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.

Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

May 17th, 2002 was the official date when tart cherry trees reached full bloom in northern Michigan that year. The orchards looked normal but most of the cherry buds had been destroyed in April by freezing cold.

The Leelanau Enterprise ran a headline that summer that said “No Cherries.”

Ben LaCross is a second generation grower on a farm north of Cedar. He says nobody could recall a cherry crop failing so completely.

Aaron Selbig

The Grand Traverse Butterfly House opened last weekend – a couple of weeks later than planned. When the first group of butterflies was introduced to the garden, they were killed by plants that contained a deadly chemical.

Now the owner of the butterfly house is concerned that local home gardeners may be unknowingly killing butterflies with the same chemical.

Cyndie Bobier says it was a chemical in the flowers she had planted that caused the first group of butterflies to die.

S.S. Badger sets sail to a greener future

May 15, 2015
S.S. Badger

A Lake Michigan icon sets sail today with a new lease on life.

The Ludington-based car-ferry S.S. Badger will still give passengers the experience of riding a historic, coal-fired vessel. But the largest coal-fired passenger ship operating in the U.S. will no longer dump its coal ash into the lake.

The wolf population on Isle Royale has been dropping for some time.

There were nine animals last year, and in their latest winter study report, researchers on Isle Royale only spotted these three wolves on the entire island:

Isle Royale has been home to the longest running predator-prey study in the world -- researchers have been studying how wolves prey on moose here since 1958.

Today, the state of Michigan announced a settlement with Enbridge Energy over the largest inland oil spill in American history.

The state’s $75 million consent judgment with Enbridge won’t be coming as a huge cash payment. Most of the money has already gone to, or will be going to river restoration or recreation projects along the Kalamazoo River.

If you're worried about the oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac, you may have a tough time finding detailed information about it. Much of the oversight is handled by the federal government, and the records are often kept secret.

A bill that's in the state house right now would go even further to exempt oil and gas pipelines from Freedom of Information Act requests.

 

Our climate is changing and people are working out ways to adapt.

A new report takes a look at how climate change is affecting weather in the U.S. and what people are doing to try to get ready for more changes in the future.

This piece is the first for The Living Memory Project, an occasional series connecting the past to the present in Northern Michigan.

On May 7th, 1979, Judge Noel Fox ruled in favor of three Indian tribes in a dispute with Michigan over fishing in the Great Lakes.

Judge Fox’s decision was blunt. He called the history of government dealings with Indians a “shameful record of broken treaties and unfulfilled promises.”

Fire danger likely to remain high through the week

May 5, 2015

Officials with the Huron-Manistee National Forest expect heightened fire danger in northern Michigan through Friday. This weekend alone the Forest Service responded to 11 fires, including one in Alcona that burned 470 acres.

“This year has been a much more dangerous fire season,” says Ken Arbogast, public affairs officer for the Huron-Manistee National Forest.

The region saw lower snowfall this winter and the spring hasn’t brought much rain.

“Some areas may have experienced rain yesterday,” he says. “But it wasn’t enough to really saturate the groundcover.”

The Bruce Nuclear site sits across Lake Huron from Michigan’s Thumb region.

Ontario Power Generation wants to bury some of its nuclear waste on the site in Kincardine, Ontario. All of the company’s low and intermediate level waste would be buried there forever, far underground.

Ken Bosma

The deer herd in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is so depleted the state is even talking about closing the firearm season this year. It’s just one option listed in a report to the Natural Resources Commission about possible responses to the situation.

Wildlife biologists estimate the population of deer in the UP is at its lowest level in 30 years. Extremely cold winters, particularly in 2014, are to blame, according to the report.

The fight is on over how to make sure Michigan's electric grid remains reliable.

The state's two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, will close nine coal-burning electric power plants by next April to comply with regulations on mercury emissions.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A fleet of Canadian-owned ships will be the first in the Great Lakes to have ballast treatment systems on board. The systems will kill invasive species that live in the ballast tanks of ocean going ships.

It’s a big step toward solving a problem that has plagued the Great Lakes for decades. But the issue is still contentious.

Michigan is saying goodbye to nine of its smaller and older coal-burning power plants.

DTE Energy is closing two facilities. Consumers Energy will shutter seven more, which are nicknamed the "Classic Seven." I recently toured one of these aging workhorses of electricity, B.C. Cobb in Muskegon.

The two reasons: 1) the process of moving water that far, and that high, wouldn't make economic sense; 2) Great Lakes water is locked down politically.

The ongoing drought in California has hit its fourth year. 

The landmark 2012 Clean Air Act was the nation's first action focusing on greenhouse gases, with the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025.

Margo Oge was the Environmental Protection Agency's director of the Office of Transportation Air Quality and she helped to shape the Clean Air Act.

The water is exceptionally clear in Lake Michigan right now, and a Coast Guard helicopter crew used a recent routine patrol to capture striking images of some of the area's many notable sunken ships. Some of them date from the 1800s.

Photos from the flight out of the Coast Guard's Traverse City, Mich., air station show a variety of ships resting on the lake bottom, including the James McBride, a 121-foot brig that sank in 1857.

The campaign to ban the drilling process known as “fracking” plans to launch a petition drive next month. This will be the third time the anti-fracking campaign has tried to get lawmakers or voters to adopt a ban.

Earlier efforts fell short, but LuAnn Kozma of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan says the ongoing controversy about drilling has helped the cause.
“I think people are getting it,” she said. “When they hear about fracking, they don’t want it.”

U.S. Geological Survey / http://www.usgs.gov/themes/factsheet/146-00/

Mercury levels are staying the same or increasing in the Great Lakes.

The state has just released new guidelines for safely eating Great Lakes fish. Despite the bad news about mercury, there is some good news in the report. There is evidence contamination is decreasing overall in Lake Michigan. It’s now safer to eater larger fish caught in the lake.

That’s largely because fish are less contaminated with PCBs and dioxin, two chemicals no longer in use. 

Researchers in Traverse City will check a small stream for E. coli this summer.

Mitchell Creek tested positive for high levels of the bacteria in 2009, when scientists with Michigan State University monitored eight sites along the waterway.

Firefighters have dangerous jobs. We all know that.

But a growing body of research suggests those dangers don’t go away once the flames are put out: several studies say firefighters have a significantly higher cancer risk, even when they’re young.

Tom Carr

Michigan has a number of wind farms because the state basically made them mandatory in 2008. That was when lawmakers decided a certain amount of our electricity must come from renewable resources, and utilities built wind turbines to comply.

Now, wind energy is, by some measurements, among the cheapest ways to keep the lights on. But nobody seems to be rushing to build more.

In fact, the man who has developed the wind farms we have in northern Michigan says his enthusiasm for wind is waning.

New York Department of Environmental Conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has put the northern long-eared bat on the “threatened” species list. The agency stopped short of saying the species is in danger of being wiped out by white-nose bat syndrome. The fungus has already killed millions of bats across the country.

Dan Kennedy is an endangered species expert with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He says the decision gives state wildlife officials more time to plan while the bats hibernate.

Back in December, there was a toxic spill in Detroit.

In my kitchen.

It was a Sunday morning. My kids were watching a cartoon. I was reading the paper. And my husband, who does some small-time antiques dealing in his spare time, was monkeying around with one of his treasures in the kitchen.

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