Sometimes people don’t tell the truth. More often, they don’t tell the whole truth. Sometimes they do it on purpose to make their argument appear stronger. Other times they make honest mistakes. Sorting it out is my job as a reporter. Yesterday, the Sierra Club dumped a fair amount of work on my lap when it released an error laden press release giving Governor Snyder a failing grade on energy and environmental actions.
I drove around with her as we followed trucks laden with liquefied manure and watched as they spread the liquid on nearby farm fields.
It's a practice that can add nutrients back to the land if done right, but with the huge quantities of manure these CAFOs are dealing with year round - doing it right is something they've had trouble with.
And Henning, a "Sierra Club Water Sentinel," has been watching them - reporting them to state officials when they weren't complying with the law.
It's clear from visiting these communities that these large scale farms have caused rifts among neighbors; some like the income they make selling corn and renting land to CAFO operators, but others feel CAFOs threaten their health and the beauty of rural farming life.
Working as an environmental activist in rural Michigan (she formed the group Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan), Henning says she's felt those divisions first-hand - saying she's been harassed and threatened on numerous occasions.
Family farmer and activist Lynn Henning exposed the egregious polluting practices of livestock factory farms in rural Michigan, gaining the attention of the federal EPA and prompting state regulators to issue hundreds of citations for water quality violations.
She's also been to the White House to meet President Obama. And now, here she is on Bill Maher. To watch, we have to pull up a chair up to "imnewshound's" television - he has subscription to HBO, after all (and being HBO and Bill Maher, be warned - there is some foul language):
People rallied in Holland today to ask officials not to expand the city-owned coal-fired power plant.
Holland took the state to court get an air quality permit that would allow it to replace a more than 60-year-old boiler with a more efficient one. City officials haven’t decided if they will replace it yet or not.
Tia Lebherz is with the Sierra Club in Holland. She and about twenty others held protest signs outside the Holland farmer’s market demanding the city move “beyond coal”.
Large factory farms have lost a major court case in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The case involves farming operations with hundreds, sometimes thousands of animals. They are often called CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
The appellate court upheld a lower court ruling that the state could require large confined animal feeding operations to get pollution discharge permits before opening. Farm groups challenged the state rule insisting they should only need a permit after releasing manure causing water pollution. But today, the three judge panel disagreed:
We conclude that the DEQ was fully authorized to require CAFOs to either (1) seek and obtain an (federal) permit (irrespective of whether they actually discharge pollutants), or (2) satisfactorily demonstrate that they have no potential to discharge. The circuit court properly denied plaintiffs’ motion for summary disposition and granted summary disposition in favor of the DEQ.
Ann Wiowode is the director of the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club. She welcomes this week’s ruling.
“That is essential in insuring they’re not allowed to begin operation and potentially pollute the water without going through proper review.”
But while she welcomes the decision, Wiowode says more work is needed to protect Michigan from water pollution connected to agriculture.
“We think the regulations are still too weak. And based on our experience, the permits themselves have many things that could be improved.”
Snyder says the bills are important for the state's agriculture industry.
The program aims to help farmers evaluate their operations to better identify and prevent possible environmental problems. About 1,000 farms have become verified through the program. Thousands more are in earlier stages of the verification process.
Critics of the bills say they're too much carrot and not enough stick.
They worry large farms could increase pollution without strict state oversight.
Anne Woiwode of the Michigan Sierra Club, a group that has long battled against pollution from large-scale livestock operations, says the new measures protect polluters.
Opponents say the legislation violates the Clean Water Act and jeopardizes the state’s water quality program.“With just barely 2 months in this new legislature and Governor, it appears the course toward weakening Michiganders’ well-being is off to a jump start here,” Michigan Sierra Club Director Anne Woiwode said via e-mail.
Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, reported that Governor Snyder said it was important to him to put the voluntary program into law:
"Because our Ag community is a critical part of our state," said Snyder. "It’s one of our largest industries. It’s one of our greatest opportunities, and it was one of the areas that supported us over this last decade of really tough times."
A Canadian environmental group says studies supporting the proposed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) are flawed.
DRIC supporters on both sides of the border say a new crossing will create jobs and bolster international trade.
The Canadian and Ontario governments strongly support the project, and Governor Snyder recently voiced his approval too.
But a Sierra Club of Ontario report says the traffic projections DRIC supporters cite are flawed. They say cross-border traffic has declined for 12 years, and shows no sign of rebounding anytime soon. Sierra Club director Dan McDermott says the DRIC would be a costly boondoggle.
“There is simply no demand for DRIC. No cross-border traffic demand that justifies five-plus billions of dollars.”
McDermott says he hopes the report will bolster its cases against the DRIC in Canadian courts. Those lawsuits challenge the project’s environmental permits.