Friday, December 21, 2007

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation Testifies at Congressional Hearing

Washington, DC – The House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy in Washington heard testimony on environmental impacts of water bottling and extractions on communities and the environment across the country. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation’s (“MCWC”) president Terry Swier forcefully rebutted Nestle's claims. She pointed out that three courts have concurred that through the finding of fact Nestlé’s pumping has harmed public water resources and riparian rights. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has been battling Nestlé Waters North America and its Ice Mountain brand of spring water in Michigan for seven years.

In her testimony, Swier explained to the panel that Nestlé’s harm to a stream, two lakes, and wetlands was upheld in three courts in the case Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v Nestlé Waters North America. The finding of fact that Nestle caused substantial harm at levels lower than it is pumping now was made by the Mecosta County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals, and affirmed by the Michigan Supreme Court when it rejected Nestlé's argument that the findings were in error.

Jim Olson, legal counsel for MCWC, said, "Nestle witnesses evaded questions from Congressional panel about harm caused by Nestle's pumping for bottling operation in Michigan. Nestlé told the committee it had not caused harm to a stream in Michigan. In fact, three courts in Michigan, trial to the Supreme Court, have limited pumping in Michigan because Nestle has and continues to cause harm there.

During 19 days of trial given sound science, Nestlé’s pumping was found to have reduced stream flow by over 27% for a large stream segment, dropped levels by 2 to 4 inches, and dropped the levels of two lakes by 4 to 6 inches. During natural seasonal or cyclical lows, this makes the difference between public use, fishing, and the integrity of the stream or harm or loss of aquatic organisms.

Dr. David Hyndman, an expert in the Michigan case, explained to the panel, how the exposed bottomlands and harm to the stream shown in a picture to Nestlé's representative and the Subcommittee panel was caused by Nestlé's pumping during low flow periods or the summer growing season.

“Nestlé purports to being a “good neighbor” company to our area, yet it continued to pump at high rates during a long period of low precipitation and lower recharge. Even when bottomland and other dramatic impacts and damage to the Dead Stream, Thompson Lake, and wetlands have occurred, Nestlé has continued to pump,“ explained Swier.

The hearings are a start for the federal government to begin to look at the issues of environmental risks of the water bottling industry’s extraction of water.

For background on MCWC and the various lawsuits, water law disputes, Jim Olson’s summary of key points and comment on testimony, and Terry Swier’s testimony, see MCWC’s web site at

Monday, December 17, 2007

Green Drinks Grand Rapids @ the Green Well!

Hey, Hey, Hey, it's the first ever Green Drinks, Grand Rapids gathering! Join other sustainability enthusiasts for casual networking and drinks organized by JF New, The Image Shoppe & West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum:

December 20th, 2007, 5p - 7p at the Green Well, 924 Cherry SE, in the East Hills Neighborhood.

Spread the word! We look forward to seeing you on the 20th.

More about Green Drinks International:

Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up for a beer at informal sessions known as Green Drinks.

We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. Come along and you'll be made welcome. Just say, "are you green?" and we will look after you and introduce you to whoever is there. It's a great way of catching up with people you know and also for making new contacts. Everyone invites someone else along, so there’s always a different crowd, making Green Drinks an organic, self-organising network.

These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity. It's a force for the good and we'd like to help it spread to other cities. Contact your local node to get the latest info about coming along.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Benzie County School Board pushing Wind Energy for Schools

Benzie County Central Schools Board of Education will be addressing Wind Energy for Schools as an agenda topic at the February 11th, 2008, 7:30pm board meeting to be held at Benzie Central Middle School, 9300 Homestead Rd., Benzonia, MI. This is the first step in determining the feasibility of putting up windmills on school property. A brief presentation is planned, and your comments and participation are welcome.

Sustainability is not new to Benzie County Central Schools. For decades they have been selectively harvesting timber on their 150 acre high school campus using horse-drawn equipment, weaving it into the curriculum, and investing profits back into school programs and supplies, while preparing students for careers in forestry and conservation, check it out here: .

Harvesting the wind is, for them, a natural next step.

For more information Contact Lynette Grimes, or Superintendent Dave Micinski , with questions,comments,ideas, support or encouragement- Please forward to those who you think will be interested. Meeting reminders will be sent out in February.

Groundwater Contaminated with Gasoline in Rockford

The drinking water supply for homes not at risk, area served by a municipal
water system

Nearly half of Michigan's population relies on groundwater for their drinking water source, yet contamination from leaking underground storage tank sites remains a significant problem for the state. Michigan ranks third in the nation for the highest number of releases from leaking tank sites yet to be cleaned up, with more than 9,000 sites currently known.

The state Department of Environmental Quality is spending $650,000 for cleanup from leaky underground storage tanks at a former gas station site in Rockford, Michigan. So far they've removed the tanks and cleaned up some of the soil, but it turns out much more clean-up is needed to make the site safe again. The money is coming out of the state's Refined Petroleum Fund.

Unfortunately, state cleanup funds are running out, and unless a new funding source is identified soon, cleanups at sites like this will no longer be a possibility.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lead, Cadmium, and Other Harmful Chemicals Found in Popular Holiday Toys

Environmental Health Groups Release Testing Results Today at
Holiday Favorites, Including Hannah Montana
& Circo Contaminated with High Levels of Toxic Chemicals

The Ecology Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, today released the results of their testing of 1,200 popular children’s toys for toxic chemicals at

"The government is not testing for toxic chemicals in toys, and too many manufacturers are not self-regulating, so several nonprofit organizations created the nation’s first toy database to help inform and empower consumers,” said Tracey Easthope, MPH, Director of the Ecology Center’s Environmental Health Project. “Ultimately consumers need to take action to compel the federal government and toy manufacturers to eliminate dangerous chemicals from toys."

While some toys had high levels of chemicals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic, others were free of these harmful additives. Parents and other holiday shoppers can now easily search by product name, brand, or toy type (i.e. dolls, teethers, jewelry, bibs, etc.) to learn how the products rate in terms of harmful chemical content. Babies and young children are the most vulnerable since their brains and bodies are still developing and because they frequently put toys into their mouths.

Researchers chose to test these particular chemicals because they have been identified by many regulatory agencies as problematic, they have been associated with reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer, and because they are found in children’s products. The testing was conducted with a screening technology -- the portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer -- which identifies the elemental composition of materials on the surface of products.

"Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys, period," said Ted Schettler, MD, Science Director at the Science and Environmental Health Network. “Even low-level toxic chemical exposures can have lifelong impacts. Getting toxic chemicals out of children’s toys is a moral and medical imperative." tested 1,200 children's products and more than 3,000 components of those products. findings:

Lead: When children are exposed to lead, the developmental and nervous system consequences are irreversible. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a level of 40 parts per million (ppm) of lead as the maximum that should be allowed in children's products. Nevertheless, there are no federal regulations for lead in vinyl or plastic toys or children’s jewelry. The only existing standard is for lead in paint. found lead in 35% of all the products tested. Seventeen percent (17%) of the products had levels above the 600 ppm federal recall standard used for lead paint! The testing detected more than 6,700 ppm in Dollar Store animal figurines; 3,056 ppm in a Hannah Montana Pop Star Card Pack; and 1,700 ppm lead in a pair of Circo baby shoes.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC / Vinyl): determined products were made with PVC plastic by measuring their chlorine content. PVC is a problematic plastic from an environmental health perspective because it creates major hazards throughout its life cycle and contains additives that can be dangerous to human health. Phthalates are chemicals that are very commonly added to PVC to make it soft and flexible, however, they can leach out of the plastic. Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals and altered levels of reproductive hormones in baby boys. There are currently no federal regulations limiting phthalates in children's products. California recently passed a ban of several phthalates in children’s products, and Europe has restricted the use of phthalates in children’s toys and child care items. 47% percent of toys (excluding jewelry) tested by were PVC.

Cadmium: Cadmium is a heavy metal that is used in coatings and pigments in plastic and paint. It is a known human carcinogen and exposure can cause adverse effects on the kidneys, lungs, liver, and testes. Currently there are no mandatory restrictions on cadmium in children’s products in the U.S. found cadmium at levels greater than 100 ppm in 2.9% of products -- 22 of the 764 products tested for cadmium-- including painted toys, PVC toys, backpacks, lunch boxes and bibs. also tested toys for arsenic, mercury, bromine, chromium, tin and antimony -- chemicals that have all been linked to health problems and have been subject to either regulatory restrictions or voluntary limits set by industry associations or third party environmental organizations.

The Good News: Twenty-eight percent (28%) of the products tested did not contain any lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury or PVC, including many made in China. Examples of healthier toys include: Amazing Animals Hippo by Fisher-Price (made in China); Caterpillar Grasping Toy, Melissa and Doug (made in Vietnam); and B.R. Bruin Stacking Cups (made in China). provides specific guidelines for how to petition federal and state government agencies and toy manufacturers to urge them to phase out toxic chemicals from toys immediately. Visitors to can nominate other products to be tested. The most commonly requested items will be tested each week leading up to the Holidays.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Book Review: Self-Sufficency Handbook

The Self-Sufficency Handbook
A Complete Guide to Greener Living
Alan and Gill Bridgewater

If anyone in your family is considering a shift to a greener way of living, you should pick up this guide for the holidays. With easy-to-read layouts and simple text, it runs the full gamut, from geothermal heating to crop rotation to soap making. The Bridgewaters help readers answer questions such as how much land they really require, whether or not to depend entirely on natural forms of energy, and which farm animals will best meet their needs. There's practical information on building an insulated flue-pipe chimney, identifying edible wild plants, and composting with worms. There is also a recipe for sauerkrat that I'm trying right now. In addition to recipes for jams, rhubarb wine, and other delicious foods, three A-Z sections offer planting and harvesting instructions for vegetables and salad crops, fruits, and herbs.

One of the biggest problems we have in our society, I think, is that we've lost the knowledge to grow and store our own food. We are at the mercy of the big agriculture corporations and big box stores that shovel us full of poisonous crap. Do yourself and your family a favor and spend a little time with this great book.

Order it now from Powells

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Migratory Bird Deaths Linked to new Invasive Species

More than 100 dead loons and other migratory birds have washed up on New York's Great Lakes shores in the past week, prompting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to suspect another botulism-poisoning episode linked to the spread of invasive species.

Evidence closely matches die-offs related to Type E botulism that have occurred every year on Lake Erie since 2000 and Lake Ontario since 2002 during fall migration. Those incidents are tied to two invasive species consumed by birds during migration stopovers: the quagga mussel and a fish called the Round Goby. Loons especially feed on the Round Goby. As the Round Gobies have proliferated in in Eastern Lake Ontario, cases of botulism poisoning have increased. This is now an annual event.

Other birds impacted include the Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Horned Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, Double-crested Cormorant and the White-winged Scoter. The single species with the greatest mortality has differed each year.

New Dioxin Hotspot in Saginaw River

Dow Chemical recently reported a preliminary result of over 1.6 million parts per trillion (ppt) from a single sediment sample in the Saginaw River. Until now, the highest level found in the Saginaw River was 32,000 ppt. Under June 2007 EPA orders, Dow has been removing three dioxin hotspots from the Tittabawasse River which had concentrations of up to 87,000 ppt. The new Saginaw River sample came from a location a half-mile below the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Shiawassee Rivers, near Wickes Park in Saginaw.

"The sediment concentration recently reported by Dow is probably the highest level ever found in the Great Lakes," said Dr. Milton Clark, EPA Region 5's senior health and science advisor. "While not exactly comparable, the concentration is more than 1,000 times higher than EPA's action level of 1,000 parts per trillion that triggers cleanup of dioxin-contaminated soils at residences. It is more than10,000 times higher than the State of Michigan's residential cleanup criterion of 90 parts per trillion."

"Under most circumstances, EPA is more concerned by high levels of dioxin in sediments because they contaminate the aquatic food chain. EPA national dioxin guidance and risk assessment approaches indicate that dioxin levels found in sediments may need to be lower than those in soils to fully protect public health," Dr. Clark added.

Fish consumption is one of the primary exposure pathways in the Saginaw River system. Adverse human health effects associated with exposure to dioxin include impacts to the reproductive, immune and endocrine systems. Dioxin is also a carcinogen.

Since 1978, the state of Michigan has issued fish consumption advisories for the Saginaw River Watershed. A recent University of Michigan study revealed that people consuming fish from the Saginaw River system have higher than average levels of dioxins in their blood.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Auto Workers and dealers lead fight for higher fuel efficiency standards

The Auto Lobby Doesn't Speak For Us website ( went live on Friday in an attempt to enlist industry workers who believe the domestic auto makers not only can but must build more fuel-efficient cars if the industry is to survive.

The campaign includes local and state speaking engagements, blogging to recruit for the sign-on letter to House and Senate leadership, a trip to the nation's capitol to talk with legislators and a few Washington DC newspaper ads.

The website provides links to National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and University of Michigan studies on the feasibility and impact of higher fuel economy standards on the auto industry. The website reads: "An increase in fuel economy standards will not only benefit the country as a whole, it will also move the industry forward, create new jobs and boost profitability."

Check it out here:

See my related post on this effort over on Blue Muskrat: Most Michigan Autoworkers Support 40mpg rule & Climate Curbs

Bad Dow, Bad!

EPA notifies Dow of clean-air and hazardous waste violations

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 notified Dow Chemical Co. on Friday that it has found clean-air and hazardous waste violations at the company's Midland facility. EPA issued a 'finding of violation' under the Clean Air Act and a 'notice of violation' under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The investigation spanned eight weeks over a two-year period.

The Feds allege Dow violated the Clean Air Act by, among other things, "failing to follow regulations aimed at detecting and repairing leaks, as well as failing to conduct a required stack test. Dow was also allegedly found to be in violation of multiple Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requirements for managing hazardous waste."

EPA said Dow's clean-air violations have increased public exposure to organic hazardous air pollutant emissions including, but not limited to, ethyl chloride, toluene, ethylene, perchloroethylene, methanol and hydrogen chloride.

Meanwhile, the Republican legislator from Midland is wasting his time and taxpayer moneyby launching a ridiculous attack on the Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Overwhelmed with the daily drumbeat of work, commute, family and more, I could use some writing assistance with Black Bear Speaks. The quality and timeliness of The Bear is slipping due to inattention and increasing importance of other projects.

I can't pay anyone, Black Bear Speaks does not turn a profit. But what you'll get from writing for the Bear is name recognition in the environmental community in Michigan. I've worked hard to ensure that many non-profit leaders in the Great Lakes are aware of the site. Right now, Black Bear Speaks gets approximately 600 to 900 unique readers per month (Google Analytics). Black Bear Speaks is influencing decision making on the state level, regional legislators read the Bear. For journalism students out there who want to get your writing noticed, this is an opportunity for you.

I'm looking for writers who can cover the following topics - all or some of them - whatever you are comfortable with:
  • new green businesses in the Great Lakes
  • Great Lakes water quality ( toxics in groundwater and lakes)
  • new government environmental regulation... or government non-regulation and stupidity
  • Non-profit environmental organization activities
  • miscellaneous topics that affect the health of the Lakes.

    So, from this point forward, SUBMISSIONS ARE WELCOMED!!! Click the contact link at the top of the page, and help me take the Bear to the next level.

  • Sunday, October 28, 2007

    Millennium Inorganic Chemicals dumped PCB's

    Millennium Inorganic Chemicals in Ashtabula, Ohio has been ordered to address newly discovered PCB contamination in Fields Brook, which flows into northeast Ohio's Ashtabula River, and eventually Lake Erie.

    Fields Brook is on the Superfund National Priorities List. During 1999 - 2001, cleanup activities were conducted on almost four miles of the brook and at six nearby industrial sites. The new contamination, a pool of heat transfer fluid containing PCBs, was discovered in September. The Fields Brook channel has been rerouted around the problem area. A Detroit-based EPA Superfund emergency response team will monitor the work of Millennium's contractors.

    PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of toxic chemicals that were widely used as coolants, insulators and lubricants. PCBs are carcinogens and they concentrate in the food chain. Congress banned the manufacture of new PCBs in 1976.

    BP Fined $60Million for Clean Air Violations

    BP Products North America, Inc. has agreed to pay a total criminal fine of more than $60 million for violations of federal environmental regulations in Texas and Alaska. In addition to the penalty, the company will spend approximately $400 million on safety upgrades and improvements to prevent future chemical releases and spills.

    This is the largest criminal fine ever assessed against a corporation for Clean Air Act violations and the first criminal prosecution of the requirement that refineries and chemical plants take steps to prevent accidental releases. The requirement was passed in 1990 as part of the Clean Air Act following the explosion at the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India where thousands were killed and injured.

    BP will pay $50 million for a catastrophic explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others at its Texas City refinery. BP will also pay a $12 million fine for spilling 200,000 gallons of crude oil onto the Alaskan tundra and onto a frozen lake in March 2006, resulting in the largest spill that ever occurred on the North Slope.

    In addition to the $50 million fine, the company pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act and will serve three years of probation for the Texas City incident. BP is also required to complete a facility-wide study of its safety valves and renovate its flare system to prevent excess emissions at an estimated cost of $265 million.

    For the Alaska spill, BP pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor of the Clean Water Act and will serve three years probation, pay $4 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support research and activities on the North Slope, and pay $4 million in restitution to the State of Alaska. BP is required to replace 16 miles of pipeline at an estimated cost of $150 million.

    On March 23, 2005, an explosion occurred at the Texas City refinery when hydrocarbon vapor and liquid released from a stack and ignited during the process of increasing octane levels in unleaded gasoline. Investigators learned that operators regularly failed to follow written standard operating procedures for ensuring mechanical integrity of safety equipment. The stack where the release occurred had been in poor operating condition since at least April 2003. Alarms failed to function or were ignored.

    The Texas City refinery is BP's largest U.S. refinery, which covers more than 1,200 acres and can process as much as 460,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The refinery was previously owned by Amoco, which merged with BP in December 1998.

    In March 2006, BP spilled more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil on the North Slope in Alaska. A second spill occurred in August 2006, but was quickly contained after leaking approximately 1,000 gallons of oil. Investigators determined the leak was caused by a build up of sediment in the pipe, and that BP failed to properly inspect or clean the pipeline, which is required by law to prevent pipeline corrosion. The investigation revealed that in 2004, the company became aware of increased corrosion in the pipeline.

    Conference: Making A Great Lake Superior

    The Making A Great Lake Superior conference will be held at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Oct. 29 -31. The conference will bring together for the first time researchers, government officials, educators and the public to present and exchange information on the critical issues facing the Lake Superior ecosystem with an emphasis on climate change.

    Sessions will include the impact of climate change on the lake, invasive species, low water levels, contaminated areas around the lake, toxic pollutants and new pollution concerns. More than 300 people from throughout the Lake Superior basin are expected to attend.

    Speakers will include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson, EPA Regional Administrator Mary Gade, Arctic explorer Will Steger, former EPA Assistant Administrator Tracy Mehan and John Austin of the Brookings Institution, as well as other experts on Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. In addition, Lake Superior mayors and tribal leaders will participate in a panel discussion about critical issues facing the lake.

    The conference agenda is available at

    The meeting will also be available on the Internet as a Web cast and by telephone. A live Web cast can be accessed at To listen by telephone, dial 877-446-8439 toll-free and give the operator the ID code. ID codes for each day are available on the conference Web site.

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    One Bear's Thoughts on Sustainable Economics

    You dont' know me from Adam, but - if you don't mind - I'm going to give you an assignment.

    If you've taken the time to stop and read this blog, I'm certain that you realize the importance of shifting the manufacturing industry in Michigan toward a more sustainable future. We cannot survive - neither as a community, a state, or a species - if we continue business as usual.

    Working in a manufacturing environment, I've become painfully aware of the jobs losses that are occurring around me. It hurts to watch them go. This cannot continue, families are in trouble throughout this state. I am convinced that the "green" economy is the solution to this problem, we have every indication that it will lead to innovation and job creation.

    I am also strongly convinced that as business people we must fight not only for environmental protection and justice for individuals, but also merge these two values to create a viable, sustainable economic future for Michigan families. The right to clean water, clean air and a good paying job must be had by all.

    For decades, Michigan has been a manufacturing powerhouse. It is time to cast off the negativity that surrounds our economic forecasts and boldly forge ahead into the green economy. To reach this end, we need elected officials to pursue this line of thinking as well. As business folk, we must drive legislation that will benefit green business.

    First, we must immediately strengthen net-metering laws in Michigan. Net metering allows individuals and companies to generate their own electricity and sell it to their utility company through the existing grid. Stronger net-metering legislation will encourage economic growth through manufacturing, construction and installation of solar and wind generators. This is no longer in dispute. Anyone who tells you that coal or nuclear is cheaper than solar and wind is an outright liar or is working in public relations for a coal company. Michigan can lead the nation in wind generation because of the enormous amount of wind energy generated by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. We can create jobs immediately by forming business coalitions to invest in wind power development. Guess what, there is currently legislation pending in committee to strengthen net metering laws.

    Second, stronger toxics legislation is immediately necessary. No company or individual has the right to threaten the health of the Great Lakes by being allowed to dump toxins directly into them. BP and US Steel are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to toxic dumping in these parts. Fortunately we have philanthropists in West Michigan that have provided a new children's cancer hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. Isn't that wonderful!? Yes it is, but it also makes me want to puke to know that so many kids in my community are dying of cancer that we need a major medical facility to deal with the enormous numbers. Cancer is big business in Grand Rapids. The health of our children is a direct reflection of past business practices in West Michigan. We have only ourselves to blame for this.

    Third, taxes. There simply must be greater incentives for businesses to pursue green goals. But hear me out, I'm not considering tax breaks for business, I'm postulating a Pollution Tax. For every gram of mercury released, for every cubic meter of carbon dioxide emitted, for every liter of water poisoned, business should pay. We could stop deadly cancers in a generation if we tax the crap out of the guys who are releasing the poisons into the air and water. We can protect the fresh water supply of this entire continent by levying a tax on those who threaten it, right here in Michgan.

    There's your assignment. Get it on it. I want to see results by the end of next week.

    Thank you for your time.


    The Bear

    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    More EPA objections to Indiana's permit for US Steel Gary Works

    In a letter sent October 16th, 2007 to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, EPA outlined three more objections to the draft wastewater discharge permit the state of Indiana has proposed for US Steel Gary Works. EPA had raised initial objections to the permit in a letter sent earlier this month.

    EPA's three additional objections involve compliance schedules, Indiana's anti-degradation requirements and cooling water intake structures.

    First, the fact sheet for Indiana's draft permit does not show that a one-year compliance schedule is appropriate for installing continuous thermal monitoring equipment or that a three-year schedule is necessary for complying with thermal discharge limits.

    Second, while the draft permit includes new discharge limits on several pollutants such as chromium, cadmium, copper, nickel, silver, cyanide, total toxic organics and hexavalent chromium, and total recoverable chromium, it is unclear whether this meets the anti-degradation requirements of Indiana's water quality standards.

    Third, the draft permit lacks requirements that reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impacts from the cooling water intake structure.

    In an Oct. 1 letter to IDEM, EPA raised objections on how discharge limits were set for several types of pollutants and the inclusion of other compliance schedules in the draft permit. (See Black Bear Post on this issue below)

    EPA has raised all its objections during the review period provided by federal regulations. This is part of the federal overview of wastewater discharge permits for major facilities.

    Under federal rules, IDEM may not issue the permit over EPA objections.

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Another killer site

    If you haven't already, you need to check out

    It turns out that solar is better than coal and nuclear, and over the long term it's a hellofa lot cheaper. Whodathunkit.

    Oregon owes Dave and Dan a hearty thank you. They have produced a quality site filled with good bits of info that will keep you entertained for hours (or minutes, your choice). Some days I really wish I still lived out in Eugene where the Earth is NOT flat and not filled with the terminally obese.

    Here's to the Oregon crew fighting for energy independence and a solar future for us all. Put down the bong and blog like crazy guys! Keep up the good work!


    This incredibly beautiful woman named Rachel sent me some info on a new program by the George Lucas Eductational Foundation.

    The Foundation recently launched a "Go Green Database",, on Rachel says it is "the centerpiece of an ambitious new package on the state of environmental awareness in public education."

    The database features Green projects, lesson plans, service-learning opportunities and other resources that can be searched by topic, grade level, cost and location. It also allows users to add, rate and comment on or upload their own resources. It will be a permanent feature on

    Thanks George. Thanks Rachel.

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    US Steel to increase toxic dumping in Lake Michigan

    From the Chicago Tribune

    Indiana is moving to scrap, relax or omit limits on toxic chemicals and heavy metals dumped into a Lake Michigan tributary by the U.S. Steel Corp. mill in Gary, according to environmental lawyers and former federal regulators who have reviewed a proposed water permit.

    Language outlining the changes is buried in 117 densely worded pages under consideration by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which provoked a public outcry this year when it gave a nearby BP refinery permission to significantly increase pollution discharged into the lake.

    How much longer do we have to put up with the State of Indiana shirking its responsibility to the Great Lakes and its neighbors? Why do they think they can get away with this bullshit? It's time for action against the State of Indiana, not only by the Feds, but also from all the States surrounding Lake Michigan. Let's sue the pants off of them.

    Read the rest of this story in the Tribune.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    EPA vs Dow Chemical

    The following is a press release from EPA Region 5

    EPA to Dow Chemical: 60 day clock to negotiate on Tittabawassee River system cleanup starts today

    CHICAGO (Oct. 10, 2007) - At a meeting today in Chicago, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 formally notified Dow Chemical that it has a limited opportunity to negotiate with the Agency on a settlement to conduct an investigation, a study and interim response actions for dioxin contamination in the Tittabawassee River system. The Midland, Mich., company has until Oct. 17 to decide whether it will negotiate.

    The targeted area begins upstream of Dow's Midland Plant and may extend downstream to the Saginaw River, its floodplains and portions of Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron.

    EPA has the authority to call for negotiations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund. Superfund specifies the process in which a remedial investigation/ feasibility study (RI/FS), cleanup removal actions and remedy design must be conducted.

    "The Superfund law provides a strong mechanism to continue necessary actions to comprehensively and definitively address the issue of dioxin contamination in the river system," said Ralph Dollhopf, associate director of EPA's Regional Superfund Division. "The work begun this summer to address three hot spots in the Tittabawassee River is also being performed under Superfund authority."

    Dow's expected RI/FS effort must evaluate the nature and extent of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants from the site and assess the risks they present to human health and the environment. It must also provide enough data to develop and evaluate a range of cleanup options.

    If the company agrees begin negotiations, Dow will have until Dec. 10 to present EPA with a good faith offer demonstrating its willingness to conduct or finance an RI/FS and design a remedy. EPA may choose to extend negotiations until Jan. 9, 2008, if appropriate.

    Top EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials are meeting today in Lansing to discuss their respective roles throughout this process.

    Dow's Midland facility is a 1,900-acre chemical manufacturing plant. Dioxins and furans were byproducts from the manufacture of chlorine-based products. Past waste disposal practices, fugitive emissions and incineration at Dow have resulted in on- and off-site dioxin and furan contamination.

    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    American Electric Power Corp Gets Hammered by Feds

    Record-Breaking $4.6 Billion Clean Air Act Settlement Announced
    After Eight-Year Battle, American Electric Power Agrees to Major Power Plant Upgrades, Pollution Reductions, Environmental Improvements

    CHICAGO (October 9, 2007) -- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 8 states, and 12 other environmental organizations, reached a history-making settlement with American Electric Power (AEP) today after a nearly decade-old battle over AEP’s violations of the Clean Air Act’s “New Source Review” requirements.

    The $4.6 billion settlement represents the largest of its kind in the history of the Clean Air Act and the most money an energy company has ever agreed to put towards new pollution controls.

    AEP also agreed to pay an additional $15 million civil penalty, which is the highest penalty paid by any electric utility in settlement of a New Source Review case, and also fund $60 million in environmental mitigation projects.

    "Today’s historic settlement not only holds AEP accountable, but also puts big polluters on notice that they can no longer run and hide from their actions or circumvent the Clean Air Act," said John Walke, director of NRDC’s Clean Air Program. "The size of the settlement means that we will be able to keep 813,000 tons of harmful pollution out of the atmosphere, improving air quality and public health around these plants and beyond."

    NRDC filed suit against AEP in 1999 under the Clean Air Act for violations at 16 of its coal-fired electric power plants because AEP facilities had upgraded and increased smog and soot pollution without installing the pollution controls required by law.

    As a result of its Clean Air Act violations, AEP emitted illegal amounts of harmful nitrogen oxides and deadly sulfur dioxide pollution at plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia for over two decades.

    The Columbus, Ohio-based AEP owns 25 coal-fired electric plants in the United States, and was the number one industrial emitter of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide pollution in the country, based on 2004 data.

    Under the settlement, AEP agreed to undertake approximately $4.6 billion worth of pollution control measures at its existing plants over the next decade. The new pollution controls will, reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 79 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 69 percent from the 16 plants covered by the settlement. The sulfur dioxide reduction is among the largest percentage decrease ever achieved in any settlement with coal-fired electric utilities. AEP will also put $60 million towards projects to mitigate the impacts of their past illegal emissions, including the conversion of heavily-polluting trucks and barges to low-sulfur diesel fuel.

    "We are happy that AEP has finally agreed to install the modern pollution controls that the Clean Air Act has required for decades," said Shannon Fisk, attorney in NRDC's Midwest office. "This is an important first step toward reducing the disproportionate air pollution burden that is placed on residents of the Ohio River Valley. With today’s settlement, a new day has dawned in the region and cleaner air will soon follow."

    NRDC's lawsuit, which also represented the Sierra Club, was one of several suits filed against AEP. Other plaintiffs included the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which initiated the battle against AEP, as well as 8 states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Rhode Island, and 12 other environmental groups: Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, Clean Air Council, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League of America, League of Ohio Sportsmen, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Valley Environmental Council, Sierra Club, U.S.PIRG, and West Virginia Environmental Council.

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    War Before Kids

    It is utterly revolting to know that yesterday the Congress of the United States voted to pay an additional $150 Billion dollars for continuing the war in Iraq, but today only 24 hours later, President Bush vetoed the Children's Health Insurance Program, The Children's Health Insurance Program would have provided health care for millions of poor children in the United States, at a cost of $35 Billion. Bush's reason? Because it would have cost too much.

    Our government values war over children.

    Not only does our President clearly have his head straight up his own ass, our congress is not listening to the will of the people they represent.

    It is my opinion that it is time to remove all of these fools from power. Not next year, not next month, but today. Tomorrow the people of the United States should shut down the federal government.

    I am embarrassed to be an American.

    Saturday, September 29, 2007

    Funding Cuts to the DNR and the DEQ Threaten The Great Lakes and Your Health

    Michigan's state conservation agencies, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality, are vastly and disproportionately under-funded, according to a new report released today by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. The report analyzes the state's fiscal budget over the last 25 years and finds that the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have suffered major cuts in critical funding. As a result, Michigan's Great Lakes, state lands,and wildlife are in peril.

    The report is authored by Dave Dempsey, environmental policy aide, author, and
    Michigan LCV Education Fund consultant. Tom Clay, Director of State Affairs Emeritus
    with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, assisted in the collection and analysis of the financial and employment data.

    Key findings in the report outline that over the last decade these two state agencies have suffered more than their fair share of budget cuts, resulting in major losses of funding, causing the closing of campgrounds, and failures to clean up toxic contamination.

    "As just one example of the importance of these departments to Michigan's future:
    currently the DEQ is working to drastically reduce mercury emissions that pollute our Great Lakes and threaten our way of life and children’s health - a crucial milestone in Michigan's history. Without the proper DEQ funds and staff, programs such as thesewould be threatened and Michigan's Great Lakes could become an open dumping groundfor polluters.” said Kim Pargoff, Energy Advocate with Environment Michigan.

    Howard Tanner, former Director of the DNR expressed his concern over the report's
    conclusions. “Michigan was once a leader on conservation and environmental protection of our vast natural resources. Somehow that trend has been reversed and our leadership in conservation has been tarnished. It is up to our leaders in Lansing to work together to return to our once proud legacy of environmental stewardship by properly funding the DNR and DEQ."

    Some of the major findings of the report include:
    • Conservation Funding Slashed: Since 2001, The DNR and DEQ departments have suffered a 62 percent decline in funding. This decline is not at all proportionate to overall declines in statewide funds: for the same period, total general fund spending dropped only 6 percent.
    • DNR and DEQ unfairly targeted: No other state department has lost as much proportional support as DNR and DEQ.
    • Family vacationers bear consequences of budget cuts: Cuts in this year’s
    appropriation caused the agency to close 20 of its 138 state forest campgrounds
    early this summer.
    • Communities abandoned: By next year, there will be no more funding for the
    state's contaminated site cleanup program. Without this program, thousands of
    toxic sites around the country will be left as is, posing serious public health and
    environmental risks.

    In Saginaw, increased budget cuts to the DEQ would have consequences for local

    "The most pervasive toxic contamination in the state threatens Lake Huron. The DEQ has worked five years to bring the responsible party, Dow Chemical Company, to a point where some dioxins and other toxics are being removed. What happens if the
    DEQ's budget is cut again? What happens to our rivers, our lakes, our drinking water, our fisheries, if our first line of defense is hamstrung by budget cuts," said Lone Tree Council Chairperson Terry Miller. "And the DEQ's Saginaw Bay Coastal Initiative, an effort to deal with the shoreline muck, invasive species, and sewer overflows -- do we just tell people to hold their noses and hope?"

    Given these major funding cuts, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education
    Fund along with dozens of environmental and conservation organizations are calling on the State Legislature and Governor Granholm to invest in Michigan's future and place Michigan's air, land, and water as a top priority for the prosperity of our state by providing the critical funding necessary to fully fund the DNR and DEQ.

    For more info contact: Brian Beauchamp 734-222-9650, Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
    Hugh McDiarmid, Jr. 517-487-9539, Michigan Environmental Council

    Here's the link to the report: Losing a Legacy: Why Michigan’s Magnificent Places are at Risk

    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Knu: what it means to be sustainable

    I'm proud to say that over here at Industrial Woodworking/Knu LLC in Zeeland, Michigan we have just completed our first video project to inform consumers about our efforts toward becoming a fully sustainable furniture manufacturing company.

    Industrial Woodworking Corp/Knu LLC has joined the Sustainable Furniture Council, a non-profit industry organization working to promote environmental ethics within the furniture industry. Brad Davis - our CEO - and I now sit on the education committee of the SFC, and we are working hard to instruct retailers and consumers about sustainability. As we move toward using Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products whenever possible, we will have a dramatic effect on the future of forests here in the US and abroad.

    Industrial Woodworking Corporation, along with its subsidiary Knu, is now, I believe, the only fully carbon neutral furniture manufacturing company in West Michigan. We are purchasing renewable energy credits through our partner, and have offset all of our electricity, natural gas, vehicle use and air travel. We are also partnering with the National Arbor Day Foundation to plant a tree for every piece of furniture Knu sells in a national forest here in the U.S. As you watch this short video, you'll learn about some of the other steps we've taken to move forward toward a more ecologically sound future for this region and it's economy.

    As Brad has stated repeatedly, if we lead and are successful, others will have to follow. The future of West Michigan industry is green.

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    Other BP Permits Slipping Under the Radar Screen

    This week in the Great Lakes Town Hall – Carolyn A. Marsh

    This week, the Great Lakes Town Hall is presenting Carolyn A. Marsh of Whiting, Indiana. A devoted birdwatcher, Carolyn played a pivotal role in blocking the construction of what would have been the nation's largest marina in a migratory hot spot in Hammond, IN. Carolyn is currently putting pressure on BP Amoco to increase public participation in their expansion plans in Indiana. Despite BP's promise to not invoke their controversial refinery wastewater permit, it looks like the fight isn't over yet:
    "Local environmental watchdogs and national refinery experts have exposed a series of actions by BP officials and Indiana agencies to "piece-meal" the massive expansion of the Whiting refinery and mislead the public about the extent of the combined pollution to theregion's air and water. While protest has erupted over plans to increase dumping of wastewater to Lake Michigan as a result of the refinery's processing of heavily contaminated "tar sands oil", until now the public has been uninformed about BP's plans to build two more giant plants in the same area under separate permits."
    Don't miss your chance to read and respond to Ms. Marsh's perspectives every day this week.

    It's important to note that BP is not the only refinery expanding in the Great Lakes region. Marathon is planning and seeking approval for a major expansion in the Detroit area to also process Canadian "tar sands oil." This issue is not going to go away anytime soon, and it up to eco-freaks throughout the Midwest to get informed about this issue and it's ramifications for the Lakes. This is just the beginning of this fight.

    The Detroit News published an editorial today in support of the Marathon expansion. If you know anything about the News, you know they have a right-wing conservative bias and they oppose any environmental group's activities. It is my opinion that the Detroit News would be better used as toilet paper than as a news source. Unfortunately they probably use some kind of toxic ink that won't flush well.

    Thanks go to the Biodiversity Project in Madison, WI for the info on the Great Lakes Town Hall.

    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    Clean Water Action Job Announcement

    Grand Rapids Area Community Organizer
    Full-time position with Clean Water Action

    Application Deadline:
    September 1, 2007 or until position is filled.
    Clean Water Action, Michigan’s largest grassroots environmental group, is looking for a true progressive leader and self-directed individual to mobilize citizens to take action on behalf of environmental protection. Working from our Grand Rapids office, Clean Water Action‘s community organizer will engage citizens throughout West Michigan to mobilize the residents in support of priority environmental and environmental health policies. The organizer will also educate voters on lawmaker voting records and work to hold elected officials accountable.
    Organizer Responsibilities:
    Manage a busy, one-person office in Grand Rapids
    Coordinate multiple public education and political campaigns
    Recruit, sustain and manage volunteers and interns
    Develop relationships with community leaders and key funders
    Plan and implement winning grassroots strategies
    Build and strengthen progressive networks and coalitions
    Effectively initiate earned media, internet and other communications
    Coordinate with other Clean Water Action staff and organizations
    Provide program leadership for local canvass staff
    Successful professional or volunteer experience organizing on progressive issues
    Strong oral/written communication skills and experience working with computers and doing online communications
    Commitment to working with diverse people
    Ability to successfully network with individuals and organizations
    Well-organized, self-motivated, and able to work independently on multiple projects
    Ability to develop and implement earned media strategies
    Willingness to travel within Michigan, particularly West Michigan
    Willingness to work weekday evenings and weekends as needed
    Salary commensurate with experience. Benefits package included.
    To Apply:
    Contact David Holtz at

    Black Bear Speaks has no affiliation with Clean Water Action, I just think they're cool people. Send your questions to them.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Nestle Fight Continues, Getting Uglier

    Citizens Group Fighting Nestle Water Extraction Seeks Reversal of Supreme Court's Crippling Blow to Environmental Citizen Suit Law

    Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, the citizen group who won a major court victory that limited groundwaterpumping by Nestle for its Ice Mountain bottled water that harmed a stream, two lakes, and wetlands, filed a Motion for Rehearing with the
    Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday, August 15, 2007.

    On July 25th, the State's highest court, in a 4-to-3 decision, agreed with lower court rulings that Nestle's groundwater extraction illegally harmed the lakes, stream, and wetlands. But the Court also reversed part of the lower court’s ruling by limiting the citizen groups’ legal right to bring a lawsuit against Nestle under Michigan’s Environmental Protection Act for damaging a lake and wetlands on its own property. The citizens group has standing, the right to bring the suit, to protect the lakes and streams which individuals or the group's members owned or used, but no right to bring suit to stop a polluter from destroying a lake and wetland on his or her own property, the Court's decision said.

    Ironically, in June of this year, Michigan's internationally renowned environmental citizen-suit law won more acclaim when the law's author, Professor Joseph Sax, who wrote the law at the request of former Governor William Milliken in 1970, was awarded the prestigious international Blue Planet Prize in Tokyo.

    "MCWC has asked the Court to rehear its decision, because we think the citizens of Michigan deserve a closer look at a ruling that blocks their right to sue to prevent environmental damage on Nestle’s property," Terry Swier, President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, said. "Our air, water, and natural resources do not recognize the legal fiction of property boundaries when it comes to environmental harm."

    The citizen group requests the Court to rehear its July 25th decision, because it denies them their legal right to bring a citizen suit to prevent Nestle from causing undeniable harm, according to the findings of the lower courts, to the water resources of the state. "In a larger sense, the decision may have exceeded the Court's judicial power under our constitution and denied these people their first amendment right to petition government to redress wrongs," said James Olson, from Olson, Bzdok & Howard, who represents the citizen groups in its battles with Nestle. "In the immediate sense, the decision ignored a model environmental law passed by our legislature and knocked the teeth out of citizens individual rights to protect the environment," he said.

    The Court's blow to the right granted to citizens by the Legislature to bring suits to protect the environment has met with outcry on the editorial pages of most newspapers.

    Former Governor Milliken, who with a bipartisan Legislature spearheaded the adoption of the landmark environmental law in 1970, condemned the Court's decision in various news articles.

    George Weeks, a well-respected political columnist, in an Op Ed, July 29th, described the Michigan Environmental Protection Act as “crippled” by “the Michigan Supreme Court, which Weeks dubbed as the "Engler Four – justices elevated to that bench or the Court of Appeals by ex-Gov John Engler."

    Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation's reason for filing the Motion for Rehearing is to give the Court an opportunity to reconsider its earlier July 25th decision.

    "It makes no sense to us. The Court says we have standing to prevent the damage to the stream and one lake within the affected area of Nestle’s pumping, but then says we don’t have the right to protect the lake and wetlands on Nestle’s property, even though these water resources are also harmed and within the same affected area," Swier said.

    Sustainable Living on the Great Lakes

    "Sustainable Living on the Lakes" will be the theme of the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Great Lakes Commission, Oct. 1-2 in Chicago, Ill. The meeting will feature expert panels on climate change and its impacts on the Great Lakes, water conservation, and renewable energy and economic development. There will also be a series of field trips to Chicago's Center for Green Technology and the electric aquatic nuisance species dispersal barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. In addition, the meeting will feature updates on Great Lakes-related legislation making its way through Congress, the implementation of the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact and other high-priority Great Lakes issues. For more information, see Contact: Tim Eder,

    Great Lakes Restoration Conference - Chicago

    Join key players from government, business and advocacy groups who are at the center of the movement to restore the Great Lakes. Help set the Great Lakes restoration agenda for the coming year; hear first-hand about the issues facing the Great Lakes; and help advance the actions needed to protect the world’s largest surface fresh water source.

    And, best of all, have fun doing it: Enjoy an evening at the Shedd Aquarium, a beautiful sunset cruise, dynamic speakers, field trips and much more!

    When: September 6-8, 2007

    Where: Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois

    About the conference:
    We have a once-in-a-generation chance to significantly restore the health of our Great Lakes, to help our children and their children enjoy the Lakes as we have. This year’s event, to be held near the Lake Michigan lakefront and Chicago’s new international attraction, Millennium Park, will build on the success of the First and Second Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conferences.

    Why attend?
    To advance the effort to restore the Great Lakes for future generations.

    Set the restoration agenda:
    Conference participants have an opportunity to advance Great Lakes restoration by unifying the region behind a priority list of restoration programs to advocate for in Washington, D.C., building a compelling case for passing the national Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, and inspiring citizens and organizations to join the drive to restore the Great Lakes.

    Gain the skills to take action for the Great Lakes:
    The conference will help participants better understand the issues facing the Lakes and the actions they can take to protect them.

    Network with people at the center of the effort to restore the Great Lakes:
    As always, leading stakeholders will attend the conference, providing attendees with the opportunity to meet key players from government, business and advocacy groups who are essential to making Great Lakes restoration succeed, build partnerships, and join the movement to restore the Great Lakes.

    Who should attend?

    * People committed to Great Lakes restoration
    * Business leaders dependent on the Great Lakes
    * Local, state, federal and tribal government officials
    * Federal and state lawmakers and legislative staff
    * Community leaders from across the Great Lakes Basin
    * Scientists and researchers
    * Environmental and conservation groups
    * Travel and tourism interests
    * Boating, fishing and recreation interests
    * Environmental consulting firms and agencies
    * Governmental affairs staff

    For more information contact:
    Marie Borie Wood, events program manager, Alliance for the Great Lakes, at: 312-939-0838 ext. 227, or
    annual conference, Chicago, Conference events

    Illinois ratifies Great Lakes Compact

    Illinois has become the second Great Lakes state to ratify the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, an interstate agreement to protect and conserve the waters of the Great Lakes basin. Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the legislation into law on Friday, Aug. 17, joining Minnesota in approving the Compact. Other legislation is pending in Indiana, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. A companion agreement, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, has been enacted by Ontario and approved by the Québec National Assembly. For more information, visit the Council of Great Lakes Governors web site at or the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body web site at

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Eco-heads File BP Pollution Permit Appeal

    Seeking to put on hold BP’s permit to discharge more pollution to Lake Michigan and allow the public to weigh in formally on the matter, the Alliance for the Great Lakes today filed a petition asking the court to suspend the permit and re-start the public appeal process.

    Filed with Indiana’'s Office of Environmental Adjudication, the petition calls into question the state’s handling of the discharge permit it granted BP’s Whiting, Ind. refinery, and says the Alliance and others weren’'t served notice about the final permit and the appeal process.

    “The Indiana permit process goes to the heart of people’s right to fully scrutinize governmental decisions allowing pollution discharges to our waterways,” said Alliance President Cameron Davis, who filed the petition for review of the permit.

    The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is under fire from the public and lawmakers for issuing BP a permit to discharge nearly 1,500 pounds of ammonia and 5,000 pounds of suspended solids from treated sludge into Lake Michigan daily -- increases of 54 percent and 35 percent respectively. The permit also gives BP until 2012 to meet strict federal limits for discharging mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin.

    The department’s failure to notify some or all stakeholders who submitted comments on the draft permit, including the Alliance and the LaPorte County Environmental Association, resulted in the public being shut out of the formal appeal process, according to the Alliance petition.

    Sometime after the close of the public comment period, the agency posted the BP discharge permit on its website -- but didn’'t list an effective date or otherwise indicate that it was a final permit. The agency now says the 15-day period in which the public could appeal the permit – a period that starts as soon as interested parties receive notice of the permit – has already expired.

    “Everyone who drinks Lake Michigan water should have the ability to challenge pollution permits, but the public never had much of a chance with the BP permit,” said Davis. “Indiana went from the close of the public comment period, to permit issuance in about a month; this is unheard of.”

    The last time BP’s permit was re-issued was in 1990.

    The petition seeks a stay of the BP discharge permit, and further asks the court to start the clock over with a new permit appeal time.

    The petition is online at

    Friday, July 27, 2007

    Anti-BP video from YouTube

    Thanks to Michigan Liberal for this video. Scroll down for more information on the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana and then do your part. Join the nationwide boycott of BP!

    Michigan Supreme Court Sides with Nestle Corp

    A Message from Jim Olson, Attorney for Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation

    The Supreme Court Clerk's office left a message this morning that it issued an opinion and order today. While Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, and the Doyle and Sapp families reserve further comment after digesting the opinion and order in more detail, for the moment,it appears the four of the Justices --Justices Marksman, Taylor, Corrigan, and Young -- have put another nail in the coffin of citizen standing, and that Michigan's environment and individual and public rights have taken another severe blow at the hand of this Court. The Court now says it will require that any person bringing a lawsuit to protect our air, water, and natural resources, or the public trust in our waters, must allege and prove harm to waters, wetlands, or other environmental features on the Defendant polluter's property; i.e. standing has been used as a sword to cut-off or cripple the citizen suit to protect Michigan's environment, and to give Nestle and other businesses a license to destroy and pollute on their own property unless a citizen can show a specific interest in Defendant's property, such as use, aesthetics, recreation.

    Nestle asked the Court to cripple the state's Michigan Environmental Protection Act ("MEPA"). And Nestle succeeded in damaging the rights of citizens to protect our water and water resources. The Court followed suit. It's decision is regressive, punitive, and illogical in the extreme. In 1963, citizens enacted a Constitution that mandates the legislature to pass laws to protect the environment as an important public interest to the health and welfare of people in the State. in 1970, our legislature passed a law, the MEPA, that granted citizens to maintain lawsuits against those who propose or act in ways that are likely to pollute, impair, or destroy the air, water or natural resources or the public trust. Why and how could an injured Plaintiff from Nestle's conduct not be able to maintain a lawsuit to protect all of the environment and water resources harmed by Nestle's pumping ? MCWC and the Doyles and Sapp families in the MCWC v Nestle case proved unreasonable harm from Nestles pumping. Once this has been shown, the law intends all harm can be stopped or controlled. For the Court to condone harm on a company's property is irrational. Such an approach ignores judicial restraint called for by the doctrine of separation of powers that is supposed to protect our constitution, the rights and interests protected by it, and the powers of the legislature to follow it. The approach by the Court condones the piecemeal, wholesale destruction, and ruin of Michigan's treasured and fabled water resources and the environment. Four justices have cast their vote in favor of big business and against individual property rights, citizens, our local governments and communities , and the waters, wetlands, and environment. In the bigger picture, these Justices have also cast their vote in favor of big business and squarely against all citizens and the community in which they live.

    In addition, the Court's opinion fails to address the important water law issues before it, so critical to the people of Michigan, including groundwater, riparian, the public trust and future of the waters of the Great Lakes. The Court simply affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the Court of Appeals decision, not stating what was affirmed, but stating only that it has ruled on the MEPA standing issue, and remanded that to the trial court. In my mind, this means, Plaintiffs will go back to circuit court to (a) address standing in the wetlands and Osprey Lake on Nestle's property, and (b) request the trial court to explain how the unreasonable harm, which is not in dispute, constitutes an impairment under the MEPA to the riparian and public waters of the stream and, if (a) is established, to the wetlands and Osprey Lake on Nestle's property. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and individually harmed plaintiffs will continue to fight for Michigan's water and related water resources and the public trust.

    It's time for all citizens to take standing, our air, water and public trust into their hands. The Constitution is of and for the people. These issues belong to the people. It is time for massive unified action, without regard to our politics, to demand respect for and protection of the environment by the Supreme Court, since that's what our Constitution and laws demand. If necessary, this means citizens should petition to amend the Constitution of the state to make it clear to the Court, that when the people declare the environment is of paramount concern and the legislature shall pass laws to protect it, they mean it. This includes the authority to enact citizen suits without regard to the artificial barriers erected by the Court. Such barriers destroy our heritage, our water and natural resources, and communities. These matters should be a first priority on the agenda for the people in the State, and particularly landowners and private property owners who live on lakes and streams or near industry, and those with an interest in conservation, the environment, and the future health of our communities and quality of life.

    In solidarity of the rights of citizens to vindicate the public interest as declared by our State Constitution,


    Jim Olson
    Attorney for Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation

    "The Supreme Court's decision to not allow citizens to protect our water and water resources under the MEPA does not affect the water ruling of the Court of Appeals. MCWC still has standing and that Nestle's pumping still has been determined to be unlawful under common law and MEPA as to the Dead Stream, Thompson Lake, and adjacent wetlands. The remand order to restrict Nestle's pumping in the future remains unaffected." Terry Swier, Director, MCWC

    US Congress Opposes BP Refinery Plan

    This article was in the Detroit Free Press....

    House says BP can't dump more pollutants

    Members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly this afternoon to send a strong message opposing expansion plans by BP to dump more pollutants into Lake Michigan as part of its oil refinery expansion.

    BP does not plan to delay the expansion of its refinery at Whiting, Ind., where the extra pollution would occur, but after a meeting between BP’s chairman and members of Congress from Great Lakes states, the company promised to continue a dialogue with the legislators and to review its options, said Scott Dean, spokesman for BP in Chicago....

    Click here to read the rest of this article

    The following article was in the Detroit News

    BP lake discharges under fire
    Lawmakers oppose company's plan to boost dumping of pollutants into Lake Michigan.

    Deb Price And Gary Heinlein / The Detroit News

    WASHINGTON -- Oil giant BP ran into fierce resistance Tuesday in Congress over its plan to dramatically increase daily discharges of ammonia and other pollutants from its Whiting, Ind., refinery into Lake Michigan.

    "This is crazy. This is nuts," U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, said during House debate on a resolution to condemn BP's plan and urge the federal Environmental Protection Agency to stop it.

    Miller said the decision by Indiana and federal authorities to permit BP to dump more pollutants into Lake Michigan "marks a huge step backwards in our efforts to keep our Great Lakes clean."

    Click here to read this article in the Detroit News

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Indiana Environmental chief should resign

    Citizens in Whiting, Indiana are calling for Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Thomas Easterly to resign, claiming he has "failed to protect the public interest" regarding the increase of toxic pollution from the BP refinery directly into Lake Michigan.

    The Hoosier Environmental Council will be asked to approve a resolution Saturday calling for Easterly's ouster. If it is approved, a "no-confidence" call will be presented at an Aug. 9 IDEM public hearing taking place at its regional office in Merrillville. The hearing is on a BP variance request to alter which portions of the plant can release smokestack particles.

    Folks in Indiana are getting pissed. Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. of Hammond, Indiana has stated his opposition to BP and says he's concerned that the BP Whiting Refinery is dumping near the intake pipe for city of Hammond drinking water. Hammond's Water Works supplies water to residents of Hammond and 10 other communities, including Munster and Lansing. The intake pipe is about a mile from where BP is proposing to increase its wastewater discharge.

    Meanwhile, over here in West Michigan, a local radio station is broadcasting live today from a BP gas station in Cedar Springs, Michigan. This BP store is attempting to lure customers in by giving away its merchandise. Apparently the folks at BP are scared shitless, enough to start giving away the store in order to stay in business.

    So, I'm going to write a letter to the Grand Rapids Press today asking local businesses to pull their advertising from this radio station until they apologize to the citizens of the Great Lakes for being such massive idiots. This is reprehensible and a blatant act of irresponsibility on the part of the radio station's management.

    BP is a BAD corporate citizen. They've been lying for years, telling us how green they are. In fact, they've been poisoning Lake Michigan for decades. The time has come to tell them to shut down their refinery operation on the lakeshore.

    See the related posts below regarding this issue.

    Friday, July 20, 2007

    Chicago Battles BP Refinery Over Lake Michigan Pollution

    from the Chicago Tribune, July 19, 2007

    The City of Chicago joined the fight Wednesday to stop the BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., from dumping significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan.

    City administrators said they hope to meet with BP officials next week. They've hired a consultant to review the water permit granted by Indiana regulators that will allow BP, one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes, to dump 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day.

    The word is out thanks to the Tribune. Let's continue to blog the boycott of BP and spread the word until they agree to stop polluting Lake Michigan. This is a winnable fight, BP is already on the defensive due to the public outcry being generated by the Tribune articles.

    The Merriville Post-Tribune is running an article entitled BP Defends Permit.

    This is the power of the internet kids. Let's crush them.

    More to come.

    Sunday, July 15, 2007

    BP Increases Toxic Sludge Dumping into Lake Michigan

    BP will now be allowed to dump an average of 1,584 pounds of ammonia and 4,925 pounds of sludge mixed with 21 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into Lake Michigan EVERY DAY. An immediate boycott of BP is necessary.

    There are thousands upon thousands of people who get drinking water directly from Lake Michigan. This is a message for you folks who are ingesting BP's bullshit.

    From the Tribune:
    The massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes.

    Indiana regulators exempted BP from state environmental laws to clear the way for a $3.8 billion expansion that will allow the company to refine heavier Canadian crude oil. They justified the move in part by noting the project will create 80 new jobs.

    Under BP's new state water permit, the refinery—already one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes—can release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day. Ammonia promotes algae blooms that can kill fish, while sludge is full of concentrated heavy metals...

    BP, which aggressively markets itself as an environmentally friendly corporation, is investing heavily in Canadian crude oil to reduce its reliance on sources in the Middle East. Extracting petroleum from the thick goop is a dirtier process than conventional methods. It also requires more energy that could significantly increase greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

    Environmental groups and dozens of neighbors pleaded with BP to install more effective pollution controls at the nation's fourth-largest refinery, which rises above the lakeshore about 3 miles southeast of the Illinois-Indiana border...

    State and federal regulators, though, agreed last month with the London-based company that there isn't enough room at the 1,400-acre site to upgrade the refinery's water treatment plant.

    This is the purest example of corporate green washing. We've been hearing from BP for years now about how green they are becoming and how sustainable their operations are. Well, it's an outright lie. BP is poisoning Lake Michigan, the water you swim in and drink. This is not some remote oil spill in Alaska, this is right in our backyard.


    Do the math:
    1584 pounds of ammonia per day multiplied by 365 days equals 578,160 pounds per year, and 5,781,600lbs in the next decade.

    4925 pounds of toxic sludge multiplied by 365 days equals 1,797,625 pounds per year, or 17,976,250 pounds over the next 10 years.

    The Grand Total? 23,757,850 pounds of BP bullshit.

    At 21 million gallons of contamintated water per day, they will pollute 76,650,000,000 gallons of fresh water in the next ten years.

    Read the Chicago Tribune article for yourself, get motivated and get involved: Chicago Tribune
    Published July 15, 2007

    Friday, July 13, 2007

    Bush Administration to Slaughter Recovering Wolf Population

    The Bush Administration has just issued plan that will order the extermination of half the gray wolves in Wyoming and Idaho, starting in October. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on this proposal until August 6.

    Our best hope for blocking this "open fire" order is to generate a tidal wave of public outrage and please sign your send your comments immediately.

    In preparation for these mass killings, the government has already purchased planes and helicopters capable of gunning down entire packs of wolves in minutes. The goal is to immediately kill up to 700 wolves in Greater Yellowstone and central Idaho.

    Only three months ago, online activists sent more than 137,000 comments protesting the Bush Administration's plan to remove Greater Yellowstone's wolves from the endangered species list. But even before that issue has been decided, the Bush Administration is declaring open season on wolves.

    They will order the slaughter to begin while wolves are still on the Endangered Species list.

    The administration wants to be able to kill wolves anywhere that elk herd numbers may be affected by wolves. It is focusing on areas where elk herds are smaller than the states want.

    But those few cases of declines in elk herds have been caused by a combination of factors including habitat destruction, drought and human hunting -- not just by wolves. In most areas of the northern Rockies, elk numbers are at all-time highs!

    Please block this newest disgraceful act by Washington by expressing your personal opposition while the Bush Administration is still taking public input.

    Submit your comments now by clicking on the big red "Take Action" button. Help protect the wolves of Greater Yellowstone and Idaho from the coming gunfire.

    Sunday, July 08, 2007

    Your Water, Your Rights, Your Future

    Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation Releases Report About Problems with Bottled Water

    Choosing tap water over bottled water is better for consumers’ health, their pocketbooks, and the environment, according to a new report written by Food & Water Watch and released today by Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation who has been battling the spring water bottled giant Nestlé Waters North America (Ice Mountain) for over six years.

    In 2005, Americans spent $8.8 billion for almost 7.2 billion gallons of non-sparkling bottled water. In 2006, they drank even more, about 26 gallons per person. The bottled water industry spends billions on advertising that promises purity in a bottle while implying that tap water is somehow less safe, something that is simply not true, according to the report.

    “Bottled water generally is no cleaner, or safer, or healthier than tap water. In fact, the federal government requires far more rigorous and frequent safety testing and monitoring of municipal drinking water,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Rather than buying into this myth of purity in a bottle, consumers should drink from the tap.”

    In the trial of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v Nestle Waters North America, the taking of spring water by Nestle, Ice Mountain, is diminishing the flow and level of a stream and two lakes, and reducing the stream width according to the Mecosta County Circuit Court. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's factual findings and Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation is awaiting an opinion from the Michigan Supreme Court. When you drink bottled spring water, you are drinking water that would feed the headwaters of a stream. “Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation is hoping that other cities in Michigan follow Ann Arbor's lead after it adopted 'The Resolution to Drink Tap Water' on June 6, 2007 and promote drinking tap water,” said Terry Swier, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.

    Among the facts highlighted in Food & Water Watch’s report, Take Back the Tap, are the following:

  • Bottled water costs hundreds or thousands of times more than tap water. Compare $0.002 per gallon for most tap water to a range of $0.89 to $8.26 per gallon for bottled waters.
  • The Food and Drug Administration regulates only the 30 to 40 percent of bottled water sold across state lines.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency requires up to several hundred water tests per month by utility companies while the FDA requires only one water test per week by bottling companies.
  • Nearly 40 percent of bottled water is simply filtered or treated tap water.
  • U.S. plastic bottle production requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 100,000 cars.
  • About 86 percent of the empty plastic water bottles in the United States land in the garbage instead of being recycled.

    But just kicking the bottle in favor of the tap is not enough, says Food & Water Watch. Our nation’s public water and sewer infrastructure is old and in the coming years will need billions of dollars of investment to maintain and further improve treatment, storage, and distribution. Each year we fall more than $20 billion short of what is needed to maintain our public water and sewage systems.

    “It’s time for Congress to establish a clean water trust fund that would give communities the financial help they need to invest in healthy and safe drinking water for every American and for future generations,” Hauter said.

    Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation joined Food & Water Watch to encourage consumers in Michigan and across the United States to take back the tap by choosing tap water over bottled water whenever possible and supporting increased funding for safe and affordable public tap water.

    The report is posted at

    Individuals can pledge to Take Back the Tap at

    Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer rights group based in Washington, D.C. that challenges the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources. Visit

    Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation is a nonprofit group based in Mecosta, MI organized to conserve, preserve, and protect Michigan’s natural water resources and the public trust in those natural resources. Find them at
  • Watch This.

    Thanks to Liberal Lucy for this. I am her secret admirer.

    Saturday, July 07, 2007

    Big Ideas

    I've been sick on the couch for a couple days, not moving much, so I've had the time to check out the Sundance Channel's new documentary series Big Ideas for a Small Planet. I can't recommended this highly enough, these short half-hour programs are filled with fascinating information. The show "focuses on environmental topics with interviews with forward-thinking designers and features on green products and alternative ideas that may transform our everyday lives." Check it out. It made me feel better.

    Click the logo to learn more, and to watch a few clips from recent episodes.

    The Conservative Minority, Continuing Decline

    Media Matters and Campaign for America's Future have just completed a new joint report called, "The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a Myth."

    The report uses non-partisan polling data gathered over the course of 20 years to show that conventional wisdom that Americans are overwhelmingly conservative is simply wrong.

    The United States – regardless of how the current corporate media portrays it – is a progressive nation that is getting more progressive, including Michigan.

    Michigan Polling Data:
    1. “Providing health insurance for people who do not already have it—should the federal government spend more on it, the same as now, less, or no money at all?” Percent answering “More”: 74%

    2. The federal government helping to pay for health insurance for all children—do you favor or oppose this? Percent answering “favor”: 83%

    3. “The federal government helping employers pay the cost of their workers’ health insurance—do you favor or oppose this?” Percent answering “favor”: 69%

    4. “Providing financial assistance to public elementary and secondary schools—should the federal government spend more on it, the same as now, less, or no money at all?” Percent answering “more”: 68%

    5. “The federal government trying to reduce the income differences between rich and poor Americans—do you favor or oppose the federal government doing this?” Percent favoring: 56%

    6. “The federal government banning all abortions—do you favor or oppose the federal government doing this?” Percent opposed: 63%

    7. “Would you favor or oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying that no state can allow two men to marry each other or two women to marry each other?” Favor: 42% Oppose: 48%

    8. “Restricting the kinds of guns that people can buy—should the federal government do more about it, do the same as now, do less about it, or do nothing at all?” Percent answering “more”: 53%

    Follow the logic. It makes sense that Michigan businesses should promote themselves as progressive and let their customers know of their progressive values.

    Positive Move, But Why Wait So Long?

    Two congressmen from Illinois announced legislation Thursday that, starting in 2027, could quadruple fines for cities that release sewage into the Great Lakes.

    The legislation by Republican Rep. Mark Kirk and Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski also would start a fund to help pay for wastewater treatment and wetland restoration.

    More Info

    Friday, July 06, 2007

    Dow Corp: They are the problem, not the solution

    Press Release from the Michigan DEQ, here's the latest on the ongoing battle against Dow Chemical.

    Dow to Begin Cleanup Work in Tittabawassee River

    The Dow Chemical Company will begin work next week to remove a deposit of contaminated sediments in the Tittabawassee River, just upstream of the Dow Dam in Midland. The sediments are contaminated with high levels of dioxins and furans, chlorobenzenes, metals, and other materials.

    A coffer dam will be constructed in the river to contain the materials and facilitate its removal, and boaters and fishermen are advised to maintain a safe distance from construction activities.

    The Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a revised permit for Dow to construct the steel dam structure as a component of an Interim Response Activity that requires Dow to remove the contaminated material from the river. The permit was revised to address contamination that was found outside of the footprint of the original project area. In addition, Dow has also been constructing a mile and a half long pipeline and a sediment dewatering facility on the Dow plant site over the past several months. After dewatering, the sediments will be disposed of in the Dow Salzburg Road Landfill. The coffer dam will be removed at the end of the project.

    The “Reach D” deposit of highly contaminated sediments was identified during the implementation of the corrective action sampling plan for the upper six miles of the Tittabawassee River during 2006, and the cleanup process was agreed upon prior to EPA's recent order. An additional eleven miles of the river, to the State Road Bridge in Saginaw County, is scheduled for sampling in 2007.

    Why do we trust that the people who poison rivers and land will be responsible enough to clean it up? The fox is in the hen house...

    MORE INFORMATION, this multi-year fight continues:

  • Dioxin Exposure in Adults Living in the Tittabawassee River Flood Plain

  • Midland/Tittabawassee River Dioxin Information
  • Tittawabassee River Watch
  • Dredge It Right!
  • Support the Lone Tree Council in their fight against Dow Chemical. Check them out at
  • Thursday, June 28, 2007

    knú: Sustainable Furniture, as Green as it Gets

    Grand Rapids and West Michigan are famous for unique, creative furniture designs. knú takes it a step further, pushing the Midwest furniture industry toward sustainability. From suppliers to manufacturing to online sales, knú is riding the crest of the green wave. It's just like surfing Lake Michigan.

    knú has recently partnered with IBM and Shared Vision to create an e-commerce site to sell furniture online; knú will save trees and energy by not producing bulk mail catalogs to clog landfills. An impressive array of designs is produced from Forest Stewardship Council certified sustainably harvested wood products, the legs and hardware of the furniture is made from 40% post-consumer waste recycled (and fully recyclable) steel, and the few plastics used are also fully recyclable.

    knú uses very low VOC finishes to reduce toxic air pollution and greenhouse gases. There are no toxic adhesives used in any of furniture.

    In addition, the majority of knú's suppliers are local. 90% are within a 50 mile radius of the manufacturing facility, which by the way, uses highly energy efficient f-bay lighting and infra-red heating.

    What's really cool is that knú offsets all of its carbon emissions. 100% of their CO2 created by executive air travel, vehicle use, and the electricity and natural gas used in manufacturing is offset by the purchase of renewable energy certificates and investments in renewable energy. There are very few companies doing this so far, knú is leading the way.

    The crew at knú are a group of folks you'll wanna sit down and have a brew with. From the top down they are true West Michigan progressive thinkers, environmental activists, wilderness lovers and outdoorsmen. They are also founding members of the newly formed Sustainable Furniture Council, a non-profit coalition of over 40 small furniture companies doing it the green way.

    I'm getting sick of the big corporations telling us that they're green, especially when we know they're just trying to force their crap on us. You've gotta look through the green-washing and see the real folks who are really trying. Well here they are, right in your backyard. Check them out at