As if making delicious beer wasn’t enough to win us over, America’s craft brewers have also been strong leaders in showing that businesses can thrive while giving back to their communities and finding innovative ways to protect the environment.
Case in point: Two dozen craft brewers announced this week they had signed a Brewer’s Climate Declaration, which says the companies will take action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and will engage with policymakers to support political action to halt climate change. Those breweries already are taking steps to reduce energy use, cut transportation emissions and conserve water, among other sustainability measures.
“It’s good for business, it’s not just good for the environment,” Craft Brew Alliance sustainability manager Julia Person told the Huffington Post. “We’re lowering our operating costs. It’s doing the right thing and having a benefit.”
So far, two Michigan companies—Rockford Brewing Company and Brewery Vivant—have signed the declaration.
In reading up about the climate declaration, we were impressed to learn that Brewery Vivant in 2012 became the first brewery in the country to attain LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. We checked in with co-owner and sustainability manager Kris Spaulding to learn more about how the Grand Rapids brewery is striving to support its community and shrink its environmental impact.
Brewery Vivant's Kris Spaulding.
MEC: Why did Brewery Vivant decide to sign on to the climate declaration? More generally, why have you made sustainability such a priority?
Kris Spaulding: Sustainability is one of the values we founded our business on. We believe that a great business exists because of the support of the local community. Therefore a business should be an active member of the community and should strive to find meaningful ways to engage with it and give back to it. These are values we hold personally, but that we believe all businesses should be thinking along the lines of the triple bottom line.
As for the declaration itself, climate change is going to continue to impact our industry and our world so I think it is best to work towards solutions now rather than waiting for more catastrophic events to finally lead to change happening. I like that the declaration challenges businesses to innovate and work towards solutions rather wait and see what someone else will do. Read more
Gov. Rick Snyder will lead about 40,000 people on a five-mile walk across the Mackinac Bridge on Monday, continuing a 57-year old Labor Day tradition.
Also on Monday—as happens every day—23 million gallons of crude oil will cross the Straits of Mackinac just west of the bridge, through a pair of pipelines a couple hundred feet below the surface.
The pipelines are older than the Bridge Walk tradition. They were installed in 1953, the first year of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency, when Patti Page’s “The Doggie in the Window” topped Billboard charts and the U.S. Supreme Court was deliberating whether public school segregation was constitutional.
The kids were crazy for this sort of thing when the Straits oil pipelines were installed.
They are owned by Enbridge, the Canadian company responsible for the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history – the 2010 spill of about a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River, which is still being cleaned up. The Straits pipelines are older than the one that ruptured in the Kalamazoo spill, but Enbridge has made public very little information on their condition. In July, the state notified Enbridge it needed additional support structures to comply with state regulations.
Enbridge was responsible for more than 1,000 oil spills in the U.S and Canada between 1999 and 2013.
MEC and other groups from the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign will be at the Bridge Walk to gather signatures from participants on a petition urging Gov. Snyder to protect the Great Lakes from a disastrous oil spill. (Signing the petition is quick and easy; click here.) We’re asking the governor to immediately open a transparent, public process under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act to evaluate the threat posed by the pipelines and determine what actions should be taken to prevent a catastrophe. Read more
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality hits the road this week to gather public input on proposed rules on fracking for oil and gas.
Tonight the department will hold a meeting at Treetops Resort, 3962 Wilkinson Road in Gaylord. Wednesday evening there will be a second meeting at the Lansing Center, 333 East Michigan Avenue, down the road from the Capitol. Both meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
If you’ve got the time, this is a great chance to have your say on a very important issue. And if you can’t make it to a meeting, you can submit written comments to DEQ-FrackingRules@michigan.gov until July 31.
You can review the proposed rules here.
Our take: The rules don’t go nearly far enough to protect Michigan’s streams, wetlands and groundwater. Here are the main shortcomings.
They don’t require chemical disclosure before drilling. We believe local residents have a right to know what chemicals are in the fracking fluid pumped underground to release oil and gas trapped in shale formations. Read more
A pristine stretch of Michigan’s Au Sable River will keep its scenic character and is safer from pollution caused by oil and gas drilling, thanks to a decision last week from the Department of Natural Resources.
You can read MEC’s statement applauding the decision here.
As we wrote here previously, several parcels along the river’s “Holy Waters” stretch were leased to the Canadian energy company Encana in an October auction. Some of the land was designated for development, meaning Encana could put surface wells, storage tanks and heavy equipment right alongside the revered fly-fishing waters that gave rise to Trout Unlimited.
The Anglers of the Au Sable, an MEC member group, flagged the threat of oil and gas development along the river and enlisted members of the public to urge DNR Director Keith Creagh not to authorize the leases. MEC and other allies joined that effort.
The decision from DNR Director Keith Creagh means no surface drilling will be allowed in the river corridor, but it’s important to note that oil and gas beneath the leased parcels can still be accessed horizontally from wells drilled elsewhere. So, the river is better protected from the sights, sounds and smells of industrial activity and the threat of pollution from spilled or leaked fracking fluids. But there are still real threats to the groundwater resources that feed the Au Sable and provide its steady flow.
We look forward to continuing to work with the DNR and our allies to put in place the strongest possible protections for the Au Sable and freshwater resources throughout Michigan.
Deer crossing Holy Waters photo courtesy David Smith via Flickr.
The Michigan Environmental Council and our allies are deeply concerned about pending mineral leases that would allow oil and gas drilling along a section of the Au Sable River so pristine and revered by trout anglers that it’s known as the Holy Waters.
The parcels were among those up for bid in an October auction of mineral leases on state land. The winning bidder on the leases was Encana, a Canadian company with plans to drill some 500 wells across northern Michigan using the controversial method called fracking.
You can see a map of the parcels in question here.
Leading the opposition to the leases are the Anglers of the Au Sable, an MEC member group. Here’s a brief video from the Anglers that provides a fuller understanding of the special place we’re talking about.
MEC has joined the Anglers, Grayling Township, local Realtors, business owners and fellow environmental groups in signing a letter to Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh asking him not to authorize the leases. He will announce his decision at Thursday’s meeting of the Natural Resources Commission. You can read the letter here.
The good news is the Michigan Legislature is on summer recess.
Even better news; they left without taking up SB 78, legislation that would redefine the term “biodiversity” in state law and prohibit state agencies from designating public lands to protect biological diversity. (We’ve written extensively about the bill’s flawed premise and terrible consequences, and you can read about it here and here and here.)
But Rep. Andrea Lafontaine, who chairs the House Natural Resources committee, told MEC earlier this year that she expected to give the bill a hearing prior to legislature’s summer recess. Due to a busy close of session and – we’d like to think — lots of letters and calls to her office, the bill was not brought before the committee.
But we have every reason to believe the bill, which already passed the full Senate, is still likely to reappear. And when it does, the environmental and conservation communities need to be ready to stand in opposition.
University of Michigan School of Natural Resources Professor Bradley Cardinale PhD, whose work focuses on the challenges of protecting biodiversity, has been working to point out the far-reaching ramifications of the bill. He, and 133 other PhD-level professors representing 13 Michigan universities, have signed this letter urging Gov. Rick Snyder to veto SB 78 should it reach his desk. Signing SB 78, they agree, would be a significant setback for the scientific management of state lands – a decades-old philosophy that has successfully restored Michigan’s once–decimated forests, protected its freshwater lakes and streams, and done a reasonable job of balancing the needs of multiple constituencies who use state lands for diverse activities.
We sat down with Professor Cardinale to ask him a few questions about the professors’ letter and the effects SB 78 would have on Michigan conservation.
— Tell us about your letter to the Governor. And you have not yet sent it, is that right? When will you?
The Legislative Ground Assault on Pure Michigan
So much of what makes Pure Michigan so pure starts with our land—the miles of forests, the majestic dunes, the undeveloped trout streams and backcountry trails. Without the incredible Great Lakes landscapes that define us, we’d just be another Indiana, Ohio or Missouri.
Unfortunately, the Michigan legislature is mounting an all-out blitz to undermine those land resources by gutting and dismantling the very programs that protect and improve them. And because land use issues are generally pretty complicated affairs, it’s a stealth assault that doesn’t garner headlines.
So, here’s a quick rundown on a few of the most alarming new attacks: Read more
Or maybe it's Leelanau's grapes?
Michigan’s Leelanau County is at the top of the list of the state’s healthiest counties, according to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Parts of Southeast Michigan, the Grand Traverse area and West Michigan seemed to house most of the healthiest counties; check out where your county landed in the study. Do you think Leelanau’s ranking had anything to do with its utterly refreshingly lack of fast food restaurants?
Farther North yet, the Christian Science Monitor has surveyed the imminent mining boom in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with this reporting. The otherwise even-handed piece fails to note that the current type of mining is much different and riskier than the mining of the U.P.’s past. So-called sulfide mining is a explained here.
Moving into urban issues, the historic River Rouge coal plant was the largest of its kind on earth when it opened in 1956. Mother Jones has a terrific photographic essay on the aging plant’s visual legacy. Scroll down the photos far enough to see the Sierra Club’s indefatiguable Rhonda Anderson, along with a good analysis of how her organization (an MEC member and ally) is working not just to replace the behemoth with cleaner energy, but help the community better absorb the loss of jobs the plant’s closure will create.
One of the state’s most invisible environmental challenges are the thousands of leaking underground petroleum tanks across the state. These sites threaten drinking water, surface water, soils and in some cases public health. Here’s the first in a Bridge Magazine series done by Michigan journalist and author Jeff Alexander. He explains how if the state does not act decisively, the problem will only get more costly.
Hey, there’s good news too: The Federal Government and five states, including Michigan, have come to an agreement to expedite the process of building off-shore wind farms around the Great Lakes region.
Finally, under the heading clean technology, some crazy Belgian is trying make pigeons poop soap, to help clean the cities they now soil. MEC has no position on soap-pooping pigeons.
— Marco Salomone contributed to this post
Gotta make the boss happy so let’s start with this replay of MEC President Chris Kolb on last week’s Focus on the Environment show on Eastern Michigan University’s WEMU radio. Kolb, with co-host Lisa Wozniak of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, talked about Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget, the Kalamazoo River oil spill cleanup and other issues.
Next let’s visit our neighbors down south…you know, the ones we grudgingly sharedone-third of our Big Ten men’s basketball championship with this year.
Don't try this at home
They’re wrestling overhow much unregulated water users should be able to siphon from Lake Erie and its tributaries. We defer to our friends at the Ohio Environmental Council who say the proposal is getting better, but isn’t good enough. Oh, and see you in the Big Dance, Buckeyes!
Down in Brooklyn, MI, home of Pumpkin Quest (!), people turned out for a discussion on the rewards and risks of a new and more intensive wave of fracking in Michigan. MEC’s James Clift was a panelist, though he didn’t make this radio station’s audio clip report that included State Rep. Mike Shirkey, who organized the forum.
Up north, MEC ally and member group Michigan Land Use Institute has this excellent story on Consumers Energy’s solar lottery. Twice as many people applied for the program as there were slots. We think we should let more people participate, and the 25×25 ballot issue will be the way to do it. Or, we could just throw our burgeoning renewable energy industry under the bus like State Rep. Ray Franz would do.
In weather news …… WHASSSUP Springtime??!! MEC has two beekeepers in the office, and their girls were happy with the mild winter. But the loss of ice cover on the Great Lakes – 79 percent over 38 years – is no small matter. Also, we may see more nasty insects this summer as a result. Hey, maybe Grist is right and a climate change conspiracy theorists make no %$#!!& sense.
Finally, in the “we can’t make this stuff up” category, here are two things MEC is not staking out a position on: This lunatic with a wood stove heater in his Volvo, and these people who are fertilizing soybeans with urine.
Have a good weekend, and don’t forget to spring ahead!
A new mining era is dawning in the Upper Peninsula. At least five big operations are getting underway or entering the permitting process, and maybe half a dozen more are busily exploring and testing the waters for future mines.
The Michigan Environmental Council opposed the first of these mines – London-based Rio Tinto’s Eagle Project in the Yellow Dog Watershed near Big Bay. We believe state regulators have not been rigorous in enforcing the state’s mining laws that were developed specifically to protect Michigan’s waters and public health from this particular type of mining.
We will continue to watchdog each new permit. However it’s clear that these operations —environmentally risky as they are—are going forward. They enjoy strong support from Governor Snyder, Northern Michigan lawmakers and state agency staff.