 6B ruptured near Marshall, Michigan in 2010. The massive oil spill dismayed a lot of people, including Republican State Sen. Rick Jones. He...

Life stages of ticks.
CDC

It’s that magical time of year, when you need to start checking yourself for ticks. The blacklegged tick is the kind of tick we have in Michigan that can transmit Lyme disease, and it’s been expanding its range in our state.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

TOLEDO – Ohio's plan to take a big bite out of what's feeding the toxic cyanobacteria in western Lake Erie leans heavily on programs put in place over the last few years.

The strategy obtained by The Associated Press calls for additional water monitoring and more oversight of existing programs, but no new money toward targeting the blooms threatening drinking water.

The plan being rolled out Wednesday is the state's blueprint for reaching a 40% reduction in the...

Flickr user LadyDragonflyCC - >;</Flickr

A group of communities in Detroit is working together to address climate change. The Detroit Climate Action Collaborative , a combination of people from private and public industries, has developed a Detroit Climate Action plan, which aims to make a cleaner, healthier Detroit while creating jobs and lowering costs. Kimberly Hill Knott , project director for the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, joined us today on Stateside. She said without action, and as the climate becomes more volatile, Detroit could see more events like the flood that hit the city in 2014. And action on climate change, Knott said, could prevent more than natural disasters.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

U.S. and Canadian government agencies took part in a mock oil spill drill along the St. Clair River just south of Port Huron today. With temperatures in the low 80s and a light breeze, it was a lovely day to respond to a fake disaster. But while a few first responders spent a sunny day on boats in the river, most of the more than 200 people taking part in the exercise spent their time indoors dealing with a scenario for a fictional disaster that included the need to corral thousands of...

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