Should you test your water?

A resident of Delta-Mills worries about high cancer rates in her area and she fears the culprit could be coming from her well water. This concern leads to a broader question: how does one go about testing their well water quality?

Environmentalists frustrated with perceived lack of plans for carbon emissions reductions

By JOSHUA BENDER
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

By MORGAN LINN
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

By BROOKE KANSIER
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

By BROOKE KANSIER
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.

New EPA limits will make difference but more may be needed

By ZHAO PENG
Capital News Service
LANSING — Stricter new smog limits by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency may improve air quality, but some regions of Michigan have a long way to go to meet it, according to an air quality advocacy group. The EPA this month called for ground-level ozone levels of no more than 70 parts per billion, five parts per billion less than the old standard issued in 2008. The American Lung Association considers it a step in the right direction. “We support the ozone standard and we are definitely supportive of making sure that the new standard gets implemented. Even though we think it could be lower- 60 ppb, moving to the 70 ppb is at least moving in the right direction,” said Ken Fletcher, the advocacy specialist for the American Lung Association in Michigan.

Three contractors will pay $1 million in asbestos case

By ERIC FREEDMAN
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.

Air near chemical plant remains polluted long after closure

By AMANDA PROSCIA
Capital News Service
LANSING — The air near a mid-Michigan chemical plant that was closed for cleanup nearly 40 years ago because it threatened the environment remains contaminated with chemicals, according to a new study. The study concludes that people living within six miles of the 54-acre former site of the Velsicol Chemical Co. “are still being subject to relatively high levels of HBB, PBBs, and DDTs in the air they breathe.” It was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Those are among the chemicals that prompted federal regulators to designate the chemical factory in St. Louis, Mich., a Superfund site in 1982.

Federal report proposes pipeline safety steps

By MICHAEL GERSTEIN
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.