Michigan

Detroit Free Press: S.S. Badger cleared for sailing by EPA

Two years after striking a deal to keep the last coal-fired ship on the Great Lakes operating, federal regulators this week declared the S.S. Badger in compliance with an order that it stop dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan, clearing it for a new sailing season beginning today.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said an inspection of the Badger — a historic carferry which makes about 450 trips between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis., during a 6-month season each year — showed it had “taken all the steps necessary” to stop discharging coal ash into the lake.

“Victory!” said a statement today by the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, which had pressured the government to address the hundreds of tons of coal ash the 63-year-old Badger was dumping into Lake Michigan each year. “All bad things should come to an end, and this water pollution is. … Step-by-step, our Great Lakes are getting cleaner.”

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Victory for Great Lakes Protection: SS Badger Car Ferry Forced to Stop Dumping Toxic Coal Ash into Lake Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 15, 2015

 

Contact:

Judith Nemes

JNemes@ELPC.org

312-795-3706

 

Victory for Great Lakes Protection:  SS Badger Car Ferry Forced to Stop Dumping Toxic Coal Ash into Lake Michigan

Environmental Law & Policy Center and Partners Declare Victory

 

Chicago – The Environmental Law & Policy Center and partners declared a victory for cleaning up the Great Lakes following the successful campaign and federal court consent decree to require the SS Badger car ferry to stop dumping 1,000,000 pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan each summer. Today, the SS Badger car ferry is scheduled to go across Lake Michigan from Manitowoc, WI, to Ludington, MI, with a new coal ash containment system in place. Step-by-step, our Great Lakes are getting cleaner.

 

“This is a victory for a cleaner Lake Michigan and a step in the right direction for reducing toxic pollution of the Great Lakes,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “It reaffirms the principle that no business, including the SS Badger, should be permitted to use the Great Lakes as a dumping ground for pollution.”

 

This victory follows a strong campaign led by the Environmental Law & Policy Center with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and partners at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and others.

“All bad things should come to an end, and this water pollution is,” said Learner. “This summer, the SS Badger will not be dumping nearly 1,000,000 pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan.”

The 60-year-old SS Badger is the last coal-burning ship on the Great Lakes. For too many years, the resulting coal ash – containing toxic materials – was moved from the ship’s boilers to an on-board retention area, where it was mixed with Lake Michigan water and then discharged into the lake as toxic slurry. Public pressure and the SS Badger’s continued pollution led to an action by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that resulted in a binding consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Following the public campaign and consent decree, SS Badger operators installed new digital combustion controls that enable the ship to run more efficiently, burning about 15% less coal on its trips from Manitowoc, WI, to Ludington, MI. The new system will now move the coal ash along a conveyor belt between the ship’s boilers and four containment bins. Those bins will later be moved to an appropriate land-based site, possibly for re-sale as a cement filler. This kind of “encapsulated reuse” is one of the better scenarios for handling toxic coal ash.

“While the SS Badger still burns coal and emits it into the air, stopping the dumping of coal ash into Lake Michigan is a very good step in the right direction,” Learner added.

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Victory! No More SS Badger Toxic Coal Ash Dumping into Lake Michigan

Victory!  Today, the SS Badger car ferry is scheduled to go across Lake Michigan from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI with a new coal ash containment system in place. All bad things should come to an end, and this water pollution is.  This summer, the SS Badger will not be dumping nearly 1,000,000 pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan.  Step-by-step, our Great Lakes are getting cleaner.

This is a significant step in the right direction for reducing toxic pollution of the Great Lakes. It reaffirms the principle that no business should be permitted to use the Great Lakes as a dumping ground for toxics.

This victory follows a strong campaign led by the Environmental Law & Policy Center with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and our good partner colleagues at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and others.

The 60-year-old SS Badger is the last coal-burning ship on the Great Lakes. For too many years, the resulting coal ash – containing toxic materials – has been discharged into Lake Michigan. Pressure from ELPC, our allies and the public led to an action by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that resulted in a binding consent decree requiring SS Badger operators to capture and then lawfully dispose of the toxic coal ash without dumping any into Lake Michigan.

Following the consent decree, SS Badger operators installed new digital combustion controls that enable the ship to run more efficiently, burning about 15% less coal on its trips from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI.  They also installed a new retention system that moves the coal ash along a conveyor belt between the ship’s boilers and four containment bins. Those bins are later moved to an appropriate land-based site, possibly for re-sale as a cement filler. This kind of “encapsulated reuse” is one of the better scenarios for handling toxic coal ash.

This has been tough sledding. Working together, we have brought to an end the SS Badger’s dumping of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan.

Midwest Energy News: Advocates say pipeline secrecy could make public less safe

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    (Photo by Light Brigading via Creative Commons)

As the oil and gas industry pushes for new laws exempting information about pipeline infrastructure from being released to the public in the name of national security, advocates say doing so could actually increase the risk for everyone.

And the lack of public knowledge about these issues — which extends to other kinds of energy infrastructure, like rail transportation and transmission lines — can place an even heavier burden on ill-equipped government regulators.

In Michigan, a dozen House Republicans sponsored a bill last week to amend the state’s Freedom of Information Act law to exempt “critical energy infrastructure information” from being disclosed, more than a decade after Congress approved similar federal rules in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Such information is defined in HB 4540 as “specific engineering, vulnerability, or detailed design information” about existing or proposed energy infrastructure. Critics say it would exempt details beyond the “general location” of what is described as “critical infrastructure.”

The bill sponsor and industry representatives say it is necessary to model a state law after existing federal rules to protect from outside threats, and comes as state agencies begin taking more of an active role in pipeline oversight here.

In Michigan, pipeline safety is a major issue. In 2010, an oil spill from an Enbridge-owned pipeline near Kalamazoo leaked more than a million gallons into a nearby watershed, the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

Recently, natural-resource advocates have drawn attention to a 62-year-old pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac, a pipeline also owned by Enbridge. The risk of an oil spill there and the modeling of what could happen if it were to rupture has become a rallying cry for Great Lakes protection.

Multiple state agencies — led by the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Environmental Quality — have formed a task force to look specifically at these safety issues and will issue a report in the near future. A spokesperson said the Attorney General’s Office is still reviewing the proposed bill.

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Howard Talks Midwest Oil Pipelines on EETV

ELPC’s Howard Learner joined EETV’s Monica Trauzzi to discuss oil pipelines in the Midwest. The discussion focused on a recent vote in Dane County, WI to require Enbridge to take out an insurance policy to protect the community against costs from potential spill. Watch the video at http://www.eenews.net/video_assets/mp4/2015/04/video_asset_5160.mp4.

 

Midwest Energy News: Critics say Michigan utility aims to ‘monopolize’ community solar

Michigan’s first proposed large-scale community solar program is coming under fire from clean-energy advocates who say it would prevent independent third parties from developing their own programs.

Within the next month, the Michigan Public Service Commission is expected to rule on Consumers Energy’sproposed 10 MW community solar pilot program, which would be the first program of its kind from one of the two major investor-owned utilities here. Smaller-scale projects are underway or in development elsewhere in the state.

But a group of clean-energy advocacy groups have intervened in the case before the MPSC, claiming that Consumers’ proposal would “monopolize” the community solar market, as the utility seeks to prevent independent third parties from developing projects within its service territory.

The utility disputes this point, saying third parties are allowed to develop projects within the program as long as they enter into power-purchase agreements with Consumers.

Further, advocates have raised concerns about the way Consumers has determined a value of solar, a contentious undertaking in other states where utilities and consumer advocates have argued over how much solar users should be compensated for generating the energy. Critics of the plan say Consumers is undervaluing customers’ investments.

The solar coalition — made up of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Ecology Center and the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association — also says the utility is missing opportunities for strategic site planning, which could include contaminated brownfield properties around the state.

Brad Klein, staff attorney with the Chicago-based ELPC, said shutting out third parties is a “major issue.”

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Midwest Energy News: Can better utility planning replace clean-energy standards?

A key component of energy proposals emerging from the Michigan legislature is that more robust long-term planning requirements for utilities can effectively replace renewable energy and efficiency standards.

Known as Integrated Resource Plans, Republicans in the House and Senate say requiring utilities to file these every three to five years will produce the most cost-effective resource mix into the future, eliminating the need for meeting goals under a renewable portfolio or energy efficiency mandate.

Formal IRPs are required in 28 states and come in various forms. Typically they are filed every two to five years and forecasts of supply, demand and other market factors can stretch upwards of 20 years.

While experts who follow clean-energy policies say such planning can be helpful in outlining long-term needs for utilities, some argue that — if the goal is expanding renewables or energy efficiency — IRPs are unable to produce the same results as clearly defined standards. Moreover, they are liable to become esoteric exercises in utility planning.

“It’s pretty apparent to those of us keeping a close eye on these types of things that an IRP process is not a substitute for renewable energy and energy efficiency standards,” said Sam Gomberg, Midwest energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Standards really provide a tremendous amount of certainty of both utilities and the state to ensure these resources are brought online to a significant degree. The evidence is so clear that not only is it cost effective, but they also bring a lot of benefits to the ratepayer. An IRP can be a great complement to those standards.”

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WBEZ: Great Lakes Pollution Symposium

Last August a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie temporarily shut down Toledo, Ohio’s water source leaving questions about the long term viability of that source of water for about 400,000 people. This was fueled not only by warm temperatures but nutrient rich runoff. Nutrient pollution has recently been connected to adverse impacts for ecological and economic systems across the Great Lakes Region. A two-day symposium in Chicago is examining the current state of nutrient management in the Great Lakes, what policies are working and how stakeholders can work towards solutions. Aquatic Ecologist Nancy Tuchman and Gail Hesse of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission sift through some of these issues.

Toledo Blade: EPA official notes planes scan for farm violations

CHICAGO — Note to corporate agriculture: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has inspectors in the sky looking down at you.

Susan Hedman, the EPA’s Midwest regional administrator, said Thursday night at a Great Lakes conference her agency has had inspectors in small planes the last three years looking for manure-management violations by large livestock operations known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

Ms. Hedman declined to provide specifics, saying the occasional flyovers are an enforcement tool. But she said the federal EPA has found it useful in taking legal action against some CAFOs with large manure releases, and sees expansion potential. The surveillance is not spying: The agriculture industry is notified in advance when the agency will be flying in the Great Lakes region, she said.

“That’s a very good use of inspector time,” Ms. Hedman told The Blade following her presentation.

The event, a two-day Great Lakes symposium sponsored by Chicago’s Environmental Law & Policy Center, drew a large Ohio contingent and put last August’s algae-induced Toledo water crisis at center stage. It concluded Friday.

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Detroit News: Michigan case pits health against power reliability

Washington — A case involving Michigan before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday could have multibillion-dollar consequences for the power-generating industry, stoking concerns about electricity reliability in the state and the region.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office is representing 21 Republican-controlled states when the High Court hears arguments Wednesday in Michigan v. EPA concerning federal rules on pollution at power plants. They say coal- and oil-fired plants’ compliance with federal restrictions on emissions of mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollutants is too costly for utilities and, ultimately, ratepayers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations, which take effect next month, factored into the planned retirement of dozens of coal-fired generators nationwide this year and next. Some operators chose to close their dirtiest facilities rather than invest in pollution-control equipment to meet the stricter standards.

“This rule drives the amount of flexibility that the utilities would have had to retire them later,” said Peter Manning, chief of the Environmental, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

Coal produced half of Michigan’s electricity in 2014, causing the regional grid operator and others to raise concerns over the state’s shrinking electric reserves.

The 21 states have sided with trade groups for utilities and coal suppliers. They want the justices to overturn a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which last year said the EPA properly looked at health risks — not compliance costs — in deciding that mercury and other hazardous pollutants should be regulated more strictly.

In its brief to the court, the EPA says it has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate power plants when their emissions pose a threat to public health or the environment, and when controls exist to reduce emissions.

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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