Environmental agency reorganization sparks local concerns

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s attempt to reorganize state efforts to protect the environment faces legislative rejection, some local leaders fear the action could further polarize business and environmental groups. “It’s bothersome to me, because my members who are not happy with the executive order are still people who care about clean drinking water and they’re responsible people,” said Cathi Abbs, the executive director of the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce. Even environmental groups that welcome the changes caution that they not be viewed as an attack on business. “We do ourselves no favors if we alienate parts of our community — people that own businesses or fear that regulations will negatively affect business,” said Theresa Lark, the executive director of the MidMichigan Environmental Action Council covering Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.  “At the same time, if your business practice is negatively affecting someone else, you should listen to that person too.

The entrance to the Lansing Recycling Center on Cedar Street is pictured Dec. 12, 2018.

Local action taken to challenge global climate change

In November, the Fourth National Climate Assessment was published by the research program. The report interprets the findings of the research program, analyzes the effects of global change on the environment and analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural. Local governments and businesses already are dealing with the issues the report addresses.

Remove Line 5 or put it in a tunnel? Michiganders divided 46 to 35 percent

By KARA HEADLEY
Capital News Service

LANSING —  Michiganders said the health of the environment is more important than economic gain, a recent poll revealed

The Healthy People-Healthy Planet Poll surveyed 1,000 Michigan residents about issues Two-thirds — 67 percent — rated environmental protection as more important than economic gain. “There are a lot of environmental issues in the state,” said Daniel Bergan, the study’s lead author. “Michigan voters are in tune to environmental issues. They see the natural beauty of the state, which inclines people to protect the coastline and the Great Lakes.”

The poll was conducted by the Health and Risk Communication Center at Michigan State University. It sought to identify Michigan residents’ attitudes towards climate change to explore how the subject and its risks can be better communicated.

Gas prices may resist holiday bounce

By NICK KIPPER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Gas prices statewide have dropped an average of more than 30 cents in the past month, and experts expect them to hold steady or possibly drop even further leading up to Thanksgiving. “Usually during a traveling period there is a high demand, so it’s kind of unusual to see prices around Thanksgiving down,” said Nancy Cain, the public relations director for AAA Michigan. “We do anticipate at least short term that this trend will continue. Even on Thanksgiving Day you might see prices a bit less than what they are now.”

The average price of regular gas in Michigan was $2.482 per gallon on Monday, according to AAA’s website. On the same date last year it was $2.634, a nearly 6 percent drop.

Photon farms don’t qualify for land preservation tax credit

By QUINN ZIMMERMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING — Farming and land preservation tax breaks for solar energy don’t mix, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Michigan farmers who lease land for solar farming are no longer eligible for tax credits under the state’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program. The state started the program in 1975 to preserve farmland. Farmers must sign a minimum 10-year contract agreeing that the land will be used only for farming. In return, they receive income tax benefits and exemptions from certain assessments, said Richard Harlow, program manager.

Attack energy waste to reduce bills, state tells U.P. plants

By NICK KIPPER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Small manufacturers in the Upper Peninsula are getting state help to attack some of the highest electric rates in the nation. The Michigan Agency for Energy is offering rebates of up to $10,000 to U.P. manufacturers  with fewer than 50 employees for energy waste reduction. The application process remains open until the $75,000 for the program is awarded. Facility repairs, insulation installation, leak detection and energy efficiency training are among the things companies can apply to do, said Nick Assendelft, a public information and media relations specialist for the agency. “It’s a quick and relatively easy way to save on your utility bills and that of course helps your bottom line,” Assendelft said.

Watch Focal Point: Overview of ballot issues, a popular app creating unrealistic expectations and more

On this week’s Focal Point News, an overview of issues on November’s ballot. Plus we have an update on a student who was killed a few weeks ago. Fraternity’s ban hard alcohol above 15% at Greek life events. MSU played its biggest rival, University of Michigan, twice this past week. Those stories and more on this week’s Focal Point.

New report discloses how much toxic coal ash Michigan utilities produce

By NICK KIPPER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan electric utilities in 2016 generated nearly 1.5 million tons of coal ash, a waste material that can threaten water with arsenic, lead and mercury, according to a recent report. The toxic ash is often placed in landfills and waste ponds next to power plants and can  contaminate nearby groundwater, according to a Michigan Environmental Council study of data reported for the first time this fall by the state’s 13 coal-fired power plants. Federal air quality standards in 2015 required utilities to monitor groundwater near their coal ash ponds and publicly post the data. That data was released by individual utilities last January. “For decades, utilities were essentially allowed to dump this toxic coal ash sludge — which has mercury, arsenic, lead and a whole host of other toxic metals in it — next to coal plants,” said Charlotte Jameson, the author of the report.