Michigan Energy & Environment

IPR brings you the stories and sounds of nature Up North. Hear about our changing natural world, and the challenges northern Michigan faces with a growing economy and a fragile ecosystem.

David Cassleman

A new report in Bridge Magazine this month questions how much state and federal officials know about the condition of an oil pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac.

Reporter Ted Roelofs also details the inspection process governing oil and gas pipelines in the United States.

“The pipeline network in this country, which is about 2.5 million miles, it’s essentially self-regulated by the industry," Roelofs says.

"The federal agency that oversees it [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA] essentially outsources the inspection to the industry itself.”


Steve Stinson

An environmental group is warning the new Meijer east of Traverse City could cause more trouble for Grand Traverse Bay.

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay says the system to catch storm water runoff from the Meijer parking lot is deficient. The organization sent a letter to the township last week saying the system doesn’t meet basic state requirements to protect nearby Acme Creek.

The center’s executive director, Christine Crissman, says the permit for the development calls for an “innovative” system to address this issue.

Senator Gary Peters says he's still "weighing all the issues" on President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. Congress is expected to vote on the agreement early in September, when lawmakers return from summer recess.

“This will probably be one of the most serious votes that I will make no matter how long I’m in the United States Senate," Peters said in an interview last week with Interlochen Public Radio.

Peters also took time to discuss the controversial oil pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac.

“I am not satisfied that it’s safe," Peters said.  "I’m very concerned about it. Quite frankly I don’t even believe that it probably should be in the Straits."


Drilling for oil and gas in Michigan is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

And so far, newer methods of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are not producing a new boom for the industry.

The number of permits issued for new oil and gas wells so far this year is on track to be the lowest in more than 80 years.

There are just three wolves left on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.  And researchers estimate there are 1,250 moose.  

The National Park Service is deciding whether or not to step in.

The park service is in the early stages of creating a management plan for the wolves and moose on the island.

Bob Allen

Drilling for oil and gas in Michigan is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression.  And there is no reason to expect the industry will get a boost anytime soon.

Mark Snow handles permits for new oil and gas wells at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and says they are on track to issue about 120 permits this year. That would be the lowest number since 1931 when 111 were issued. As recently as 2008, more than 900 permits were issued.

In northern Michigan, the water problems of California seem far away. But water scarcity is a growing problem in the world, and the crisis out west has inspired a group of journalists and scientists based in Traverse City who are studying the issue.

Circle of Blue is leading a series of seven online town hall discussions about California's water crisis and what it means for the rest of the world. It's called 'Catalyst: California,' and Interlochen Public Radio is providing the group a base of operations for the project.

“What we learn in California can be applied in the Great Lakes," says J. Carl Ganter. He's co-founder and director of Circle of Blue.


Washing away invasive hitchhikers

Aug 18, 2015

Invasive species love to sneak a ride on boats.

There are more than 180 exotic species in the Great Lakes, and we help move them around.

Jo Latimore is an outreach specialist with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

“Research has shown that boats and trailers moving from one lake to another are the number one vector, the number one pathway of invasive species moving from one water body to the next,” she says.

Sex, death and sea lampreys

Aug 13, 2015

Each invasive sea lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish a year in the Great Lakes.

We spend more than $28 million in federal money each year to control the lampreys (according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, $20.9 million goes to sea lamprey control measures and more than $3 million is spent on sea lamprey research).

Michael Wagner is an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

Morgan Springer

 

For duck hunters and competition duck callers, sounding like a duck is important. And these duck callers are pretty good. Want to hear them? Here's a person pretending to be a mallard duck.

Google Images

 

Michigan is fortunate to have one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world. And much of it is protected by the Great Lakes Compact. Many other states are not so fortunate.

 

Interlochen Public Radio is hosting the Circle of Blue, a Michigan-based source of news about the world’s water supply founded by journalists and scientists, on a series of virtual town halls about the future of water. To find out more, visit h2ocatalyst.org.

 

Bob Allen

Michigan, like every other state, is trying to figure out how to keep the lights on in the future. One answer could be more homeowners producing energy for themselves using wind or solar power.

Right now, fewer than 1,800 people in Michigan participate in a program called "net metering." That's where homeowners produce electricity for themselves, and then sell surplus energy to utility companies.

The small group of energy producers faces an uncertain future under a Senate plan (Bill 438) that would rewrite the rules governing net metering.

If you’re eating right now, you might want to take a little break.

We’re going to take a moment to talk about fecal bacteria.

Researchers at Michigan State University have done some detective work on septic tanks in Michigan, and they’ve found these tanks are leaking bacteria.

Firefighters take on wildfire in Marquette County

Jul 31, 2015
Department of Natural Resources

A wildfire has spread to roughly 70 acres at a logging operation in Marquette County. Department of Natural Resources and township firefighters had the fire 60 percent contained by Thursday night. 

Containment efforts will continue today. The cause has not been determined.

The danger of wildfires is high to extremely high in Michigan right now. 

There’s a bloom of cyanobacteria in Lake Erie right now. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting it could become the second worst on record.

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and it has something the other Great Lakes don’t — stable populations of mostly native fish species.

But scientists say a key fish in Superior’s food web is now in trouble because of mild winters and an appetite for caviar in Europe.

Five years ago today, an oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan split open, starting the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The heavy tar sands oil came from Enbridge Energy's pipeline 6B. The oil flowed into Talmadge Creek and then into the Kalamazoo River.

The biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history happened right here in Michigan. Now that five years have passed, we checked in with people who were affected by the spill.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 6B broke open on July 25, 2010. The massive oil spill changed life for a lot of people in the small town of Marshall and along the Kalamazoo River.

Five years ago, on July 25, 2010, an Enbridge Energy pipeline burst, causing the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

One of the rumors you can still hear about the incident is that the company must have dumped a surfactant into the Kalamazoo River to help break up the oil. The chemical is called corexit, and it can be harmful to humans.

Regulators and Enbridge deny corexit was ever used for the Kalamazoo spill. But that hasn’t put the rumor to rest.

David Cassleman

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the days of an energy pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac are numbered. But, a task force led by Schuette does not recommend that day should come anytime soon.

You might’ve heard about cougars being spotted in Michigan. There are also cougars out west and there’s the Florida panther. But what we’re talking about here is something called the eastern cougar.

Especially in the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. They burned everything from tires, batteries, and plastic to human and medical waste.

Curtis Gibson is an Air Force veteran. He served in Afghanistan in late 2011.

“I’d see things floating in the air — burned papers you see them floating through the air so you know you’re taking something in,” Gibson says.

Scientists study chemicals for their potential to cause cancer, but usually they examine them one at a time.

And yet, we’re exposed to mixtures of different chemicals every day.

If you ever get a chance to meet a sea lamprey, you won’t forget it.

They look like an eel but they’re actually a fish. They have a suction cup for a face, with hundreds of razor sharp teeth.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A tiny worm is causing big problems for spruce trees in northern Michigan.

The state Department of Natural Resources says an infestation of spruce budworms is attacking balsam fir trees, as well as white and black spruce. The inch-long worms consume the trees’ needles from the top down.

DNR forester Ron Murray says it’s been decades since Michigan has seen such a large outbreak.

“The spruce budworm is a cyclical pest that comes around about every 30 to 50 years," says Murray. "We’re looking at this as potentially being the beginning of the next one.”

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