Environmentalists frustrated with perceived lack of plans for carbon emissions reductions

Capital News Service
LANSING — Some  environmental advocates are frustrated with what they say is a broken promise by the state’s governor to address carbon emissions from Michigan’s coal plants. In response to the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan regulations on carbon emissions, Gov. Rick Snyder promised greater use of more environmentally friendly power sources, said Dorothea Thomas, environmental and climate justice organizer for Michigan United, an  advocacy group. The EPA proposed regulations were recently put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court, said Judy Palnau, a communications officer for the Michigan Agency for Energy. As a result, the state has delayed plans for implementing them. “The court stay does introduce a substantial amount of legal uncertainty, so it was deemed wise to hold back,” she said.

Senate opposes EPA-funded BBQ study

Capital News Service
LANSING — Is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) trying to regulate one of America’s favorite backyard pastimes? Yes, according to Sens. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, who cite citing a recent EPA project has them fearing barbecue regulations. Here’s what happened: EPA awarded students at University of California Riverside $15,000 to study ways to reduce barbecue emissions.

Opponents say energy bills would benefit utility companies

Capital News Service
LANSING – A pair of Senate bills would shift the state’s focus away from renewable energy to the benefit of large utility companies – and Michigan’s budding renewable market could be left out in the cold, according to opponents like the Sierra Club. “Essentially, these bills would destroy our current system of supporting renewables, efficiency and all the things that make our energy portfolio cleaner and more sustainable,” said Mike Berkowitz, the staff political director of the Michigan Sierra Club’s Political Committee. “The bills would eliminate Michigan’s renewable energy standard, sunset our energy efficiency standard and gut our net metering program, which would essentially destroy the solar industry in Michigan.”

But the chair of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, Sen. Mike Nofs, R–Battle Creek, said the plan would instead make Michigan’s energy market more competitive and fair, without the state giving certain types of generation preferential treatment. He and the committee’s vice chair, Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, sponsored the bills.

State’s move toward clean energy picks up steam

Capital News Service
LANSING – As Michigan utility companies near a state deadline for generating more power from renewable sources with wide success, a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard could push the state toward clean energy at an even faster pace. In August, the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a blueprint for cutting nearly a third of carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. Power plants are the nation’s biggest single contributor to carbon emissions, producing 31 percent, according to the EPA. “The clean power plan is going to drive a major transformation in how we produce energy in the state, throughout the Midwest and really, throughout the country,” said John Austerberry, communications manager for DTE Energy Co., one of Michigan’s largest energy providers. The CPP gives states 15 years to meet emission reduction requirements and will set goals and checkpoints to guide states along the way.

Three contractors will pay $1 million in asbestos case

Capital News Service
LANSING – Three people face possible prison terms after pleading guilty to illegally removing asbestos from a former Southwest Michigan power plant. They also agreed to reimburse the federal government for the approximately $1 million that the Environmental Protection Agency spent to clean up the contaminated facility in Kalamazoo County’s Comstock Township. Investigators believe the case “may be the largest asbestos release in Michigan since it was declared a hazardous air pollutant in 1971,” the U.S. Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids said. The trio’s illegal activity, spanning more than a year in 2011-12, imperiled the environment as well as the health of the public and laborers on the project, according to the EPA. Scientists have linked asbestos to serious health dangers such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and nonmalignant lung disorders.

Michigan farm officials oppose federal authority expansion over water

Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan farm officials are fighting an attempt by the federal Environmental Protection agency to regulate small bodies of water, saying that a new permit process would make construction and farming more expensive and time-consuming. It would affect “anyone who puts a shovel in the ground,” said Laura Campbell, manager of the Michigan Farm Bureau’s agricultural ecology department. Farmers will need more permits approved by the EPA for things like nutrient applications, basic pest control and adapting new land for farming, she said. EPA is suggesting new rules under the Clean Water Act that would give it jurisdiction over more bodies of water. That includes water that could run into a stream that is already under its jurisdiction and areas that are only wet during flood seasons.

Two polluted West Michigan lakes now cleaner, officials say

Capital News Service
LANSING – Muskegon and White lakes have reached important cleanup milestones and should be removed from the official list of “areas of concern” within four to five years, according to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The Environmental Protection Agency already has eased restrictions – known as “beneficial use impairments” – pertaining to fish consumption that allows anglers to fish those lakes with fewer constraints. Recent studies by Grand Valley State University revealed that fish in the two lakes don’t have higher concentrations of PCBs or mercury than fish in lakes that weren’t designated as “areas of concern.” Both lakes remain subject to the same fish consumption advisories as other lakes in the area. Beneficial use impairments are imposed if the chemical, physical or biological integrity of a Great Lakes ecosystem is degraded. They were placed on Muskegon and White lakes because of pollutants discharged from industrial facilities in their watersheds, according to Stephanie Swart, the area of concern coordinator for Muskegon Lake in DEQ’s Office of the Great Lakes.

Federal report proposes pipeline safety steps

Capital News Service
LANSING — In the summer of 2010, more than 800,000 gallons of oil burst from a faulty Enbridge Inc. pipeline, wreaking ecological havoc as the oil passed through the Kalamazoo River, stopping just 80 miles from Lake Michigan. The rupture near Marshall caused the oil to flow 30 miles downstream before it was contained, but residual contamination persists. Last October, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified Enbridge that additional work is required to clean up the spill. Now a national study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is proposing measures to prevent future calamities. The GAO — a nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress — aimed the study at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which works with state agencies to oversee pipelines carrying oil, gasoline and natural gas.

Dogs may pose threat to water supply, health

Capital News Service
LANSING – Environmentalists and public health experts want that new puppy to come with a lifetime supply of plastic bags, preferably biodegradable
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), the 78 million dogs in the United States create 10 million tons of feces annually, polluting waterways and posing a threat to public health. Michigan has 3,288 miles of coast line, the second only to Alaska’s, and all those beaches are irresistible to dog owners. “Pets can contribute fecal pollution to our waterways. This is mostly in the spring to fall when we are out enjoying the water with our pets,” said Joan Rose, the co-director of the Center for Water Sciences of Michigan State University. According to a survey by EPA, 40 percent of dog owners do not pick up their pets’ waste at all and all that waste pollutes waterways.

Scientists to test new sea lamprey control on Michigan streams

Capital News Service
LANSING — If the local river starts to smell like dead sea lamprey, you may be in luck. That smell could be the solution to a long-standing invasive species problem. A new $392,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant will pay for testing sea lamprey repellant on three spawning streams in the state. The project is expected to be completed within 10 years the EPA requires. Sea lamprey are attracted to the smell of their young and repulsed by the stench of their dead, according to Michael Wagner, the lead researcher on the project and an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University.