Tuesday, October 31, 2006

BROWNFIELDS: Clean-up to Begin in Port Hope

Port Hope, in Huron County, just landed a $750,000 Brownfield Redevelopment Loan to be used to clean-up nine individual parcels located near the shore of Lake Huron. The Port Hope Redevelopment Project is located on 24 acres near downtown that was formerly a wastewater treatment plant, grain elevator, tannery, a train depot area, and petroleum distribution center. The funding announced today was awarded as a part of Govenor Granholm's "Jobs Today/Jobs Tomorrow" initiative.

Hope for Port Hope! Private investment of $19,000,000 is anticipated. This has the potential to create 25 full-time jobs in a village of approximately 300. The new use for the properties will be residential units near the lakeshore, and commercial units near the downtown corridor.

The state of Michigan's Brownfield Redevelopment Grant and Loan Program provides funds to local government for clean-up of brownfield properties where redevelopment is proposed. Brownfield properties are vacant or abandoned properties with known or suspected chemical contamination. The Brownfield Redevelopment Grant and Loan Program has provided $129 million for 303 projects statewide since it began in 1988.

There is, of course, much more to be done. There are a lot of toxic chemical dump sites in Michigan.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Michigan Getting Tough with Mercury Polluters

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Attorney General announced today that the state has entered into an agreement with The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (Cliffs) to resolve issues related to mercury contamination in Deer Lake, north of Ishpeming.

The company has agreed to restore the quality of Deer Lake by assuring that the present water level of the lake is maintained, addressing sources of mercury to the lake, and monitoring the mercury level of fish in the lake, notifying those results to the public. Cliffs will also hand-over extensive acreage, properties, easements and rights-of-way to the state of Michigan that will dramatically increase public access to Deer Lake and other lakes and rivers in the area.

The company will also establish a Deer Lake restoration fund in order to create and upgrade public access to recreational areas and to restrict development in order to protect the water quality, maintain the aesthetics, and preserve the woodlands along the shores of Deer Lake. 775 acres and 34,000 feet of shoreline of Deer Lake will be deeded to local government and 541 acres along the Carp River downstream of the Deer Lake dam will be deeded to the state of Michigan. Cliffs will also provide funding to a dam maintenance account that will ensure the dam remains properly maintained.

Cleveland-Cliffs will also provide acreage, easements, and financial support to create or enhance the use of, and public access to, a number of other Marquette County lakes, rivers, streams, and impoundments. This work will include improved access to the waters, and will offer additional recreational opportunities in the area.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Surfing the Grand River in Grand Haven, Michigan

Here's an awesome video made last week of two guys surfing the the mouth of the Grand River, at the channel where it flows into Lake Michigan. If you know these guys names let me know, I'd like to buy them a beer! That water is seriously cold.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Black Bear Book Recommendation

Paper or plastic? Bus or car? Old house or new? Cloth diapers or disposables? Some choices have a huge impact on the environment; others are of negligible importance. To those of us who care about our quality of life and what is happening to the earth, this is a vastly important issue. In these pages, the Union of Concerned Scientists help inform consumers about everyday decisions that significantly affect the environment. For example, a few major decisions - such as the choice of a house or vehicle - have such a disproportionately large affect on the environment that minor environmental infractions shrink by comparison.

This book identifies the 4 Most Significant Consumer Related Environmental Problems, the 7 Most Damaging Spending Categories, 11 Priority Actions, and 7 Rules for Responsible Consumption. Learn what you can do to have a truly significant impact on our world from the people who are at the forefront of scientific research.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Vote Environment November 7th!

Bears can't vote, but you can. Get to the polls on November 7th and vote Environment. If you're not convinced, watch Mr. Bear's cartoon!

$13.9 Million Clean Air Act Settlement: Major Pollution Reductions in Eight States

A multi-state Clean Air Act settlement, reached today with oilseed processor Bunge North America Inc. and three of its subsidiaries, will eliminate more than 2,200 tons of harmful pollution emissions per year when fully implemented. The $13.9 million settlement covers 12 plants in eight states, each of which has joined the United States as a co-plaintiff.

The settlement covers eleven soybean processing plants – in Decatur, Ala.; Marks, Miss.; Destrehan, La.; Emporia, Kan.; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Delphos, Ohio; Marion, Ohio; Decatur, Ind.; Morristown, Ind.; Cairo, Ill.; and Danville, Ill. – as well as a corn dry mill extraction plant also located in Danville, Ill. The U.S. alleges that at some or all of these 12 plants, Bunge or a subsidiary violated the CAA by constructing major modifications that increased emissions without obtaining pre-construction permits and without complying with applicable standards of performance for new air pollution sources.

The settlement, which follows other settlements with oilseed processors, including Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), will continue the imposition of lower emission standards on soybean processing plants and will also require other pollution reduction projects, including piloting of a new technology to reduce harmful emissions from coal-burning boilers. When fully implemented, the settlement will eliminate more than 2,200 tons per year of harmful emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM).

"This settlement will result in healthier air in the 11 airsheds where the plants are located. Eliminating over 1,000 tons of emissions of volatile organic compounds, for example, will reduce the formation of ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs and exacerbates diseases such as asthma," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We remain committed to working with EPA and the states to bring companies and industries into compliance with the laws that protect public health and our environment."

Bunge, a multi-state agribusiness based in St. Louis, is the North American operating arm of multinational corporation Bunge Limited, and a leading oilseed processor, corn dry miller, and U.S. exporter of soybeans and soybean-derived products. To extract oil from soybeans or corn, Bunge and its subsidiaries use volatile organic solvents. Emissions of VOCs result because some of the solvent escapes to the atmosphere. NOx, SO2 and PM are emitted when fuel is burned to provide heat for the process; additional PM is emitted by handling and preparation of the soybeans or corn.

Once fully implemented, the settlement will cause Bunge and its subsidiaries to reduce their emissions of harmful air pollutants as follows:

· Using engineering approaches appropriate for each plant, the 12 plants' emissions of VOCs, including n-hexane, which is a listed hazardous air pollutant, will be reduced by 1,122 tons per year (tpy).

· A host of pollution control projects at the plants, including the innovative technology pilot, will reduce emissions of SO2 by 574 tpy, of NOx by 278 tpy, and of PM by 258 tpy.

The emission reduction projects will cost an estimated $12 million. Bunge will also pay a $625,000 civil penalty, which will be divided among the federal government and the eight states. In addition, Bunge will spend more than $1.25 million to implement supplemental environmental projects which go beyond mere compliance to achieve additional environmental benefits. The supplemental projects, which were selected by and will be supervised by the eight states, include removal of mercury, lead or asbestos from schools in Louisiana, providing hazardous materials response equipment and training in Illinois and Mississippi, providing environmental education in Kansas, abatement of residential lead contamination in Illinois, and retrofitting diesel school buses or other diesel vehicles in Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa and Alabama.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Innovation grants benefit local students

Projects being done by 42 student design teams received $420,000 in grants from EPA to research and develop sustainable environmental solutions. Students at Southern Illinois University will develop green roofs made of plants for improved storm water management, increased energy conservation, reduced urban heat island effects, and extended roof life - - all of which means saving dollars! Students at the University of Tennessee will test whether algae (one-celled plants) can generate enough hydrogen energy in a biohydrogen facility to produce transportation fuel for a city of 100,000 people.

Started in 2004, the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) sustainability design competition encourages university teams to develop projects that are: Environmentally protective - use or release less toxic chemicals, efficiently use natural resources - conserve resources for future generations, and economically competitive - make a profit.

Businesses are taking notice - - last year, four P3 design projects became new commercial ventures.

A P3 winner in 2005 from Oberlin College designed a system to monitor energy and water use in colleges with easy-to-read, real-time data on energy at the dormitory level, allowing the school to reduce energy costs by pinpointing areas of overuse. This project is now a small business with clients that include Southface in Atlanta, Ga.; The Zenergy Group in Orlando, Fla.; Duke University; Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., and others.

Another 2005 P3 Award winner from the University of California at Berkeley has developed a technology that households can use to disinfect contaminated water. The team has been working with the Mexican Institute of Water Technology and the National Council for the Promotion of Education in Mexico and Haiti Outreach: Pwoje Espwa (HOPE) in Haiti.

There will be demonstrations of student projects on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in next April when the 42 teams will compete for the EPA's P3 Award. The P3 award is given to the highest-rated student designs. The award includes additional funding up to $75,000 that enables the teams to further develop their designs for sustainability, test their projects in the field, and move the designs to the marketplace. The National Academy of Engineering, part of the National Academies, will convene a panel to evaluate and recommend the award winners who will be chosen by the EPA.

EPA is now requesting applications for the 2007 P3 National Student Design Competition for Sustainability. EPA plans to award up to 50 grants to student teams for a maximum of $10,000 in the autumn of 2007. The P3 competition is open to teams of students attending colleges, universities and other post-secondary educational institutions. Interdisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged, including representatives from multiple engineering departments and/or departments such as chemistry, architecture, industrial design, economics, policy, social sciences, and business.