Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Over Two Thirds of Michigan Autoworkers Support 40 MPG Rule, More Climate Curbs

More than two thirds of Michigan autoworker households (67 percent) and a slightly higher level of all households in the state (72 percent) say that Washington could "help U.S. automakers be more competitive by increasing the federal fuel-efficiency standard to 40 miles per gallon," according to new research from the Civil Society Institute (CSI)/ and a national opinion poll conducted for CSI by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC)..

More than four out of five (84 percent) of Michigan residents agree that "the U.S. auto industry is in major trouble and Michigan's economy will suffer seriously if the situation of the Big Three automakers gets even worse." Those in Michigan households linked a "great deal/somewhat" to the health of the auto industry are even more likely (89 percent) to see the industry as being in serious trouble today. A slim 11 percent of all state residents think that "despite current problems in the U.S. auto industry, Michigan's economy is unlikely to suffer very much since the Big Three automakers have a good plan for moving ahead."

Another key CSI/ survey finding: More than four out of five Michigan residents (82 percent) agree that "we need higher federal fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles now in order to conserve more energy, making us less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, and to reduce the ill effects of global warming." Over half of Michigan residents (51 percent) said that they agree strongly with that statement.


Falwell Sees Satan Behind Global Warming Myth

John McCain's commitment to the issue of global warming may be the latest casualty of his do-anything-to- win approach to the Republican presidential primary. Last week McCain "took swipes at the Bush Administration" in a political stunt where he called the Administration's record on global warming "terrible" and urged for "tougher federal action to stop" it. [Los Angeles Times, 2/22/2007]

Over the weekend, however, the Rev. Jerry Falwell -- who McCain needs for his campaign and who hosted a reception for him last week -- used his weekly sermon to call global warming "Satan's attempt to redirect the church's primary focus" from evangelism to environmentalism." [AP, 2/26/2007] Falwell said some "naive Christian leaders" are now being or have been "duped" about global warming and that while Christians should be "responsible environmentalists," they should not be "first-class nuts."

Maybe this is what McCain meant when he said, "I'll probably get into trouble, but what's wrong with sucking up to everybody?" [Washington Times, 2/27/07]

"Senator McCain may not see a problem with 'sucking up to everybody' in his win-at-all-costs campaign, but if he is serious about confronting global warming he must either denounce Rev. Falwell's outrageous claims about climate change or explain why he agrees with them," said Democratic National Committee spokesman Luis Miranda. "McCain can't have it both ways
on this one; he can't pretend to be a moderate on issues like climate change while pandering to extremists like Jerry Falwell who liken passion for faithful stewardship of the environment to doing Satan's work."

SOURCE: Democratic National Committee

Falwell is far more dangerous than Sadr or Bin Laden.

Glenmore Residents Wary of New Wind Project

Over on the other side of the big lake...
    Glenmore (Wisconsin) residents showed a healthy skepticism Monday at a public meeting on a proposed wind-turbine project. The town's community center drew a standing-room only crowd to discuss the eight-turbine proposal by Emerging Energies/Shirley Wind LLC of Hubertus. The company wants a 30-year permit to put eight turbines on land owned by four families.

    Each turbine would stand 492 feet tall and operate at an optimal 2 to 3 megawatts, Emerging Energies spokesman Bill Rakocy told those attending. The turbines would conform to the town's new wind energy ordinance. Licensed electrical engineers would oversee installation.

    Residents expressed concerns about decreasing property values, stray voltage affecting children and animals, noise pollution, liability and what would happen if Emerging Energies should abandon the turbines if the project didn't pan out.

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette

Agreements boost Kalamazoo River cleanup; $21 million Plainwell project begins

Cleanup of the Kalamazoo River is one step closer, thanks to two legal agreements between EPA, the State of Michigan and two of the companies responsible for PCB contamination.

One agreement, between EPA, Michigan, Georgia-Pacific and Millennium Holdings, requires the companies to perform a projected $21 million cleanup of the Plainwell Impoundment Area, including removal of a portion of the Plainwell Dam. The other agreement, between EPA and the two companies, requires the companies to perform about $15 million in additional environmental sampling and investigation throughout the Kalamazoo River Superfund site.

The agreements were produced during mediated discussions that began in late 2004 among EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Michigan Attorney General and Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, and the two companies. The discussions are part of the ongoing intergovernmental effort to address PCB contamination along an 80-mile stretch of the river.

"This is an important step forward," said EPA Regional Administrator Mary Gade. "The removal of more than two tons of PCBs near Plainwell is real progress toward recovery of the Kalamazoo River system."

"Today's announcement is a milestone in our efforts to address this legacy of contamination," said MDEQ Director Steven E. Chester. "Through this partnership effort we will make a positive impact on the health of the Kalamazoo River that will last for generations to come."

"The bottom line is that these agreements will help clean up contamination in the Kalamazoo River," said Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. "And because these agreements require additional studies, testing and research, the health of the river will continue to improve."

The Plainwell Impoundment cleanup aims to remove 4,400 pounds of PCBs (132,000 cubic yards of material) from a 1.5 mile segment of the river upstream of the Plainwell Dam between Plainwell and Otsego. The two-year project targets contaminated river banks, in-stream sediment and floodplain hotspots primarily located on land owned by MDNR. EPA, in consultation with MDEQ, will oversee the work performed by contractors hired by the responsible parties.

Construction equipment will begin arriving at the site in the next few weeks, with work slated to begin in early April and continuing through late fall or early winter. The project will follow a similar schedule in 2008. About 20 to 30 loads of dredged material will be trucked daily to a landfill in Kalamazoo. Steps to control dust from the construction activities have been built into the work plan.

The supplemental sampling effort by the companies will build upon data previously collected and help determine additional cleanup steps. Initially, samples will be collected and analyzed from locations along a 20-mile upstream stretch of the river between the Morrow and Plainwell Dams, including a 3-mile segment of Portage Creek.

A public meeting will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., March 15 at the Plainwell High School cafeteria, 684 Starr Rd. The government partners will also host an open house meeting at the Plainwell Community Schools' Administration Building, 600 School Drive, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m., to answer questions in a less formal setting. There will not be a presentation at the afternoon open house. A fact sheet about the agreements and upcoming work has been sent to EPA's mailing list for the Superfund site. It is also online:

Site documents are available for review at the Allegan, Douglas, Kalamazoo and Otsego Public Libraries, Plainwell's Charles Ransom Library and Western Michigan University's Waldo Library. Residents with questions or who need special accommodations at the public meeting may contact EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Don de Blasio at (800) 621-8431, ext. 64360 (business hours), or

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of toxic chemicals that were widely used in carbonless copy paper, and as coolants, insulators and lubricants. PCBs are of concern because they concentrate in the food chain resulting in health hazards to people, fish and wildlife. Congress banned the manufacture of new PCBs in 1976 and PCBs still in use are strictly regulated.

Source: EPA Region 5
Photo: A Ricee

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Al Gore Just Wrote Me a Letter

A message from the legitimately elected President of the United States

    Dear Jerome,

    When the producers of An Inconvenient Truth first approached me with the concept for the film, I was skeptical. Could we really take a slideshow about the climate crisis and turn it into a compelling movie? Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar win for best documentary and a second one for Melissa Etheridge’s beautiful song “I Need to Wake Up” was a testament to their ability, but it was also a testament to you.

    It was you who packed the theaters and got your friends to go see this film, greatly increasing the audience. And then this past December, it was you who connected through and to attend An Inconvenient Truth viewing parties. At those parties and in the weeks that followed, nearly 200,000 of you wrote to Congress, demanding that they address the climate crisis like the planetary emergency that it is.

    Even though I have been a life-long movie fan, I didn’t really understand how big of an audience a movie could reach. And of course I never would have imagined in a million years that a movie that I was a part of would receive two Academy Awards—or one—or would have ever been made in the first place! As humbling as this moment is, An Inconvenient Truth will only succeed if it drives all of us to take action. That’s why I’m asking you to join me in the next stage of our fight. On March 21st, I'm going to hand-deliver the messages you signed when I testify at Congressional hearings on the climate crisis.

    This is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate to Congress that we demand immediate action. And I need your help to really make this moment count. Can you commit to getting 10 friends to send their message to Congress through before March 21st? The more voices I can bring to Washington, the more powerful our message will be.

    To get your friends involved, just forward them this note or direct them to:

    There is no longer a debate about the fact that global warming is real. We're causing it. The consequences are serious, and could be headed towards catastrophe if we don’t fix it. And it's not too late. I don't want to imagine a future in which our children say, “What were our parents thinking?” “Why didn't they wake up when they had a chance?” And I know you don’t either.

    The hundreds of thousands of you who signed messages to Congress showed me what's possible. Working together we can unite millions of people and build support for real action on a scale that has never been seen before. Help me take the first step and fill up that hearing room with your signatures. That picture alone will send a powerful message.

    Can you commit to getting ten more people to send messages to Congress demanding action to stop global warming?

    I’m looking forward to working with you on this monumental task.

    Thank you,

    Al Gore

Dear Al,

I still haven't seen your movie. Sorry, I've been busy.


Enterprise Rent-A-Car Founder Gives $25 Million to Create New Institute for Renewable Fuels

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center announced that Jack and Susan Taylor have given a $25 million gift to create the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels. The Institute is named for the company founded by Jack Taylor in 1957 and still owned by the Taylor family.

The Institute will expand the Danforth Center to speed up development of plant-based renewable biofuels. The $25 million gift will endow a team of researchers to significantly expand the Danforth Center's renewable biofuels research capabilities. It
comes on the heels of Enterprise's pledge to underwrite the planting of 50 million trees in national forests over the next 50 years.

Source: US Newswire

Renewable Energy Standard Passes Minnesota House

The new Renewable Energy Standard that passed the Minnesota House on February 20 will require 25 percent of Minnesota’s electricity to come from renewable sources — such as wind and solar — by the year 2025. Currently, Minnesota imports more electricity from outside sources than any other state.

Source: Renewable Energy Access

Toro Goes Biodiesel

After four years of testing everything from soybean oils to French-fry grease as fuels, the Toro Co. will introduce biodiesel-powered mowers and a hydrogen fuel-cell utility vehicle today at the Golf Industry Show in Anaheim, Calif.

Two dozen models of Toro’s new biodiesel ground equipment will be on display at the world’s largest golf show, as will Toro’s new diesel-to-biodiesel conversion kits that range from about $30 to $500. The kits will hit the market in June. Toro’s new lawn equipment will be delivered to commercial customers in 2008, officials said.

Read the full story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Johnson Controls Expands Renewable Energy Offerings

In response to increasing global demand for renewable energy, Johnson Controls, Inc. is expanding its business in the areas of designing, installing and servicing geothermal, solar, biomass, wind and other renewable sources as energy supply options for customers.

More info on GreenBiz

Schwarzenegger Forges Greenhouse Gas Alliance With US States

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an agreement on Monday with four western US states - a joint strategy with Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington - to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the latest step in his drive against climate change. Schwarzenegger has called for a reduction in emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 and 1990 levels by 2020.

Speaking at the National Governors Association in Washington, Schwarzenegger also called on other states to follow California's lead and set a low carbon fuel standards. "California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard will more than triple the size of our renewable fuels market in our state and put more than 7 million alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles on our roads by 2020 without any new government spending," Schwarzenegger said.

Schwarzenegger has vowed to make tackling the environment a central pillar of his final four years in office as California's leader. In September, he signed legislation that established a program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases.

Source: Agence France Presse

Monday, February 26, 2007

Eight New Coal Power Plants Blocked

TXU, the largest energy provider in Texas, agreed to a $45 billion buyout that would not only be the largest private-equity deal in history but would also feature an unusual twist: The buyers have promised environmental groups they would cancel a slew of coal-fired power plants on the firm's drawing boards.

Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, a financial research firm, and the National Environmental Trust (NET) today highlighted how the decision by the Wall Street investment firms behind the private-equity buyout of TXU to kill plans for eight of 11 power plants in Texas means that the financial/environmental risk warning light is now flashing at Dynegy, LS Power, Peabody Energy, Excel, Dominion and other firms with plans to build multiple coal-fired power plants.

Texas Pacific Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.have sought to acquire Texas-based energy giant TXU Corp. since April. As part of the sale agreement, Environmental Defense helped negotiate an aggressive environmental platform that will, among other things: terminate plans for the construction of 8 of 11 coal-fired power plants TXU had hoped to build; stop TXU's plans to expand coal operations in other states; endorse the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) platform, including the call for a mandatory federal cap on carbon emissions; and reduce the company's carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

During a press briefing this afternoon, National Environmental Trust Coal Campaign Director Peter Altman said, "The climate dodged a bullet with the cancellation of these TXU plants. An inconvenient truth remains however. There are still more than 100 other coal-fired power plants on the drawing boards nationwide and the financial climate has changed. The TXU deal shatters the aura of invincibility many coal plant developers have assumed, by showing that the growing extent and diversity of opposition can stop plants that will make global warming worse."

Wall Street and Capitol Hill policymakers are already looking at whether building plants whose carbon cannot be easily controlled is in our national interest. Senate Energy Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has been raising the issue in public statements, including an op-ed co-written with Environment and Public Works Chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Eric Kane, analyst, Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, said: "In a recent Innovest Strategic Value Advisors report, we highlighted the investor risks associated with TXU's planned expansion strategy due to the rising construction costs and schedule delays. Although the TXU case was unique in its proposed scale, the challenges faced are indicative of a growing trend throughout the utility industry ... the lessons learned from TXU will have national implications. Industry peers will face similar challenges as they move forward with expansion strategies that rely on new power plants that utilize outdated, highly polluting pulverized coal technology."

Which companies may be the "next TXU", trying to build an expensive new fleet of coal plants without the means to control carbon pollution? If a planned merger with LS Power goes through, Dynegy will be the biggest developer of new coal plants with no carbon controls in the country. According to a NET analysis of Department of Energy data, Dynegy and LS Power together have an expansion plan on a similar scale to TXU. Assuming the planned merger occurs, Dynegy will build 9,465 MW of new coal fired capacity in 11 states.

Altman added: "Every new coal plant built without a way to control carbon puts us on the fast-track to the most serious climate consequences. Congress should block traditional coal plants not equipped to control carbon from moving forward since they will make it harder to limit the damage global warming causes."

Other firms with multiple coal-fired power plants still on the drawing board include:
  • Peabody Energy (3 projects in development for a total of 3,300 MW in 3 states)
  • NRG (4 projects in development for a total of 2,730 MW in four states including some gasification plants)
  • Excel Energy (4 projects in development for a total of 2,350 MW in 3 states, including some use of gasification)
  • TXU itself (3 projects remaining in development for a total of 2,320 MW in Texas)
  • Duke Energy (2 projects in development for 2,350 MW in 2 states, including some gasification)
  • Dominion Energy(1 project in development for a total of 2,150 MW in an undetermined location).

    Environmental Defense mobilized an all-out grassroots campaign targeting TXU and Texas' Republican Governor Rick Perry. Nearly 50,000 Environmental Defense members and activists took action, sending emails, attending public hearings across Texas and submitting public comments against the plants. More than 50 community and environmental groups signed on to our letter urging TXU to change its course.

    SOURCE: National Environmental Trust, Environmental Defense
    Photo: Eco-Pros

  • US Steel Fined for Contaminating Detroit River

    Settlement: U. S. Steel has also agreed to pay a civil fine of $300,000 and will reimburse the DEQ for $50,000 in investigation costs.

    Michigan has entered into an agreement with US Steel to resolve violations of wastewater discharge permits issued by the DEQ for U. S. Steel’s three facilities in Wayne County known as the Great Lakes Works.

    Since taking over the Great Lakes Works from the bankrupt National Steel in 2003, U. S. Steel has had over 170 separate violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for their Zug Island, 80” Hot Strip Mill, and Ecorse Mill facilities that comprise the Great Lakes Works. The violations involve excessive zinc and ammonia discharges as well as numerous sheens and discolorations observed on the Detroit River.

    These violations are in addition to long-standing problems related to discoloration in the Detroit River due to discharges from the 80” Hot Strip Mill through a structure known as Outfall 009. The DEQ had previously attempted to resolve the these issues with National Steel prior to their bankruptcy.


    Sunday, February 25, 2007

    Dow Chemical Fined $325K for Bribing Officials

    WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) will pay a $325,000 civil penalty to settle charges of improper payments to Indian government officials who held sway over regulatory approvals for the company's pesticides, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced late on Tuesday.

    Dow Chemical, the company that has also poisoned 22 miles of the Tittawabassee River in Michigan with dioxin, also agreed to cease and desist from future violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It settled with the SEC without admitting or denying wrongdoing.

    The SEC found that, from 1996 through 2001, Dow Chemical's DE-Nocil Crop Protection Ltd. unit paid an estimated $200,000 in improper payments and gifts to Indian state and federal officials as it sought to register several products slated for marketing in time for India's growing season. The SEC said these payments weren't adequately reflected in Dow Chemical's books and records, and that the company's system of internal controls failed to prevent the payments.

    The SEC said Dow Chemical conducted an internal investigation and voluntarily presented the results to the SEC, and also disciplined employees. The company also hired an independent auditor to review its books, and expanded training in how to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the SEC said.

    Source: Dow Jones Newswire

    In 2004 Dow was voted one of 10 least ethical corporations by Alternet and one of 10 worst corporate polluters in America by the Political Economy Research Institute.

    For more information on Dow and dioxin contamination in Michigan, check out Tittawabassee River Watch and also The Truth About Dow.

    Photo: flickr - obbino

    Friday, February 23, 2007

    Friday Night Fish Fry

    If there was ever a need for a sociological study, it is the first Catholic Church Friday Nite Fish Fry of Lent. Why Catholics can't eat fish on Fridays during Lent has always been a mystery to me. I never questioned it as a child, it was just something that we did. Mom would scold us if we even tried to sneak a piece of lunchmeat out of the fridge.

    There's really nothing else quite like it. $7 all-you-can-eat battered-cod mixed with prayer and 150 screaming children with pink kool-aid moustaches running in their snow boots. The little old grey-haired ladies wearing too much make-up and hairspray cluster together at one end of the catholic school gymnasium underneath the basketball hoop while the familes pile themselves at the other. It is a never ending series of introductions, hand shakes, crying babies and styrofoam plates swarming with greasy fish.

    The scent of warm fried food wafts out into the parking lot and down the block, but the french fries are cold, someone forgot to buy enough mayo for the coleslaw and crazy Mrs. Shepanhowacotskimackavich is hording all the sforks. There are no parking spaces left in the lot. There are flakes of fish batter in your beard. Girl scouts are wandering through the crowd, bearly able to lift the huge case of cookie boxes they've been instructed to pitch to you.

    There is always the ubiquitous mongoloid child that everyone feels sorry for prancing about the gymnasium in between the long rows of tables pulling his shirt up over his face so that everyone can see his outie. There is the one guy who has lost his hair from chemotherapy that everyone looks at out of the corner of their eye and then says nothing. There is the young man with cerebral palsy making his way haltingly through the food line trying to balance his tray loaded with iceberg lettuce salad and juice while attempting to remain standing and not smack anyone in the shins with his crutches.

    Your $7 entitles you to two trips through line. Of course, you have to go back for more because the fish is actually really good. The incredibly obese woman who doles out the french fries and baked potatoes will remark on what a big eater you are. She's been doing this for 30-odd years. You may have gone to high school with her or she may have been your fifth grade teacher, it's hard to tell though because of the years and the amount of hair you both have on your faces.

    The new priest is meeting many of his parishoners for the first time. He's not what you'd expect. He looks like someone who was captured by the Vietcong, spent months undergoing prolonged waterboarding and has never quite gotten over his military experiences in Southeast Asia. Gaunt, nicotine stained fingers reach out to grasp your hand. "Nice to meet you, Father," you say, not really certain if you mean it or if God is about to run you over with an SUV later for thinking the things you are.

    What can we learn from all this? People are just people. They follow a tradition because it is a tradition, no other reason. Is it fun to be involved in this? Perhaps. Perhaps it is the one time these folks actually meet their neighbors or the parents of the other kids in their son's elementary school class. Maybe it is the one time they meet or brush past their soulmate. Maybe it is simply a collective memory of a time in the distant past when folks actually gathered together as a community and celebrated the bountiful catch from the sea. Who knows, it's still a mystery to me.

    Someone ought to do some research.

    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    Clean Energy to Energize Michigan's Economy

    Standing with Mayor Heartwell of Grand Rapids in a green building, Environment Michigan Research & Policy Center released an in-depth study showing how clean energy can help revitalize Michigan’s economy. According to an innovative peer-reviewed model in Energizing Michigan’s Economy: Creating Jobs, Reducing Pollution with Energy Efficiency and Renewable Electric Power, strong commitments to renewable energy and energy efficiency would generate at least the following benefits (through 2020):

  • 6,800 new jobs (88,000 person-years of employment)
  • $3.3 billion in new salaries
  • $2.2 billion in energy bill cost savings
  • 30 percent reductions in power plant pollution – including global warming emissions.

    “Now is the time for Michigan to take bold steps towards becoming the epicenter of clean energy development,” said Mike Shriberg, Director of Environment Michigan and co-author of the report. “Doing so will reinvigorate our economy, create the jobs of today and tomorrow, save consumers money, and protect our environment.”

    Two core policies are needed to achieve these benefits: 1) A Renewable Energy Standard that requires 20% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020; 2) An Energy Efficiency Fund of $225 million per year. Implementing these policies would eliminate the need for new power plant construction, thus saving ratepayers billions in rate increases and reducing the $20 billion per year that Michiganders spend on energy imports.

    “Michiganders are sending the equivalent of $1,700 per person to other states to meet our energy needs,” said Kim Pargoff, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment Michigan. “With energy efficiency and renewables, we keep our hard-earned money working for Michigan while reducing pollution.”

    With Michigan’s economy in crisis and our energy path at a crossroads, the Governor and Legislature are debating an overhaul of energy policy that will have major implications for ratepayers and public health. The report directly compares the Granholm-ordered 21st Century Energy Plan with a strong commitment to clean energy. The results show that the 21st Century Energy Plan would bring in only 1/3 as many jobs and approximately half the consumer savings of strong policies because of its tepid recommendations on clean energy.

    “A bold, clean electricity plan will energize Michigan’s economy”, stated David Pettit, Consumer Associate for Public Interest Research Group in Michigan. “The first step in that plan is to invest in the cheapest and cleanest resource available – energy efficiency.”

    As the report highlights, Michigan is uniquely positioned to become a global leader in clean energy research and development, and high-tech manufacturing because of its unparalleled industrial base.

    “Michigan has a once-in-a-generation chance to change course – from old and dirty fossil fuel-based energy to a more efficient economy powered by renewable energy,” concluded Shriberg. “The key is strong, visionary commitments from our leaders.”

    Read the full report

    Source: West Michigan Environmental Action Council
    Photo: Jeff Brooktree
  • Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Mancelona's Poisoned Groundwater

    Groundwater contaimination from the dumping of trichloroethylene (TCE) from plating operations and auto parts manufacturing in the village of Mancelona now extends six miles beyond the village to the Schuss Mountain/Shanty Creek Resort and the Cedar River. The state of Michigan is about to spend $2,000,000 to extend the Mancelona’s municipal water system to connect additional residences to the system as part of an effort to alleviate health concerns over area groundwater wells.

    From 1947 to 1967 Mount Clemens Industries, Inc., used TCE in vapor degreasers while manufacturing auto parts. After its use the TCE was dumped onto the ground near its manufacturing plant, now the site of the Dura Automotive plant on US 131 in Mancelona. The groundwater contamination plume begins at the Dura plant and extends northwest. Breathing small amounts of TCE may cause lung irritation, and difficulty concentrating. Drinking water that contains TCE over a period of time can lead to liver and kidney problems and may also cause cancer.

    Concentrations of TCE contamination in Mancelona range from less than 1 ppb to several hundred ppb. The State of Michigan’s criteria for safe drinking water is 5 ppb or less. This contamination is also believed to have originated from the disposal of spent metal degreasing solvent in the 1950’s associated with Wickes Manufacturing, a firm that no longer exists. In the past 45 to 50 years, the waste TCE disposed of in the site’s permitted lagoons migrated through the groundwater. This site is referred to by the Michigan DEQ as the Wickes Manufacturing TCE Plume Site.

    The TCE plume is more than six miles long and one mile wide at its leading edge, the largest in Michigan. The State estimates that the plume has contaminated ten to twenty trillion gallons of groundwater, encompassing Schuss Mountain and a 1.5 mile wide stretch of the Cedar River. As this groundwater contamination plume continues to spread into the Cedar River, it threatens the Lower Chain of Lakes and the municipal water well field at Cedar River that supplies drinking water to an entire region of people whose wells have already been impacted by the plume and the original plume at Tar Lake, a Superfund site in Mancelona.

    The State previously provided $9.7 million to install the existing municipal water system to service the area west of Mancelona and to investigate the extent of contamination. Recent investigations have shown groundwater contamination outside of the existing water service area to the northwest and to the east.

    The local group Antrim Coalition United Through Ecology (ACUTE) has been actively involved in the State's investigation of the trichloroethylene contamination and discussions of proposed remedies, and has been holding monthly citizen meetings to discuss and educate Mancelona residents.

    The Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency issued a "Well-First Policy" because of the findings from MDEQ test wells drilled in 2004 on the outer edge of the plume. These findings revealed TCE groundwater contamination from 40 to 200 feet below the water table in one location and “deeper than expected” contamination in another. In order to assure a safe supply of drinking water for new construction, the policy requires that a drinking water well must be drilled and tested for the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), specifically TCE, prior to the issuance of a building permit. If the test results do not show contaminants exceeding any EPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), building permits will be issued. If the test results show VOC exceeding EPA MCL standards, the well must be abandoned and no building permits will be issued until an approved water source is available.

    Funding for this current expansion project comes from the Clean Michigan Initiative bond fund passed by voters in 1998. Additional funds will be required to continue investigating the extent of the contamination and potentially extend the public water supply further, but very little Clean Michigan Initiative funding remains and could limit future actions by the State to assist Mancelona.

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    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Another Cool New Site Alert

    Green Options is up and running. They went live last week. Check it out

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    "Predator Quest" Worst Show on TV

    I was absolutely dumbstruck last night by the scenes I was watching on the Sportsmans Channel. I couldn't sleep, and found myself staring at the tube at 3am. To my absolute horror and revulsion I witnessed a so-called "hunter" lying in various locations for hours shooting coyotes on a show entitled "Predator Quest".

    Now you might think there was reason he was shooting these coyotes. Maybe they were sick? Maybe they were a threat to his livestock? No, this redneck was shooting them for the pure joy of it. He was killing for the sheer pleasure. He laughed after each animal fell.

    Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against hunters who venture into the Michigan woods and get a deer or an elk for the meat. I have nothing against those who fish to bring home trout for dinner. No sir, I too have trudged through the woods in the cold and have been on the reel-end of a fishing pole many times. But killing coyotes for kicks is disgusting and reprehensible and is exactly the reason environmentalists and wildlife advocates oppose hunting. In my opinion, host Les Johnson is giving us all a bad name.

    "Now there's a way to start the morning," he joked, as his first coyote of the day was flipped up in the air and it's blood exploded into a cloud of vapor. One after another Johnson (who is a damn good marksman) slaughtered coyotes with various rifles describing in detail the gun and the ammo he was using. I lost count. I have no idea how many he killed. I felt like puking.

    From a quick web search I just learned that 'Predator Quest" was the winner of “Best Show Open” at the Sportsman Channel's Fourth Annual Producer Appreciation Event held at The House of Blues in Miami. The Sportsman Channel presented awards to the “Best” and “Viewer Favorite” TSC programs of 2006. "Best Show Open" I assume refers to the opening credits, because there is certainly nothing that warrants an award after that. This is the worst thing I have seen on television in a long time.

    Now a couple guys are going to be irritated with me and send emails telling me the government has a predator control policy and hires guys to go out and do exactly this type of hunting. And I'm certain there is someone out there who can tell me exactly how many diseased predators are killed by government employees each year. Don't bother, I know that already. I'm speaking out right now against someone who takes joy in killing and gives legitimate hunters a bad name. Killing for pleasure - or even the appearance of killing for pleasure - is revolting and ruins the reputations of the rest of us.

    To those at the Sportsman Channel, I will not ever watch this show again.

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    DEQ to Hold Lansing Hearing on Proposed Kennecott Mine

    Source: Pure Bullshit from the Dept of Environmental Quality

    The fact the DEQ is even considering allowing Kennecott to do business in Michigan - knowing full-well the reprehensible history of environmental destruction this company has left behind in other states - immediately calls into question the credibility and intelligence of the leadership of the DEQ and its staff. That Governor Granholm would allow Kennecott to do business in Michigan - also knowing full-well their disastrous practices - should also call into question the credibility of the governor's office. It is obvious from the following press release that the DEQ favors approval of the mining operations. If you think this is just one mine, you're wrong. Click here to find out more: Save the Wild U.P

      The Department of Environmental Quality announced today it will hold a public hearing in Lansing on a proposed decision to approve a mining permit to the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company to conduct nickel mining operations at the proposed Eagle Project mine. The Lansing hearing will be held March 12 at the Lansing Center from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

      The Eagle Project Mine proposes to produce nickel, copper, and other metals from a small but rich metal sulfide deposit located about 25 miles northwest of Marquette. Kennecott would use underground mining methods that are designed to avoid impacts to the nearby Salmon Trout River or adjacent lands. The entrance to the mine, as well as the associated surface facilities, would be at a remote upland location, and the ore would be transported by truck and rail to a processing site in Ontario. Kennecott proposes to backfill the mined-out areas with waste rock, gravel, and cement and reclaim the entire area to its original condition at the conclusion of mining.

      The proposed mining project is the first to be subject to Michigan's new Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining rules that were enacted in December 2004. The rules, among the most stringent in the nation, were drafted by a multi-stakeholder work group led by the DEQ in response to concerns over potential environmental impacts from mining of metallic sulfide ores.

      The DEQ has already scheduled a public hearing in Marquette on March 6, 7, and 8 at Northern Michigan University’s Don H. Bottum University Center. This additional hearing in Lansing is being held as an opportunity for further comment and review of the technical merits of Kennecott’s application.

      The DEQ made the proposed decision to grant the permit on January 9, 2007, following extensive review of Kennecott's application by a review team made up of environmental and natural resource specialists from the DEQ, Department of Natural Resources, and outside contractors. The final decision to grant or deny the permit, which the DEQ expects to make later this year, will take into account all additional comments and recommendations received.

      The DEQ will accept written comments on the proposed mine permit through April 5, 2007. Comments should be sent to Steven Wilson, Office of Geological Survey, P. O. Box 30256, Lansing, MI 48909-7756; or by e-mail to: (please include "Kennecott Eagle Project comments" on the subject line of the email).

    If you're reading this, I know you care. It's time for you to stand up and join the opposition to Kennecott and to the corporate environmental destruction of Michigan. Your voice counts! We can't stop this without you! Click here now! Save the Wild U.P

    Your letters and comments are needed, both to the DEQ and to your state representatives. Don't hesitate. Should this mining operation be allowed, a full investigation into the upper management of the DEQ by the state legislature and the Attorney General's office is warranted. Kennecott is a bad corporate citizen. The DEQ knows they are. Why are they even considering allowing them to do business here? Who is getting paid off?

    Ehlers announces opposition to Iraq War resolution

    West Michigan Congressman Vern Ehler's comments to the House:

    "Madam Speaker,

    I rise, reluctantly, in opposition to this resolution. I say reluctantly because I had hoped to be able to vote in favor of something positive – a fresh perspective, a new idea, a new pathway to success – anything to encourage and foster a positive outcome in the Iraq conflict. But this resolution offers none of these things. It is a simple, almost meaningless, statement of disapproval that provides no constructive resolve on this daunting, yet critical, mission.

    My opposition is both procedural and substantive. I am extremely disappointed that we only have this one simplistic, inadequate statement before us for consideration – no alternatives, no other ideas, no solutions. The situation in Iraq is complicated, and the American people deserve far more from Congress than a resolution that essentially calls for the status quo. The resolution opposes the troop surge called for by the Commander in Chief, but fails to offer – or even allow for consideration of – any alternatives aimed at achieving success in Iraq, nor does it offer an alternative aimed at a reduction of troops..."

    Read More

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Detroit Edison Fined for Dumping Chemical

    Detroit Edison's electrical power generation plant in River Rouge has paid a $52,333 civil penalty to the EPA. The facility was cited for failure to immediately notify the National Response Center of a 10,559-pound release of sodium hydroxide on May 6, 2003.

    A required written report to the Michigan emergency response commission was also filed late, 10 days after the incident. A follow-up report to the local emergency planning committee was never filed.

    The incident occurred when a maintenance crew left a process valve open. The sodium hydroxide flowed through the process line and mixed with cooling water, which was then released from the facility.

    Sodium hydroxide is commonly used in metal cleaning and processing. Exposure to it can irritate or burn the skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract. Inhaling large amounts can be fatal. Sodium hydroxide releases greater than 1,000 pounds must be reported immediately.

    Bad utility, Bad! Do you want me to rub your nose in it? Do it again and I'll hit you with a newspaper!


    Cool New Blog Alert!

    I want to point out another wickedly cool blog design. The Michigan League of Conservation Voters has launched a new site called [con}serving Michigan. Check it out at Oh, you might want to check out their links list to see who's on it. ME, Baby! I'm on top!

    Steelcase Recognized for Commitment to Improving Indoor Air Quality

    More than 20 products manufactured by Steelcase, Inc. received high marks for their ability to protect indoor air quality. The materials used to make the company's Think chair, for example, met strict emissions and air quality testing standards and received a gold certification from Scientific Certification Systems, an independent reviewer of environmental, food quality, and other claims.

    The products are an example of the types of so-called clean technologies that West Michigan companies, particularly office-furniture makers, are innovating as they embrace the philosophy of sustainable business.

    "Indoor air quality is an environmental issue that Steelcase takes very seriously and our product development process is dedicated to creating low-emitting products that meet critical industry standards and are not detrimental to the health of our customers," said Jeff Musculus, manager of product development test labs and codes for Steelcase.

    Source: Yahoo Finance News via communications genius Tim Penning's site, Rapid Growth GR

    Find more on Technorati:

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    Joyce Foundation, Environmental Groups Announce Multi-State Restoration of Maumee River in an Effort to Reduce Lake Erie Pollution

    Efforts to restore the Maumee River, the largest source of polluted runoff flowing into Lake Erie, took a major step forward Monday when one of the Midwest's largest foundations announced it is supporting a multi-state strategy to restore portions of the environmentally distressed Maumee watershed.

    The Chicago-based Joyce Foundation has awarded $5 million in grants to a total of four national and local organizations in a quest to aid the recovery of the 8,316 square mile Maumee watershed, the largest river system in the Great Lakes region. The mouth of the Maumee in Toledo has been designated an Area of Concern by the International Joint Commission. The Ohio EPA estimates that more than 40 percent of the streams in the Ohio portion of the Maumee watershed do not meet Clean Water Act standards.

    The 130-mile Maumee River is, itself, the largest contributor of so-called nonpoint source pollution in Lake Erie, depositing five million tons of eroded soil that contains pesticides, fertilizer, toxic chemicals and other forms of potentially harmful runoff every year into the smallest and most ecologically fragile of the nation’s Great Lakes.

    Click Here to Read More
    Photo: railroad bridge over the Maumee, Grand Rapids, Ohio.


    North Dakota Farmer Will Apply for State License to Grow Industrial Hemp This Week

    North Dakota's Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson will accept the first application from a farmer who qualifies for an Industrial Hemp license this week. The license, which is expected to be granted, would go to farmer and North Dakota Assistant House Majority Leader David Monson, ten years after the first hemp bill was passed in the state. Farmers across North Dakota will make history as the first state to grant commercial hemp farming licenses in the United States in fifty years. Conversely it is unclear what the Drug Enforcement Administration will do when they receive requests for the licenses to be honored.

    "I have filled out the application and all I need are fingerprints and GPS field coordinates. I will submit my application for an industrial hemp license with the state Department of Agriculture early next week," said Representative David Monson, R-Osnabrock on Friday. "I expect that the state will grant me a hemp farming license, but I'm not sure that the $3,440 non-refundable registration fee I will send to DEA with my application for manufacturing and importing will get me anything.

    Burton Johnson, an agronomist and professor at North Dakota State University (NDSU), has submitted at least 2 applications with DEA since 1999, but has never received a license in those seven years," says Monson. "I'm prepared to take this to court if DEA refuses to grant a permit in a reasonable amount of time or places onerous restrictions on it." Representative Monson
    operates his farm in Osnabrock, ND and is only 25 miles from the Canadian border and 110 miles from the nearest hemp seed processing facility, Hemp Oil Canada in Ste. Agathe, Manitoba.

    Commissioner Johnson has cautioned that farmers who hold state industrial hemp licenses must also obtain permission from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and that a state license is not effective until the licensee receives a registration from DEA to import, produce, or process industrial hemp. Last month Commissioner Johnson sent a letter to DEA administrator Karen Tandy asking that DEA waive individual registration fees for newly- licensed industrial hemp producers in North Dakota and that DEA work with the Agriculture Department so farmers can plant the historic first industrial hemp crop this spring.

    North Dakota was one of the first states to pass industrial hemp legislation and has done so five times. North Dakota's first hemp law, passed in 1997, directed that the State University Agriculture Experiment Station do a study of industrial hemp production. In 1999 a pair of bills were passed, one, a resolution, urging Congress to acknowledge the difference between the agricultural crop known as industrial hemp and its drug-type relative, the second, a bill, was to authorize the production of industrial hemp and remove it from the noxious weed list. In 2001 another resolution was passed similar to the 1999 resolution and in 2005 a bill was passed allowing for feral hemp seed collection and breeding at NDSU.

    "DEA could easily grant licenses to farmers and work with North Dakota under existing regulations, but we're not planning on re-writing our mission statement just yet," says Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra. "It has been thirty seven years since the ill-considered Controlled Substance Act was passed, mistakenly making industrial hemp a Schedule 1 substance.
    The time is ripe for hemp to be grown here in the U.S. again. Farmers in North Dakota, and all across the U.S., should be able to grow industrial hemp just like their Canadian counterparts," says Steenstra.

    Health Canada statistics show that 24,021 acres of industrial hemp were produced in Canada in 2005 and 48,060 acres in 2006. Vote Hemp estimates that the total value of hemp products sold in the US is now $270 million while the seed has been shown to have tremendous nutritional benefits in food. More information about hemp legislation and the crop's many uses can be found at


    Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007 Introduced in Congress

    H.R. 1009 Would Give States Right to Regulate Farming of Versatile Hemp Crop
    For the second time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States, a federal bill has been introduced that would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. The chief sponsor of H.R.
    1009, the "Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007," is Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and the nine original co-sponsors are Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Barney Frank (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Jim McDermott (D-WA), George Miller (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). The bill may be viewed online at:

    "It is indefensible that the United States government prevents American farmers from growing this crop. The prohibition subsidizes farmers in countries from Canada to Romania by eliminating American competition and encourages jobs in industries such as food, auto parts and clothing that utilize industrial hemp to be located overseas instead of in the United
    States," said Dr. Paul. "By passing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act the House of Representatives can help American farmers and reduce the trade deficit -- all without spending a single taxpayer dollar."

    U.S. companies that manufacture or sell products made with hemp include Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a California company who manufactures the number-one-selling natural soap, and FlexForm Technologies, an Indiana company whose natural fiber materials are used in over 2 million cars. Hemp food manufacturers such as French Meadow Bakery, Hempzels, Living Harvest, Nature's Path and Nutiva now make their products from Canadian hemp. Although hemp grows wild across the U.S., a vestige of centuries of hemp farming, the hemp for these products must be imported. Health Canada statistics show that 48,060 acres of industrial hemp were produced in Canada in 2006. Farmers in Canada have reported that hemp is one of the most profitable crops that they can grow. Hemp clothing is made around the world by well-known brands such as Patagonia, Bono's Edun and Giorgio Armani.

    There is strong support among key national organizations for a change in the federal government's position on hemp. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) "supports revisions to the federal rules and regulations authorizing commercial production of industrial hemp." The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has also passed a pro-hemp resolution.

    Numerous individual states have expressed interest in industrial hemp as well. Fifteen states have passed pro-hemp legislation; seven (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research. North Dakota has issued state licenses, the first in fifty years, to two farmers so far. Rep. Paul's bill would remove federal barriers and allow laws in these states regulating the growing and processing of industrial hemp to take effect.

    "Under the current national drug control policy, industrial hemp can be imported, but it can't be grown by American farmers," says Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. "The DEA has taken the Controlled Substances Act's antiquated definition of marijuana out of context and used it as an excuse to ban industrial hemp farming. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007 will bring us back to more rational times when the government regulated marijuana, but told farmers they could go ahead and continue raising hemp just as they always had," says Mr. Steenstra.

    More information about hemp legislation and the crop's many uses can be found at



    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    State Awards Millions in Water Quality Grants

    From DEQ press release:

    The Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Treasury today announced the award of 34 grants to Michigan communities to assist with the completion of needed water quality improvement efforts. Totaling nearly $10 million, these funds will cover up to 90 percent of the costs incurred by local units of government to complete the planning and design efforts required to apply for construction loan funding from the state’s clean water revolving fund programs.

    The Michigan Legislature created the State Revolving Fund/Strategic Water Qualities Initiatives Fund, or "S2" Grant Program, in December, 2005 and approved the transfer of $40 million from the Great Lakes Water Quality Bond Fund. Coupled with the initial 67 grants awarded in November of 2006, this round of S2 grants brings total funding awarded to date to $37.3 million. Applications are currently under review for the remaining $3.3 million.

    S2 grant assistance is only available to communities intending to access the State Revolving Fund (SRF) or the Strategic Water Quality Initiatives Fund (SWQIF) to finance project construction.

    The SRF, which provides below market rate loan financing for the construction of wastewater infrastructure and non-point source water quality improvement projects, has been in operation in Michigan since 1988. Joined by the SWQIF in 2002, which funds wastewater system improvements undertaken on private property, these programs have tendered nearly $2.4 billion in loan assistance to Michigan communities to date.

    The S2 grants and the revolving fund programs are jointly administered by the DEQ and the Michigan Municipal Bond Authority within the Department of Treasury.

    “The S2 Grant Program will help local communities gain access to the SRF loan program and its low interest rate loans,” said State Treasurer Robert J. Kleine. “With the current loan rate at 1.625 percent, we anticipate that a number of communities will take advantage of this program to accelerate the completion of important water quality projects.”

    A list of the S2 Grant award recipients is available on the DEQ Web page at:

    Mayors endorse 15% renewable energy for municipalities by 2015

    According to excerpts from the story:

    On January 10, 2007, the Urban Core Mayors adopted an aggressive, but realistic, "15 by 15" Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for renewable energy.

    Following the lead of Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, the group decided the fiscal and economic incentives to adopt an RPS for State and municipal operations warranted immediate action.

    Read the complete story at MiBiz

    Nationwide movement of mayors toward renewables detailed in USA Today


    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    Streetcars for Grand Rapids!

    If you don't get the Grand Rapids Press (good for you), you may have missed Sunday's front page article on the proposed streetcar plan that will encircle downtown GR. This proposal copies Portland's MAX, and I can tell you from experience how handy the MAX is. You're probably sick of hearing me say that 'everything is better in Oregon,' but in this case it truly is.

    Cost? The first phase of construction is estimated at $69 million, a third of the price of the Devos Convention Center monolith and roughly equivalent to the price of the new uber-Green, LEED certified GR Art Museum.

    Portland's public transportation system is one of the best anywhere and we would do well to model ours on it. When I lived and worked in downtown Portland I rode the MAX several times a week. Parking in downtown Portland is a nightmare, much worse than GR. Not having to drive downtown was a blessing. Here in GR, the bus system seems to be reserved for those unable to afford a car. Out there in Pacific Northwest-blissville, it's difficult to afford parking unless your car is electric. There are a number of free parking spaces designated for electric cars.

    Of course, Portland is also much more bicycle, tie-dye and dreadlock friendly, and users of the MAX are as well. A combination of streetcars, lightrail and BICYCLE TRAFFIC LANES make getting around Portland much easier than here. An easily affordable monthly pass which you can buy from automatic-teller-esque machines gets you anywhere in town, or you can pay cash when you get on and get a transfer to jump from one form of tranportation to another.

    Grand Rapids is leading the country in green building projects and this improvement to our public transportation system will push GR even further to the head of the pack in green urban design. Nothing could be better tthan promoting GR as a green, environmentally conscious community that values its citizens enough to reduce their ingestion of smog by providing alternative transportation choices. Mayor Heartwell is on the right path.

    For more information, check out Andy Guy's article on the Michigan Land Use Institute website or check out Andy's blog from Grand Rapids.

    Saturday, February 10, 2007

    MI Young Republican Chairman Charged With Rape, Kidnapping, Witness Intimidation

    from WOOD-TV

    The chairman of a Michigan young Republican group has been accused of raping a 21-year-old woman while both were in Cleveland for a convention last July.

    A Cuyahoga County grand jury returned a 17-count indictment Wednesday against Michael A. Flory, 32, including charges of rape, kidnapping, aggravated burglary, gross sexual imposition and witness intimidation.

    Flory, who lives in the East Lansing area, is chairman of the Michigan Federation of Young Republicans, an organization for Republicans from age 18 to 40. He attended the convention of the National Federation of Young Republicans last summer.

    Flory's Michigan law firm specializes in elder law and estate planning and has offices in Okemos and Jackson. He said the charges were baseless and that he would plead not guilty. "As an officer of the court, I am confident the legal system can work, and will work, to vindicate me," he said in statement Thursday.

    Huh, a middle-aged ultra conservative lawyer who hangs out on college campuses with sorority girls turns out to be a complete asshole. Big surprise there.

    Cincinnati Plant Hit with $750K Clean Air Act Penalty

    Down in Cincinnati, a nitric acid production facility will pay $750,000 in penalties to settle violations of the Clean Air Act. The parent companies also agreed to install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment at the facility that will reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by more than 200 tons per year.

    Agrium US Inc. and Royster-Clark Inc. did not obtain necessary permits and did not install the required pollution control equipment when expanding the plant. The modifications caused the facility to emit more NOx than allowed by federal law.
    The companies increased profits by ignoring environmental law.

    The facility releases NOx as part of its nitric acid production process. Nitric acid is used to make fertilizer, explosives and organic chemicals. NOx causes severe respiratory problems, contributes to childhood asthma, acid rain, climate change, smog and haze, and impairs visibility in national parks. Emissions from nitric acid plants can be carried significant distances downwind, causing air quality problems in nearby states.

    New EPA Car Air Quality Regs Don't Take Full Effect Until 2030

    Toxic fumes from gasoline, vehicles and fuel containers will decrease significantly under tough new standards signed February 9th, but not for a long time. By 2030, EPA's new Mobile Source Air Toxic (MSAT) regulations and fuel and vehicle standards will reduce toxic emissions from cars to 80 percent below 1999 emissions. The MSAT rule toughens benzene standards for gasoline, sets hydrocarbon emissions standards for cars at cold temperatures and tightens fuel containers to prevent the evaporation of harmful fumes.

    Once the new standards are fully implemented in 2030, they are expected to reduce emissions of mobile source air toxics annually by 330,000 tons, including 61,000 tons of benzene. EPA estimates annual health benefits from the particulate matter reductions of the vehicle standards to total $6 billion in 2030. The estimated annual cost for the entire rule is about $400 million in 2030.

    You can find out more here:

    U.S. & E.U Agree to Share Environmental Research

    U.S. and European Union scientists and researchers plan to work more closely in solving common environmental problems and sharing information on emerging issues - such as nanotechnology - under a new agreement finalized today in Brussels. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson and Director General for Research Jose Manuel Silva Rodriguez of the European Commission (the executive body of the European Union) have signed an agreement entitled “Implementing Arrangement on Environmental Research and Ecoinformatics.” Ecoinformatics, a vague term that had me guessing for a bit, refers to advanced computer systems necessary for environmental research.

    Cooperation under the EPA-EC Implementing Arrangement is a bit unclear to me, but seems to include collaboration between U.S. and European researchers and associations; joint sponsorship of conferences, workshops and meetings; mutual participation in peer reviews; and exchanges of and data. Whew, that's a mouthful. Basically government scientists are going to be able to communicate more effectively. We shouldn't take this lightly, this is one area in which the Bush Administration is actually cooperating with other nations rather than bombing the snot out of them.

    Among the research topics included in the so-called "Implementing Arrangement" are efforts to address the links between environmental pollution and human health, as well as uses and impacts of nanotechnology in environmental monitoring, soil remediation, and water quality. Other topics include: sustainable chemistry and materials; environmental information systems; development of environmental and sustainability indicators; environmental technologies; air quality management and environmental modeling.

    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Nestle Goes After Trout Stream in McCloud California

    Nestle Corp.'s proposed water plant in McCloud, California is yet another example of its unrelenting quest for new sources of spring water. In an outrageous marketing coup, Nestle and other multinational corporations are reaping huge profits from bottling and selling the public's own water. Americans are annually buying over 10 billion bottles of water that costs 1,000 times more than tap water.

    In general bottled water is not any healthier than tap water, and in some cases, less so. The manufacture and transport of these single-use plastic bottles require enormous energy, while releasing toxic chemicals both in their making and disposal in landfills or litter. Sure, drinking water is vital for good health. But every citizen in the U.S. is entitled to clean water. If tap water quality is at issue, then the municipality should clean it up; or the homeowner can simply install a filter.

    The Nestle project would drain water from the McCloud River system. The famous McCloud River, a California Wild Trout stream, is dependent on the exceptionally cold spring water. Its strain of rainbow trout is world renowned. Who can say whether or not pumping these springs will not damage the McCloud River and its main tributary Squaw Valley Creek? Who can say whether or not water quantities in the aquifers today will be there tomorrow? How can any governmental body sell rights to a precious, limited natural resource for 99 years to a profit-driven corporation responsible mainly to its shareholders? If the project goes forward, will the amount of water that Nestle pumps be rigorously capped with strict enforcement? Who knows. Yes, good jobs are important, but not at the cost of sacrificing the health of our waterways. The stakes are too high for any more mistakes.

    Shit Hitting Fan: Public Health Disaster in the Making

    Two Vreba Hoff dairy animal factories in Lenawee County are in crisis mode, trying to prevent a massive overflow and a breech of their numerous sewage pits. Over the holidays, Vreba Hoff sprayed, spread and dumped raw sewage for days. All of these activities violated state law and a consent judgment levied against the facility for 75 previous pollution violations.

    Until the temperature dropped, ditches in the area were running black with the waste. Frozen sewage now covers area fields and will flow into waterways as soon as temperatures rise. The facility is now dumping waste into a huge, new, unlined and unauthorized sewage pit. This illegal lagoon adds one more source of contamination in an area that already contains more than 47 sewage lagoons, containing approximately 150 million gallons of untreated animal waste.

    The DEQ has once again filed suit against Vreba Hoff. Yet, as we await the judge’s decision on actions Vreba Hoff must take to stop the flow of sewage, more than 60 other animal factories in Michigan may also be in crisis mode, with overflowing sewage lagoons. Sewage spreading has been reported in Hillsdale, Lenawee and Gratiot counties. Many more animal factories may also be endangering public health by spreading raw sewage on frozen and snow covered ground.

    There are more than 200 “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFOs) or animal factories in Michigan – and more are coming all the time. Because the Right to Farm Act exempts animal factories from most environmental laws, the operators feel they can pollute without consequence. In fact, none of the actions that citizens or the state have taken have stopped the gross endangerment of our air, water and public health by animal factory polluters. Legislation is desperately needed to stop the proliferation of animal factories in Michigan until the state enacts regulations that protect public health and Michigan's water based tourism industry.

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Breakdown: EPA's 2008 Budget $7.2 Billion

    It's out. BUT the total 2008 E.P.A budget has just been slashed by $400 MILLION. The proposed 2008 spending plan includes $549.5 million for enforcement operations, the largest amount ever dedicated to that agency responsibility. It is a $9.1 million increase over the fiscal year 2007 amount.

    Chesapeake Bay: An additional $2 million, for a total of $28.8 million, to build on the continuing efforts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, increase the pace of restoration, and implement the most cost-effective nutrient and sediment controls and key habitat restoration strategies.

    Puget Sound: $1 million to focus on the highest-priority environmental challenges such as improving water quality, lifting shellfish harvest restrictions, and cleaning up contaminated sediments.

    Gulf of Mexico: $4.5 million to assist the Gulf States and other stakeholders in developing a framework for restoring and protecting the Gulf. EPA is working with 12 other federal agencies and five states in the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to implement the 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan.

    Great Lakes: $56.8 million to continue working with states and local communities to reduce PCB concentration by 25 percent in predatory fish and keep monitored beaches open 95 percent of the time during the summer season.

    The budget also requests an additional $687.5 million for clean water grants and $842.2 million for drinking water grants.

    Air Quality:
    $117.9 million for EPA's climate change programs to build upon partnership efforts to achieve reductions in US greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the president's plan to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent in 2012;

    $44 million for Energy Star programs for the commercial, residential and industrial sectors to continue voluntary government/industry partnership programs designed to capitalize on the opportunities that consumers, businesses, and organizations have for making sound investments in efficient equipment, policies, and practices;

    $5 million for the Asia Pacific Partnership to support international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and

    $4.4 million for Methane to Markets to promote methane recovery and use at landfills, coal mines and natural gas facilities.

    The budget also includes $35 million for National Clean Diesel Campaign grants to help meet the mandates of the Energy Act and promote more energy efficient technologies. The $35 million is estimated to leverage an additional $72 million in funding assistance and reduce particulate matter by approximately 5,040 tons, which will achieve $1.4 billion in health benefits.

    Scientific Research:
    $123.8 million for Clean Air and related research, a $7.5 million increase to improve research related to cyclical review of criteria air pollutants, study near-road air pollution, and support work with NOAA to develop the Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) modeling system;

    $10.2 million for Nanotechnology Research, an increase of $1.6 million to identify potential uses and study nano-scale materials that are subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requirements.

    $1.245 billion for Superfund (including a $3.2 million increase over FY 2007 Request for the Superfund Remedial program) and $162.2 million for the Brownfields program.

    More information

    Nestle: Citizen Groups Respond to DEQ Decision

    The DEQ approved NestlĂ©’s "request for determination", pumping 70 million gallons of spring water yearly from Twin and Chippewa creeks in Osceola County near Evart would not have an adverse impact. This came after only a 3-week public comment period after the DEQ and Nestle went public with the proposed decision on Christmas Eve.

    Although the DEQ announced the public comment period would be extended until March 15, 2007, this week’s DEQ decision ignored the extended comment period. Apparently Nestle refused to waive the deadline for the DEQ’s decision as required by last year’s amendments to Michigan’s water laws. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation - leading the fight against Nestle - relied on the extended time period and retained experts to provide meaningful analyses, only to be stabbed by the DEQ’s premature decision.

    The DEQ largely ignored comments, particularly those related to the effects on flows and levels of the headwaters of the two trout streams. Nestle and DEQ’s decision used selected measurements of the stream which may have missed the primary area of effects and adverse impacts to a bountiful brook trout fishery.

    Nestle claims that it is a "good corporate citizen.” Despite the company’s claims to the contrary, a trial court and the Court of Appeals found pumping caused substantial harm to the stream and wetlands in Mecosta County, and the company recently mounted an attack on the heart of Michigan environmental laws to block citizens’ rights to maintain lawsuits to prevent such harm from happening.

    “Now Nestle apparently has refused to cooperate with the DEQ’s extension of time for public comment on the effects of its pumping on two blue ribbon trout streams,” says Terry Swier, President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.

    Dave Dempsey, Great Lakes Policy Advisor for Clean Water Action, said, “The legislature failed last year when it passed a new water law that allows water to be commercially exploited. This decision shows Michigan's new water law is a failure.”

    Jim Olson, legal counsel for MCWC, said, “These type of private water exports that diminish our lakes and streams, whether in ships, trucks, or bottles, should not permitted to continue. If the citizens of Michigan do not keep strict control on who, when, where and for what purpose someone is allowed to export our water for private gain, we will find ourselves in dire straits when the global tidal wave of demand for water comes crashing on our shores.”

    NestlĂ© has also been investigating a new “spring” water source near the White River in Newaygo County for the past three years. Nestle wants to truck the water from the Osceola and Newaygo sites about 20 miles to its Ice Mountain plant in Stanwood.

    Sunday, February 04, 2007

    Blizzard 2007...Sonofabish!!!

    Why Despise Mitt Romney? He Opposes Wind Power...

    ...because windmills aren't pretty.

    Here's the main reason any good environmentalist should NOT vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

    Back in April of 2006, A coalition of groups supporting a plan for the nation’s largest alternative energy project lashed out at federal lawmakers for "back-door deal-making" that could have killed a proposed wind-farm project in the waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Fifty-five organizations – representing conservation, labor, industry and investment groups – sent letters to federal lawmakers urging them to vote against an amendment to the Coast Guard reauthorization bill that would have given Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney veto power over the offshore wind farm, which would operate in federal waters in Nantucket Sound.

    The amendment, inserted by Bridge-to-Nowhere Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) as the innocuously titled "Opinions Regarding Whether Certain Facilities Create Obstructions to Navigation," would have prohibited the Coast Guard from approving the wind-farm project if a "certain governor of an adjacent coastal State makes a written determination" opposing the proposed site.

    Romney publicly opposed the wind farm out of concern that it would be visually unattractive. At a time when energy costs are rising and our country is struggling to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy, our government should be working to remove impediments to developing new supply. Governor Romney clearly has his head shoved far up his own ass. Fortunately, his fellow Republicans came to their senses briefly enough to realize that Stevens and Romney are dumbshits.

    Click here for more information on the Cape Cod wind farm and Romney's opposition to it.

    Great Lakes Wolf Population No Longer Protected by Endangered Species Act.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is removing the western Great Lakes population of gray wolves from the federal list of threatened and endangered species and is also proposing to remove the northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves from the list.

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    Friday, February 02, 2007

    DEQ Decides to Let Nestle Rape Michigan

    The Department of Environmental Quality announced its final determination today that a water withdrawal being considered by Nestle Waters of North America is not likely to cause an adverse resource impact under Michigan's new water withdrawal law. Under the law, an adverse resource impact occurs when water is withdrawn from a stream at a rate that could harm fish populations.

    The decision responds to a request from Nestle for the DEQ to determine whether the proposed withdrawal would have an adverse resource impact. The DEQ supposedly took into consideration information submitted during the public comment period that followed the DEQ’s proposed determination issued in December 2006.

    The DEQ's determination is the first to apply Michigan's new water withdrawal law. Because the law required the DEQ to respond to Nestle’s within a specified time period, the DEQ will continue to review and respond to additional comments on the methods it used to reach a decision received through March 15.

    Nestle is proposing to withdraw water for bottling via a well in Osceola County with a maximum proposed pumping rate of 216,000 gallons per day. The proposed withdrawal would intercept groundwater discharging to Twin Creek and Chippewa Creek, two designated trout streams in Osceola Township. Based upon the calculated base flow of the two creeks, along with Department of Natural Resources studies of natural flow variation in streams statewide, the DEQ has determined that the allowable withdrawal from the two watersheds is a combined 691,200 gallons per day, well above the amount to be withdrawn by Nestle.

    A copy of the determination will be posted to the department's website today at, then click on "Water".