Biodiversity bill, fracking and algae blooms: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around the state and country related to conservation and the environment. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

This NOAA simulation shows high water levels at the Harbor Bay Power Plant in Michigan’s thumb region. Source: http://coast.noaa.gov/llv/

Is Michigan’s biodiversity in jeopardy? Environmental group critical of bill soon to be on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk (MLive): A bill that aims to prevent the Department of Natural Resources from making land use decisions based on biodiversity has passed both chambers of the Michigan Legislature. The Michigan Environmental Council is critical of the bill’s broad language, while Sponsor Sen. Tom Casperson says the program could have restricted private land use. The bill will likely go to Gov. Rick Snyder for consideration.

New York bans fracking after health report (Reuters): New York Environmental Commissioner Joseph Maretens says he will issue an order early next year to ban fracking. This decision comes after the release of a report which concluded that the oil and gas extraction method poses health risks. Once the ban is in place, New York and Vermont will be the only two states to completely prohibit fracking.

New tool simulates climate change impact on Great Lakes shores (Great Lakes Echo): A new computer application developed for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will help planners see the impact varying water levels have on Great Lakes shoreline.

Obama indefinitely bans drilling in Alaskan Bay (The New York Times): On Tuesday, President Obama indefinitely barred oil and gas exploration of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which is home to a variety of marine life that includes the endangered North Pacific right whale. The bay also supports a $2 billion fishing industry that supplies 40% of the wild-caught seafood in the United States. The ban is permanent unless a future president acts to reverse it.

U.S. gives $3.1 million for Lake Erie algae projects (Detroit Free Press): The Environmental Protection Agency is allocating $3.1 million from a Great Lakes cleanup fund for efforts to reduce algae blooms in Lake Erie. Projects will improve water quality testing and algae bloom forecasting, as well as expand assistance for agricultural conservation practices.

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Protecting the sturgeon, transforming agriculture and a grey wolf shot dead: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Kids with a sturgeon fish. Photo by Michigan State University, courtesy of The Great Lakes Echo

Children holding a sturgeon. Photo by Michigan State University, courtesy of The Great Lakes Echo

Volunteers guard Michigan’s spawning sturgeon (Great Lakes Echo): The lake sturgeon, a threatened fish species in Michigan, will have several guardians ensuring its safety at the Black River in Northern Michigan. Volunteers will stand watch on the banks through June to ensure no fish are illegally snatched and are able to leave the Black Lake and reproduce in the Black River.

Grey wolf appears in Iowa for the first time in 89 years — and is shot dead (The Guardian): It was just recently confirmed that an animal shot dead in February in Iowa was a grey wolf, an animal which hadn’t been seen in the area since 1925. Because the hunter who shot the animal believed it to be a coyote and cooperated with the authorities, he has not been cited even though grey wolves are protected in that area.

California’s thirst shapes debate over fracking (The New York Times): Opponents of fracking have a new argument on their side. A drought that was declared early this year in California may have an impact on decisions made about fracking. Last year, fracking one oil well took 87 percent of water which would normally consumed by a family of four in one year.

Smart soil: transforming american agriculture one class at a time: (The Huffington Post Blog):

John Reganold, soil scientist and professor at Washington State University speaks of his study and success with creating sustainable agriculture in the United States. Reganold advocates for organic soil systems as a more sustainable way of growing and producing better crops.

 

A fish swimming near the reef. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine

A fish swimming near the reef. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine

Reef fish don’t care where conservation lines are drawn (Conservation Magazine): Over the years there have been increasing amounts of established marine protected areas, or MPAs, particularly near the Caribbean. Despite establishing these areas, fish often tend to migrate in and out, swimming outside of the bounds of protection. A research group of the Marine Institute of the United Kingdom tracked several different reef species and determined that conservation efforts must take this migration into account.

Hope for the honey bees? Experts pitch plans to curb deaths (NBC News): Honey bees throughout the world have been suffering from colony collapse disorder and scientists think they may have found a way to lower the death rate. It was found that certain types of pesticides played a role in largely killing the bees — some of the world’s largest contributors to the food and crop industry because of their pollinating role in nature.

Crazy cold in Michigan, pollution levels, and nuclear energy: this week in environmental news

 

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around the state and country related to nature and the environment. Here is what you may have missed this week in environmental news:

 

This graphic shows the temperature departure from normal for March 2014. (National Climatic Data Center)

Crazy cold in Michigan: See how we beat the rest of the world (MLive): A new report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center shows that Michigan’s March temperatures were farthest from normal of any region in the world. Michigan reached near-record cold temperatures in March, while much of the rest of the world experienced warmer temperatures than normal.

It’s time to stop ignoring the bad air we breathe (TIME.com): Since 1980, levels of ozone pollution have fallen by 25% in the U.S., leaving far cleaner air than in decades past. However, new data from the American Lung Association shows that almost half of Americans are living in areas where smog and soot particles have led to unhealthy levels of pollution. The report also shows that some aspects of air quality have been deteriorating over the past few years in 22 of the 25 biggest metropolitan areas.

No applause for new fracking rules (Interlochen Public Radio): New rules proposed for fracking have watchdog groups worried. Critics say the proposed changes favor the oil and gas industry over neighbors and the public. A coalition of environmental and conservation groups will give a formal review of the proposed rules next week.

BP CEO: Lake Michigan spill ‘has been set aside’ (NWI Times): BP has been ramping up production at its Whiting, Indiana refinery, which spilled up to 1,638 gallons of crude oil into Lake Michigan in March. Chief Executive Bob Dudley says the oil spill is not expected to result in significant fallout for the company, and that no further cleanup work is needed. Dudley says there are no known impacts to wildlife or human health, and there has been no impact on refinery production.

Nuclear industry gains carbon-focused allies in push to save reactors (The New York Times): Environmentalists and the nuclear industry are pushing to preserve old nuclear reactors, which are threatened by cheap natural gas and wind energy. The groups argue that the loss of nuclear plants from the electricity grid would lead to millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere each year because the substitute would be fossil fuels.

 

Climate change, monarch butterflies and a snowy owl invasion: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news stories related to conservation and the environment from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

A monarch butterfly feeding on swamp milkweed. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A Monarch butterfly feeding on swamp milkweed. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Michigan cities brace for a changing climate (Great Lakes Echo): Several cities across Michigan are preparing for climate trends that are already apparent in our state. Flooding, intense storms, extreme heat and falling water levels are all impacts that have developed in recent years. Some preparation plans include planting trees, putting solar panels on 360 state-owned buildings and setting a 100 percent renewable energy goal by the year 2020.

Possibility of oil fracking in Genesee County stokes environmental fears (mlive): Employees from the Western Land Services in the area are offering deals to people to sell the oil and minerals off their land, but the use of fracking is controversial. Environmental groups claim the process of oil fracking can harm groundwater and cause seismic disturbances, but supporters say it is done too far down below the aquifer to do damage. If there is enough interest to drill in the area, a permit would have to be granted in order to do so.

Asian carp issue seen as not stopping river barge concept for Muskegon Lake (mlive): The Army Corps of Engineers released a report to congress outlining eight possible approaches to stopping Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through barges. Some solutions include separating the river system from the Great Lakes, but that would cost an estimated $18 billion. Many people fear the carp will threaten the Great Lakes fishing industry and are concerned about the river barge operation.

North American Leaders Urged to Restore Monarch Butterfly’s Habitat (New York Times): The leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada have been urged to commit to restore habitat that supports the Monarch butterfly and its migration. A proposal to plant milkweed along its migratory route was issued, as milkweed has been disappearing over the past decade in America.

Snowy owls invade ‘south’; cold affects waterfowl (Associated Press): This winter has shown an invasion of snowy owls in 25 states. More than 2,500 snowy owls were reported in the U.S. and Canada this winter. The frigid cold is also causing unusual movements of waterfowl.  Due to the Great Lakes being almost entirely frozen over, some species of waterfowl are moving closer inland where they are not usually found.

 

Sand dunes, storms, and lots of fish: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA highlights recent environmental news stories from the past week. Here’s what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

A public hearing was held Monday for a request from Bro G Land Company, who wants to build a 1,200-foot driveway on Lake Michigan dunes. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan sand dunes development controversy rages over 1,200-foot driveway (Huffington Post): Last August, Gov. Snyder signed legislation that changed development standards for landowners on privately-owned sections of the state’s sand dunes. Since then, around 50 applications have been submitted that request permission to develop on the dunes. Monday was the first public hearing for one of these requests, a request from Bro G Land Company, who wants to build a 1,200-foot driveway to a private residence. This driveway would stretch across a critical dune habitat on Lake Michigan. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality hopes to reach a decision regarding the driveway by May 13.

Fracking opponents can start gathering signatures for a 2014 ballot proposal (Detroit Free Press): Supporters of a ban on fracking in Michigan can begin collecting petition signatures after the Board of State Canvassers approved the petition language Tuesday morning. This proposal would ban using horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to access pools of natural gas and oil underground across the state. Oil and gas companies have used fracking in Michigan since the 1960s and say that the fracking is well-regulated and not harming the state’s environment. Gov. Snyder, who supports fracking, commissioned the University of Michigan to complete a study on the practice. A report on the study is supposed to be released later this year.

Storms contribute to debris in Michigan waterways (The Detroit News): A huge pile of tree limbs, brush, marsh vegetation and garbage is clogging part of the Saginaw River after the recent storms that brought flooding to Michigan. Officials are urging caution to recreational boaters and anglers, as this debris can be a water hazard for boaters when it moves into the rivers.

Once too polluted, Lansing’s Red Cedar River is once again open to anglers (Michigan Radio): For the first time since the 1960s, people will be encouraged to fish along a portion of the Red Cedar River at Michigan State University, after the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and various MSU dignitaries (including Sparty) dumped buckets of Steelhead trout into the river. Forty years ago, the Red Cedar River suffered water quality issue, primarily from non-source point runoff and agricultural drainage, but the river has been cleaned drastically since enactment of the Clean Water Act and supports a diverse fishery today. The DNR plans to continue stocking the Red Cedar River on MSU’s campus for the next five years.

Let the river run: Dam removal accelerates across Michigan (MLive): A growing number of communities across Michigan are removing obsolete dams, restoring fisheries and developing riverside parks and trails. Big Rapids built a 2.6-mile Riverwalk trail along the Muskegon River after the city removed remnants of the Big Rapids Dam in 2001, and other cities, such as Detroit and Lansing, are working to improve water quality in their long-abused rivers by developing riverfront parks and trails. Gov. Snyder’s 2013 budget included $2.5 million for dam removals or repairs, and the DNR recently announced $2.35 million in grants to support dam removals or repairs in six communities. Four of these grants will help fund dam removals in Traverse City, Lyons, Shiawassee and Vassar.