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Posts from the ‘Linkaround’ Category

Friday linkaround: Big trees, buses and Ban Ki-moon

With lawmakers back in town following their summer break, the pace of things is picking up here in Lansing.

That said, none of what you’re about to read has much to do with the legislature. Still, we think they’re important stories to keep an eye on, and we hope you enjoy digging into them. Thanks for reading!

Here’s your Friday linkaround:

Bus stop swap. We learned recently that Detroit Metropolitan Airport is planning to change the boarding location for SMART and AirRide, the two public transportation providers that serve the airport. The buses now drop passengers curbside at the McNamara Terminal, but the new location—shared by cabs, charter buses and several shuttle services—is some 500 feet from the terminal, according to MLive. Our colleagues from Trans4M rode a bus to both the current and proposed boarding sites on Monday, along with a transit advocate who uses a wheelchair. As detailed in a blog post, they came away with concerns about how the change would affect passengers, particularly those with disabilities.

We testified and submitted written comments Thursday at meetings of the State Transportation Commission and the Wayne County Airport Authority, requesting that plans to change the boarding location be put on hold pending more public outreach and discussion. Stay tuned for more on this issue.

Latest on Enbridge. There has been interesting news lately about the Enbridge pipelines that carry 23 million gallons of oil a day through the Straits of Mackinac. Read more

Friday linkaround: Algae, transit, birds and fly-fishing

Welcome to the weekend!

Whatever you have planned, it looks like the weather will be fantastic. Plus, meteors! Before you ask the boss if you can leave early, take a minute to review a few of the environmental stories that caught our eye this week.

Algae. The biggest environmental story in a while, of course, was Toledo’s drinking water crisis. The week began with Mayor D. Michael Collins toasting the half-million people—including some southeast Michigan residents—who endured a weekend without usable tap water after the city’s water supply was contaminated with toxic blue-green algae.

The algae blooms are nothing new, and by now most of us know the story:  Fed by excess phosphorus, they plagued Lake Erie in the 1960s and ‘70s but largely disappeared after public outcry led to sewage treatment upgrades and restrictions on phosphorus in detergents. In recent years, though, the blooms have again become an unwelcome annual visitor. Read more

Friday linkaround: Rail line creates buzz, pesticide wipes out bees

Oh, man. It’s Friday and it’s summertime. Does it get any better?

We hope this weekend’s a classic for you: family and friends, time outdoors, maybe a Michigan-made beer or two, if that’s your thing.

Meanwhile, why not wrap up the week with a look at some environmental news and events? Here’s your linkaround:

Energy fair: If you’re interested in renewable power and our energy future—and of course you are—see if you can carve out a few hours to attend the 10th Annual Michigan Energy Fair this weekend at the Ingham County Fairgrounds. Our friends at the Michigan Land Use Institute have a nice backgrounder on why the popularity of this event just keeps growing. By the way, the event’s keynote event is a talk and book signing by big-tree champion David Milarch, whose work we explored in a recent issue of MEC’s newsletter. He’s a fascinating guy and you’re going to want to hear what he has to say. Read more

Friday linkaround: Fracking, pollution and ancient hunters

The weekend’s just about here! Before you hit the soccer fields or tackle that yard work, here’s a quick look at some of the stories we’ve been following this week.

Fracking. The Department of Environmental Quality took a step forward with new proposed rules for fracking operations, but MEC and other environmental groups said they don’t go far enough to protect Michigan’s water resources and public health. For instance, the rules require drillers to disclose what chemicals they inject into the ground, but not until they’ve already done the drilling. “Some residents want to be proactive about testing their drinking wells,” MEC Policy Director James Clift told the Detroit Free Press, “but without knowing which chemicals they are going to be using, it’s a little trickier.” We’d also like to see a greater focus on ensuring that water withdrawals for fracking don’t harm Michigan’s world-class trout streams.

Straits pipeline. Speaking of protecting our water resources, we were glad to see more state officials join the discussion about how to protect the Great Lakes from the looming threat of an oil spill. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and DEQ Director Dan Wyant sent a letter to Enbridge, the company that owns a pair of 61-year-old pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, asking for information about the pipelines and what the company is doing to prevent a spill. According to John Flesher’s Associated Press story, “‘Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects,’ their letter said. ‘And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes.’”

Toxic byproducts. It was also an interesting week in the Legislature. The House this week took up a package of bills that—as we wrote here recently—would allow contractors to use coal ash and other hazardous materials as construction fill or as a bed for roads and driveways without getting permission from the property owner. Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson noted that the bills have so far moved quietly through the House. “That’s unfortunate given the legislation’s potential impact on the land and ground water all Michigan residents share,” Dickerson wrote. “The coming election season would be an ideal time to ask your own representative or senator whose interests they’ll be looking out as the hazardous waste bills make their way toward Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.” Indeed.

Transportation funding. Much more attention has been focused on some other House legislation: A package of bills aimed at fixing Michigan’s crumbling roads. The funding proposal is a step toward improving our roads, but as MLive notes—and as we wrote last week—none of the money would go to public transportation. “With vehicle miles traveled down for the ninth straight year, public transit is increasing its importance in the Michigan transportation system,” MEC President Chris Kolb said in testimony before the House Transportation Committee. “It’s more than just a network of roads and bridges. We need to fund the whole system, not just a part of it.” Some 97 million passengers used public transportation in Michigan in 2012. Yet—as our Transportation for Michigan friends point out—the last time lawmakers gave public transit funding a boost, the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian” ruled the airwaves and the Soviet Union was still a thing.

Air pollution. There was also important news at the federal level this week when the Supreme Court said the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to enforce its cross-state pollution rule. That means the agency can use the Clean Air Act to regulate air pollution from coal-fired power plants and other facilities that is carried on the wind across state lines. The Court’s decision will influence how Michigan’s utilities make decisions about their aging coal plants, and could help speed the state’s transition to clean energy. (Meanwhile, legal scholars and schadenfreude enthusiasts noted a “cringeworthy blunder” Justice Antonin Scalia made in his opinion on the case.)

Eureka! Finally, archaeology buffs—and pretty much everyone who likes things that are cool—had their minds blown this week by a discovery beneath Lake Huron. University of Michigan researchers found the remnants of ice-age hunting structures 120 feet beneath the lake’s surface. The blinds and other stone features were built some 9,000 years ago by prehistoric hunters to corral caribou as they migrated across what was then a land bridge. The structures were kept relatively pristine by the lake’s calm waters, and “probably would’ve been bulldozed away for a Walmart parking lot by now” if they were on land, an archaeologist told USA Today. Yet another reason to love the Great Lakes.

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Paleo-Indian photo courtesy Michigan DNR.

Friday linkaround: New fracking rules, wind tourism and chicken vests!

Chicken in a vest

The latest chicken fashions combine form and function.

Look out – here comes another weekend!

Before you kick off your shoes, here’s a look at some of the stories that caught our eye this week.

The biggest environmental news out of Lansing this week was the Department of Environmental Quality’s unveiling Tuesday of new draft rules for large-scale hydraulic fracturing operations.  James Clift, MEC’s policy director, told MLive the proposal is a step in the right direction but there should be more transparency about the chemicals used in fracking. The Battle Creek Enquirer’s editorial board agreed, writing that there’s “no legitimate argument for blocking full disclosure of those chemicals.”  Environmental groups are also reviewing the state’s oversight of driller’s water withdrawal authorizations and whether rivers and streams are receiving adequate protection.

Also on Tuesday, the state released a draft report on energy efficiency, the last in a series of reports on energy issues requested last year by Gov. Snyder. Utilities so far have exceeded their energy-saving targets and are expected to meet near-term goals, the report says. Michigan ratepayers in 2012 saved $3.83 in energy costs for every dollar invested in efficiency. All told, the state’s efficiency program has saved $1.2 billion, Crain’s Detroit Business points out. Read more