EPA

Wood burning stove.
Rich Misner / Flickr

Michigan may soon pick a fight with the Environmental Protection Agency over wood burning stoves.

Nationwide, there are an estimated 12 million wood and pellet stoves. The EPA estimates wood stoves contribute about 13% of the nation’s soot pollution. 

User: ellenm1 / Flickr

Wetlands have all kinds of benefits for people and wildlife. But wetlands have also gotten in the way of farming and building. So, we’ve drained them over the years. 

The federal government has been trying to clarify what kinds of wetlands and small streams fall under the Clean Water Act.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a new rule that they say would clear up confusion. 

Annie Snider is a reporter who covers water issues for Greenwire in Washington, D.C. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 and Snider says the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers took a broad approach to what fell under it.

"But in 2001, and then again in 2006, there were [Supreme] Court challenges that threw that into question. And after those, the questions of which waters, which streams, which creeks, which wetlands fall under federal power under the Clean Water Act was thrown into question," says Snider.

The 2006 ruling involved two cases out of Michigan. While one contested the rejection of a permit, in the other, the U.S. sued a Midland real estate developer for filling in a wetland property. The developer said the wetland was not a "navigable waterway" and therefore not covered by the CWA. However, until that point, the EPA interpreted "navigable waters" as being "waters of the U.S." and any waters or wetlands connected to one of these waterways. In its ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA's limitless authority over water.

After that decision, Snider says that regulators had to make case-by-case decisions about which streams and creeks are important to the downstream waters — the big rivers and lakes that do fall under the Clean Water Act.

Tailpipe Exhaust
Flickr user JT

Americans care more about fuel economy than ever before, but did you know that the EPA does their MPG testing at their laboratory in Ann Arbor?

The EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality is located on Plymouth Road and employs 450 workers. It was created in 1970  for its close distance to the "Big Three." 

But cars aren't the only vehicle subject to MPG testing. From weed whackers to ocean vessels, anything with a motor must meet the EPA's standards.

With so many vehicles being released the lab doesn't have time to check all of them individually. Instead, the dealers themselves test their own vehicles and are subject to audits to make sure their own results can be matched when tested in the Ann Arbor lab.

Chris Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, understands their work's importance.

The office is in charge of setting the standards along with enforcing them. Their testing is done not only to protect the environment, but to make sure consumers receive the quality advertised to them when investing in a new vehicle.

You can listen to our conversation with Grundler below.


Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There's good news and bad news for residents with drinking water wells near the Kalamazoo River. A massive oil spill contaminated the river in 2010.

State officials tested 150 of the residential water wells for contaminants.

“Now the oil related chemicals, those would have been iron and nickel, they were detected in a few wells but nothing but was levels of concern,” says Angela Minicuci, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Battle Creek-based cereal maker Kellogg has agreed to pay a big fine for violating the federal Clean Air act.

The violations occurred at Kellogg plants in Battle Creek and Grand Rapids.   The government cited the cereal maker for operating without necessary permits and exceeding federal emission levels.

Some of the violations date back to 1993.  The most recent violation took place in 2007.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Much of the Kalamazoo River, closed to the public since the 2010 Enbridge oil spill, is now reopened.

It’s been nearly two years since a broken pipeline near Marshall leaked more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil that eventually fouled more than 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

(EPA)

MARSHALL, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials have released photographs and 5,000 pages of documents related to the pipeline rupture in southwestern Michigan that polluted the Kalamazoo River and a tributary creek nearly two years ago.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the leak, which spilled more than 800,000 gallons of crude near Marshall in Calhoun County. Spokesman Peter Knudson said Monday the NTSB expects to reach a conclusion this summer.

The newly released material includes photos of the damaged pipe, reports outlining the sequence of events following the July 25, 2010 rupture and interviews with emergency responders and officials with Enbridge Inc., owner of the pipeline.

The 30-inch line extends from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. Enbridge announced plans last week to enlarge the pipe so it can carry more oil.

Flickr user/I'm Such a Child

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will award $20 million in grants this year for projects to help the Great Lakes.

EPA officials recently invited states, cities, Indian tribes, universities and nonprofit groups to apply for the grants, which will come from money Congress appropriated under the Obama administration's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The projects will focus on issues such as invasive species, toxic pollution and runoff from farms and cities.

Photo by Shawn Allee

The Environmental Protection Agency has missed its own deadline to release a major report on the health effects of dioxins. Dioxins are a class of toxic chemicals.

The EPA says dioxins are likely to cause cancer in humans. Since the mid-1980’s, the EPA has been working to define just how toxic dioxins are. Over the years, the agency has released drafts of the report. These drafts have been picked apart by scientists and industry. Then, the EPA goes back to working on it.

Last year, the EPA decided to split its dioxin assessment into two parts. One part will look at cancer risks; the other part will look at non-cancer health risks. The agency had promised to release the report on non-cancer effects by the end of January. But they missed that deadline.

The EPA did not want to be recorded for this story. They would only say they’re “working to finalize the non-cancer health assessment for dioxin as expeditiously as possible.”

Living with dioxin pollution

People in central Michigan have lived with dioxin pollution for more than three decades. The pollution is largely from a Dow Chemical plant in Midland. We’ve previously reported that EPA’s dioxin assessment could affect how much dioxin Dow might have to clean up.

Michelle Hurd Riddick is with the Lone Tree Council. It’s an environmental advocacy group based in Saginaw.

“We need our government to issue a clear scientific statement and report on the toxicity of this chemical. But unfortunately, it appears it’s probably politics as usual. And the monied interests, the lobbyists, they have the access, they have the influence and you know, public health be damned.”

The EPA has been under pressure from industry groups.

Ian Britton / freefoto.com

Union leaders, environmental groups and some auto industry representatives are applauding new fuel efficiency standards proposed by President Obama.

The Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing on the new rules in Detroit Tuesday.

The Obama administration’s proposed rule actually measures greenhouse gas emissions. But when translated into the usual lingo, that’s about 54 miles per gallon—roughly double the current standard.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 The EPA this week gave approval to Enbridge Energy’s plans for continuing its cleanup of an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.    The plan suggests major cleanup operations may change next year.  

More than 840 thousand gallons of crude oil spewed from a broken pipeline near Marshall in July, 2010.   The exact amount remains in dispute.     

Hundreds of workers have spent the past 17 months removing the oil from the river.    

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A Michigan State University professor says he’s concerned a revised plan for cleaning up an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River is missing details in one important area.      

NASA / via flickr.com

The US Environmental Protection Agency has awarded more than $2 million in grants to Detroit-area water restoration projects.

These grants will go to four Metro Detroit projects. They include efforts to reduce toxins in the Rouge and Detroit rivers, and to eliminate e. coli sources near Macomb County beaches.

Congressman John Dingell says those projects represent “indispensable investments. But he notes that in a tough fiscal environment, “We’re going to have a difficult time defending” them.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Dozens of people who turned out for a public hearing in Marshall on the cleanup of last Summer’ s oil spill in the Kalamazoo River left without hearing the news they wanted to hear….that the river will soon reopen.  

More than 766 thousand gallons of crude oil have been recovered during  the past twelve months.   But there are still large deposits of  submerged oil in three different parts of the river.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A major cleanup project along the Tittabawassee River is moving into its final planning stages. It’s a project that presents several challenges.   

Dioxin contamination has been the subject of many cleanup projects in the Tittabawassee River. This new project will focus on other dangerous chemicals, like arsenic, dumped into the river in the past.

This week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency plans to hold a public meeting to discuss what’s happening with the Kalamazoo River oil spill.  More than year ago, a ruptured oil pipeline spewed more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil that eventually made its way into the Kalamazoo River. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking the company responsible for last year’s oil spill in the Kalamazoo River for information they say is missing. Last summer an Enbridge Energy pipeline ruptured, releasing more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil. Cleanup is still underway.

Last spring after the snow and ice melted, cleanup efforts on the Kalamazoo River really ramped up. The EPA came up with a plan to monitor air quality. The agency directed Enbridge to collect air samples to look for contaminants that could have been stirred up during the spring cleaning. Enbridge also was supposed to collect weather data so the EPA knew the conditions when the samples were taken.

Ralph Dollhopf heads EPA’s Incident Command for the Enbridge spill. He says some of that weather data is missing.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing but we want to make sure that we understand the complete situation.”

Dollhopf says they’re asking Enbridge to supply the missing data or explain why it’s missing.

Marshall resident Susan Connolly says she’s disappointed, but not surprised the data Enbridge is responsible for gathering could be missing.

“That would be just like letting a pedophile babysit a child. I mean why would you let the person that caused the pipeline to spill to be the ones to monitor?"

The EPA oversees the cleanup.

An Enbridge spokesman says the company has not received the EPA’s notice yet so he declined to comment for now.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Seven Michigan communities are getting help from the federal government to clean up contaminated industrial sites.   Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson says her agency is awarding brownfield cleanup grants to Lansing, Albion, Inkster, Northville and three other Michigan communities.   

The grants total $2.9 million.  

epa.gov

It's probably the second sticker you look at (the first being the price sticker).

The new fuel economy and environment labels will take effect with model year 2013 cars and trucks. The EPA is calling the new labels "the most dramatic overhaul to fuel economy labels since the program began more than 30 years ago."

The new labels show more information about fuel economy, such as predicted annual fuel costs (based on $3.70 per gallon), and how much in fuel you would save compared to an average car (an "average" car's mpg is set at 22 mpg). The labels also give a greenhouse gas rating, and a smog rating.

And it wouldn't be an updated label without a way to load it into your smarty-pants phone. Here's a video from the EPA on how that works:

Chris Broadbent

Protesters rallied at an energy forum hosted by the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce today. They’re calling on the Kalamazoo Chamber to cut its ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Nicole Lowen / Environment Michigan

Several protestors rallied outside Congressman Fred Upton’s offices in Kalamazoo Friday.

Nicole Lowen is the with Environment Michigan, a state-wide advocacy group that tries to protect clean air, water and open spaces.

“We had gigantic, oversized asthma inhalers that we dropped off at his office just to represent the thousands of his constituents that are likely to suffer more frequent and severe health problems if he’s successful in stripping away these critical clean air protections.”

She says they were protesting a bill (H.R. 910) Upton introduced that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Upton chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House. The republican from St. Joseph says allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will drive up energy costs, destroy jobs and make America less competitive globally.

“Such regulatory authority can only come from elected legislators, not unelected bureaucrats.  We must not allow this administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate,” Upton said in a press release issued Friday.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Its been months since an oil pipeline ruptured near Marshall, spewing more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude. Since last July, hundreds of clean-up workers have been removing tons of contaminated soil along the Kalamazoo River in Calhoun County. That work goes on, and while it does, public use of the river will remain on hold.

The Battle Creek Enquirer is reporting today that Calhoun County officials say they don't know when public use of the river will be allowed. Jim Rutherford is with the Calhoun County Public Health.

"Until I know it's a safe environment, I'm still going to keep the closing on...the last thing I want is for somebody to get exposure (to oil), get hurt or worse as a result of getting tied up in the boom." 

The clean up along the Kalamazoo River slowed as winter weather moved in last fall. But, an Enbridge Energy spokeswoman says they are transitioning now to more aggressive oil removal work. The EPA's investigation into the oil spill continues.

Joe Gratz / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency has established new clean air standards for incinerators and boilers. From the EPA's press release:

"In response to federal court orders requiring the issuance of final standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators that achieve significant public health protections through reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury and soot, but cut the cost of implementation by about 50 percent from an earlier proposal issued last year."

"Mercury, soot, lead and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to developmental disabilities in children, as well as cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death in Americans. These standards will avoid between 2,600-6,600 premature deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and avert 42,000 asthma attacks per year in 2014."

An Associated Press article has some background on criticisms that may have prompted the move.

"Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have harshly criticized the EPA recently over the costs of a whole host of regulations, including the first-ever rules to control the gases blamed for global warming. At least a half-dozen bills have been introduced this year to block or curtail agency regulations, and House Republicans succeeded last week in attaching numerous anti-EPA measures to a bill aimed at funding the government for the rest of this fiscal year."

Michael Caven / flickr

The details of the United States and Michigan budget cuts are beginning to leak out.  The United States Congress is trying to come together on a plan to cut a huge amount of spending. Governor Rick Snyder will be delivering his budget proposal for next year on Thursday.

One area of debate is how the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gas emissions. A new statewide poll shows voters in Michigan would support these rules, but Republicans in the US Congress are moving against them this week.

Al Quinlan conducted the poll funded by the Energy Foundation, a pro-renewable energy group.

"We asked people simply whether they favor or oppose the EPA regulating these emissions the results were 64% favor, 27% oppose. And there was broad based support across partisan lines."

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton is a leading opponent of EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses.

Sarah Alvarez-Michigan Radio Newsroom

Fred Thompson / Flickr

The farm lobby has been pushing hard to increase the amount of ethanol allowed to be mixed into gasoline. And it seems like the Obama Administration is obliging.

The vast majority of today's ethanol comes from corn. The alcohol is mixed in gasoline to make it burn more cleanly.

Right now, the standard is 10% (a 10% ethanol, and 90% gasoline mix is most likely in your gas tank right now).

The EPA increased the allowed amount of ethanol to a 15% mix last fall for cars made after 2007.

Now, the Associated Press reports the EPA is poised to allow the 15% mix for more cars. From the AP:

Two people familiar with the decision said late Thursday the agency is expected to announce on Friday that 15 percent ethanol in gasoline is safe for cars manufactured between 2001 and 2006. Both officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the decision.

Enbridge Energy oil spill
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This week the energy company involved in an oil spill that reached the Kalamazoo River is revising the amount of total oil that leaked from a ruptured pipeline near Marshall. Enbridge Energy submitted the update to US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration this week.

Photo courtesy of www.epa.gov

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency briefed people at a meeting last night in Battle Creek about the continuing clean-up of the Kalamazoo River oil spill.  EPA officials say they've finished cleaning up 50 sites in the river.