Trump’s budget cuts could devastate Great Lakes restoration

By LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Eliminating the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative could lead to devastating natural and economic effects on coastal Michigan communities, defenders of the program said.

President Donald Trump has proposed killing the initiative, along with the Michigan Sea Grant and nearly a third of the funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The possible elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has compelled Michigan lawmakers, environmentalists, scientists and business owners to make a case for the program.

“It has benefited Muskegon greatly, hugely. We’ve received millions in dollars in federal funding to clean up White Lake and Muskegon Lake,” said Bob Lukens, Muskegon County community development director. Continue reading

Marches in 10 Michigan cities will celebrate science April 22

By CHAO YAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists and advocates across 10 Michigan cities will step out of their labs and call attention to the value of science in the March for Science on April 22.

Launched by groups of scientists and researchers in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, the nonpartisan March for Science has expanded into 294 planned satellite marches across the nation and 394 worldwide.

The 10 Michigan cities scheduled to participate on Earth Day are Lansing, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Midland, Houghton, Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie and Petoskey.

Michigan efforts and the Lansing march were started by science enthusiasts Sara Pack and Sierra Owen of Lansing. Continue reading

Green energy expanding in Michigan communities

By CHAO YAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Northport, a village in Leelanau County, gets half the energy for its wastewater treatment plant from a community-owned wind turbine.

The village also claims the only 100 percent solar-powered golf course in the United States, according to Stanley “Skip” Pruss, former director of the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, who moved to Leelanau Township in 2008.

Solar energy is used to power the clubhouse and other operations.

“Our community members are feeling passionately that we are accelerating the transition to clean energy,” Pruss said. “Northport can be an example to other local communities in how to go about doing that. It’s a good way to go.”

Northport has been committed to a 100 percent Clean Energy plan since 2010, joining cities such as Grand Rapids and Traverse City as pioneers in Michigan’s transition from fossil fuels.
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Faster decomposing trees can save energy costs

By CHAO YAN

Researcher Steven Karlen studies plants in a greenhouse lab. Image:Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

Researcher Steven Karlen studies plants in a greenhouse lab. Image:Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

Capital News Service

LANSING — Poplars and other trees can be bred to break down more easily to make biofuel and other products such as paper, according to scientists at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

Their new study found that zip-lignin, an enzyme that indicates the high degradability of plants and that they injected into trees, is already in most plants. Plants that naturally have the highest amount can be selectively bred.

The center is a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan State University and other partners. It was established by the U.S. Department of Energy.
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State energy bill could increase costs for solar users

By RAY WILBUR

Capital News Service

LANSING — Environmental and renewable energy advocates are concerned that proposed legislation would discourage investment in clean energy.

Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, introduced bills in 2015 to meet the state’s energy requirements as coal plants continue to shut down as utilities use cleaner fuel sources over the next three years.

The bills have passed the Senate and await action by the House, where Nofs said he hopes to see them pass before the end of the year..

But some supporters of alternative energy say that new language added to the bill would create a utilities charge for state residents who use solar power to generate their electricity. The bill does not specify the amount, but gives the Public Service Commission the power to decide how much it would be. Continue reading

Local officials wary of new energy plan

By RAY WILBUR

Capital News Service

LANSING — Some rural officials are concerned that a recent package of energy bills will encourage yet more wind turbines to be built in their communities, leaving residents to bear the physical burden they pose.      

The main thrust of the two-bill package is to increase renewable energy to 15 percent by 2021, attempting to wean the state off harmful coal fire pollution. It is sponsored by Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek.

The state successfully reached its previous goal of 10 percent last year.

“The 15 percent mandate would require double the wind turbines, but developers can’t get them built anywhere,” said Kevon Martis, director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, a Michigan-based group that raises awareness of the negative impacts of wind projects.

“The only people who aren’t being heard are the people living in the projects’ footprints,” he said Continue reading

Converting invasive plants to power plants

By SAM CORDEN

Capital News Service

Scientists [left to right] Drew Monks, Brendan Carson and Eric Dunston use a special harvester to collect cattails in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Image: Sam Corden

Scientists [left to right] Drew Monks, Brendan Carson and Eric Dunston use a special harvester to collect cattails in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Image: Sam Corden

LANSING — Researchers working in wetlands in Michigan have a new approach to invasive plants.

Instead of removing plants like phragmites and switchgrass, they harvest them. These plants are a threat to biodiversity, they say, but invasive plants can benefit farmers and even power homes.

Scientists are working in the middle of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge which has 10,000 acres of marshes, bogs, forest and farmland. Everywhere you look, there’s a hawk or a herring. Bushes rustle with rodents, and the air is filled with mosquitoes and a thick humidity. To put the size in perspective, Manhattan is roughly 15,000 acres. Continue reading

Lower peak use could mean lower energy bills

By CAITLIN DeLUCA

Capital News Service

LANSING — Energy experts want to lower demand for electricity at peak times to help customers stay green and save money.

Reducing peak demand is called peak shaving, said Sarah Mullkoff, the energy program director for the Michigan Environmental Council.

“An average citizen should be interested in any and all ways to reduce electricity demand and help save money by not investing ratepayer dollars in unnecessary base load power plants,” Mullkoff said.

These base load plants are power plants that aren’t fully used during most of the year, costing taxpayers more money.

If enough energy can be saved, it can eliminate the need for these plants’ unused capacity, she said. Continue reading

State limit on emissions cheaper than plant caps

By SHRUTI SARIPALLI

Capital News Service

Otto E. Eckert Station, a coal-fired power plant in Lansing, Michigan. Image: Jennifer Kalish.

Otto E. Eckert Station, a coal-fired power plant in Lansing, Michigan. Image: Jennifer Kalish.

LANSING — Michigan can save money in the move towards clean energy by choosing

a path that limits the amount of carbon dioxide produced by power plants, says a new electric industry report.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a non-lobbying national research institute, reports that this is possible due to the expected closures of coal-based power plants in the next 15 years.

By the year 2030, Michigan’s electric utilities have to cut emissions by almost 32 percent of their 2005 levels under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Continue reading

New maps show possible routes for nuclear waste transport

By COURTNEY BOURGOIN
Capital News Service

LANSING — Anti-nuclear groups are identifying the types of transportation needed to haul nuclear waste across the Great Lakes region if a national waste storage site in Nevada wins federal approval.

They are adding state-specific details to U.S. Department of Energy maps to show where barges could move waste across Lake Michigan and where trucks and trains could move it across the region.

Beyond Nuclear and Nuclear Information and Resource Service said they wanted to localize a national policy by highlighting truck, rail and water routes necessary to move nuclear waste under a proposed storage policy.

detroitriverfront

Possible trucking and train routes for nuclear waste in Great Lakes region. Credit: Nuclear Information and Resource Service/ Beyond Nuclear.

For the Great Lakes region, the two anti-nuclear organizations noted multiple places that railways can’t reach and where nuclear waste would instead have to travel across Lake Michigan.
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