environmental policy

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The recent Toledo water crisis has farmers in Michigan and Ohio on the defensive. They’re pointing to a number of voluntary efforts they’re making to reduce phosphorus runoff to Lake Erie. That runoff is the main food source for the blooms of a kind of cyanobacteria that release a toxin that led to the water shutdown. But farm groups and environmentalists say a new state law in Ohio that will certify the use of fertilizers doesn't go far enough or happen fast enough. 

"Basically, the new law will require that all farmers and certified crop advisors who spread chemical fertilizer on fields go through a certification process where they will learn how to spread the fertilizer in the right place, at the right rate, at the right time of year," says Karen Schaefer, an Ohio reporter who is covering this issue. "And the problem with it is: right now it does not include manure and the law does not go into effect until 2017."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

These days, getting pretty much any kind of environmental policy made into law involves a lot of fighting and delay.

New research from Michigan State University finds Americans are becoming more divided over environmental protection and they seem to be getting their cue mainly from Congress.

Aaron McCright is a sociologist at MSU and the lead author of the study. He writes that things weren’t always so partisan. In fact, many landmark environmental laws were born during the Nixon Administration.

From 'Red Scare' to 'Green Menace'

But then the Soviet Union fell and, according to McCright's research, the American conservative movement (consisting of major conservative think tanks, wealthy families, and conservative foundations) moved its focus away from former communists toward what they saw as the 'green menace'.

"This really came through in the late 80s and early 90s, so this anti-environmentalism of the conservative movement was driving the changing policy stance of the Republican party and it's mostly because of a significant drop off in pro-environmental voting among Republicans in both the House and the Senate,"said McCright. "Whereas the Democrats just sort of continued on a light, upward trend in pro-environmental voting."

User: carol mitchell / Flickr

Just in case the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement isn’t on your summer reading list, here’s the gist of it:

It’s an agreement between the U.S. and Canada. One of the goals of that agreement is to make the Great Lakes more swimmable, fishable and drinkable.

The International Joint Commission is an independent bi-national organization. It gives advice to the U.S. and Canada on meeting those goals, among other things. The IJC has a Health Professionals Advisory Board, and the board’s come out with a report proposing five ways to measure risks to our health from contaminants and other hazards in the Great Lakes.

The advisory board is proposing these indicators:

  • The chemical integrity of source water
  • Biological hazards of source water
  • Illness risk at Great Lakes beaches
  • Identified risks at Great Lakes beaches
  • Contaminant levels in fish

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Economists often argue that we should use the market to fight climate change. Cap-and-trade legislation died in Congress back in 2010.  Some people think a tax on carbon dioxide is a better solution, but that would require large companies to pay for their carbon emissions.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

On Monday morning, the Environmental Protection Agency released the federal government’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The agency's calling it the "Clean Power Plan."

The EPA says carbon dioxide emissions are the main driver of climate change. The agency is proposing a 30% reduction in CO2 from power plants by 2030. Here's what EPA says about the proposed regulations:

Climate change is not just a problem for the future. We are facing its impacts today:

Average temperatures have risen in most states since 1901, with seven of the top 10 warmest years on record occurring since 1998.  Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion. Nationwide, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by approximately 30 per cent from 2005 levels. It will also reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent.

Policymakers at the state level and the state’s major power companies don’t seem surprised by the news. 

(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.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A water dilemma is brewing in Wisconsin.

The city of Waukesha (near Milwaukee) is asking for permission to tap into Lake Michigan for drinking water — to the tune of 10.1 million gallons per day.

Waukesha is in a real bind. The aquifer that has provided most of its drinking water for the last century has dropped so far, that the water left behind has unhealthy levels of radium and salt.

So the city of 70,000 is under a federal order to find a new source, and Lake Michigan is just 15 miles away.

But Waukesha has the bad luck to be a mile and a half outside the watershed boundary that encircles the five Great Lakes.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

By now, you’ve probably heard of Detroit’s pet coke piles.

They’re a byproduct of refining Canadian tar sands oil at Detroit’s Marathon refinery, and the ashen piles are definitely an eyesore on the city’s riverfront. But how much of a danger does pet coke really pose?

So far, a definitive answer has proved elusive. But that hasn’t stopped a whole movement from springing up—and gaining some ground in the global fight against tar sands oil.

Detroit and its downriver suburbs have some serious pollution problems.

And according to a new Sierra Club report, the greatest effects fall on poor, largely non-white communities.

The report deals with environmental justice in southeast Michigan—the idea that poor, minority communities tend to shoulder the burdens of pollution.

It details toxic emissions from six major sources in and around Detroit—five of which are clustered in the downriver area.

World Resources Institute

Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder gave his “special address” on energy and the environment.

In it, he said it is impossible to ignore the connections between economics, energy, and the environment while talking about subjects like land management, invasive species, and urban farming.

Here are the highlights for those who missed it:

1) Pushing for more natural gas, says Michigan has safe "fracking"

In a section of his speech on Michigan’s energy future, the governor said he was bullish on natural gas.

With regard to the extraction and production of the gas, Governor Snyder suggested that Michigan has been safely hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for a long time.

In his address, Gov. Snyder said "hydraulic fracturing" and "horizontal drilling" have been around for decades.

...some have expressed concerns about what these technologies mean for Michigan’s environment. Neither fracking nor horizontal drilling is a new technology—they have been used in Michigan for many decades. None of the fracking that has been done in Michigan has resulted in a single water quality problem.

What might have been missed in the Governor’s statement is the distinction between hydraulic fracturing and horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

Rick Snyder was the first Republican running for governor to be endorsed by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV), a lobbying group that advocates for conservational and environmental laws and protection.

The MLCV has been tracking Governor Snyder’s position on environmental issues through the “How Green is your Governor” scorecard, an online evaluation that rates the administration’s environmental policy decision - green is good, red is bad, and yellow is neutral.