environment

The International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that advises the United States and Canada, says the two countries should do more to keep microplastics out of the lakes.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are five millimeters or smaller. Microbeads are used in things like soap and toothpaste. Microfibers are tiny fibers that wash off our synthetic clothing, like fleece.

Those tiny plastics can end up in the Great Lakes and can get into fish.

Every day, more than 20 million gallons of oil, some 540 thousand barrels, are pumped through two 63-year-old pipes lying at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. Those Enbridge Line 5 pipes are the focus of the Great Lakes Business Network, a newly-formed group of Michigan business leaders who want the twin pipeline shut down.

Among those leaders is Larry Bell. He is the founder and president of Bell’s Brewery, Michigan’s largest brewing company.

Shortly after the election, researchers from the U.S. and Canada got together to start backing up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S.

They’re also keeping a close eye on how the Trump Administration is changing federal websites, and they're already finding some changes.

One of the groups heading up this effort is called the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. (You can see EDGI's report on changes to some EPA websites here, and its report on the State Department and Department of Energy here.)

According to NASA, 2016 was the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880. It was the third straight year to break the record for global average temperatures.

Around the world, governments, businesses and individuals are taking steps to reverse this trend. 

Most of these efforts to combat climate change have centered on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air, largely by limiting the use of fossil fuels. But what if simply reducing carbon emissions—even reducing them to zero—is not enough? That is the assumption behind a new initiative from the University of Michigan.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is determined it’s going to build an underground storage bunker for nuclear waste at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant in Kincardine, Ontario.

That location is less than a mile from Lake Huron.

Michigan’s congressional delegation has objected to the project every step of the way. Now, with a New Year and a new administration in the White House, come fresh efforts.

There’s been a lot going on at the Environmental Protection Agency lately.

First, the Trump administration barred anyone at the EPA from communicating with the public. Then, a White House official announced that EPA research could be subject to review by the administration.

The Trump administration has sent strong signals that it’s going to be friendly to industry.

Will grass carp spread in the Great Lakes?

Jan 31, 2017

There are grass carp in three of the Great Lakes, but it’s not too late to do something about it.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new risk assessment on this type of Asian carp by the United States and Canada.

The Next Idea

Earth’s water is a natural medium for collecting energy, taking in about 97% of what we receive from the sun. After reflection and radiation, water stores over 2 million TWh (terawatt hours) per year. The world’s annual energy consumption is about 150,000 TWh. Clearly, we could benefit from using water for power.

Every year, the EPA awards over $4 billion in grants and other means of assistance.

Within hours of President Trump taking the oath of office, an email went out to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials ordering them to freeze all contract and grant awards, effective immediately.

That leaves many wondering how that could affect federal aid to Flint, especially as the U.S. Senate approved $170 million to address the lead in Flint’s drinking water last month.

"Goldilocks days" and a warming climate

Jan 25, 2017

2016 was the hottest year on record.

When we talk about climate change, we usually talk about extreme weather events: extreme heat, drought, flooding. But scientists have also studied what’s likely to happen with the best weather days. Days that are not too hot, not too cold, or humid or rainy. Just right.

Susan Bence

A Wisconsin town is getting a lot of attention these days, on the issue of drinking water. Waukesha lies outside the Great Lakes basin, but it has received permission to take water from Lake Michigan. Officials are still debating the political and financial impact, and a group of mayors is challenging the town’s action.

Researchers have found a chemical that’s widely used on crops such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits can be bad for bees.

They’ve found it makes honey bee larvae more susceptible to deadly viruses.

The Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project has been tracking the rare ecosystem on Isle Royale for almost 60 years. What makes Isle Royale rare is that the island, located in Lake Superior roughly 50 miles from the Upper Peninsula, has just two main animals inhabiting it. The food chain is simple: The wolves are the predators and the moose are the prey.

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Recently, the tracking of the wolves and moose on Isle Royale led to an unlikely musical creation. 

Bumble bee added to the endangered species list

Jan 12, 2017

For the first time in the U.S., a bumble bee has been listed as an endangered species. 

It’s called the rusty patched bumble bee. The species is no longer found in Michigan, but small populations still exist elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

State officials want you to check your trees for a tiny insect. It’s called the hemlock woolly adelgid, and it survives by sucking sap from hemlock trees.

This insect was first detected in Michigan in 2006.

The Canadian company that’s proposing to bury its nuclear waste in an underground site near Lake Huron doubled down this week on that controversial site.

Ontario Power Generation was ordered to do a study of alternative sites – options other than the proposed 2,200-foot underground repository at the Bruce power plant near Kincardine, right by Lake Huron.

That report came out last week.

The winter study of the wolves and moose on Isle Royale is heading into its 59th year. The wolf-moose study is the longest running study of any predator and its prey in the world.

Scientists from Michigan Tech spend several weeks on the island in the middle of winter every year. They'll be heading back out soon.

Federal agency changes rules on accidental eagle deaths

Dec 20, 2016

Bald eagles came off the endangered species list in 2007 because they were doing so well. These days you can see more bald eagles than in any time in the past 50 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency has just finalized a new rule about bald and golden eagles, which revises the permitting system for unintentional impacts on eagles.

A year ago, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency in the city. Now, officials say the water is improving, but it’s still not safe to drink without a filter.

The water crisis has forced some people to make tough choices.

Dana Banks and her husband Charles were both born and raised in Flint, and they still have a lot of family here. Their church is here. Their house, right near downtown, is the first home they bought together.

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