Monday. October 25, 2021

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In Michigan environmental news this week, Governor Whitmer ordered a halt to activity to encase the Line 5 pipeline and ordered a new state standard for PFAS in the water supply. President Trump’s proposed budget guts existing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding (though he denied it while in Grand Rapids), while a new invasive species threatens the lakes (crayfish!). Find these and other stories at the link, including one that reveals how common PFAS is in consumer products you use every day.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer halts action on Line 5 tunnel

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday ordered state agencies to halt action on a proposed tunnel to encase the controversial Line 5 pipeline in a tunnel. Whitmer’s executive directive came minutes after a fellow Democrat, Attorney General Dana Nessel, issued a legal opinion claiming that a law creating a state authority to oversee construction of the tunnel is unconstitutional.

Whitmer orders new standard for PFAS in water supply

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to establish a new standard for the maximum amount of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, that may be present in the state’s water supply. “Michigan will begin the process to establish PFAS drinking water standards that protect public health and the environment,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Michigan has long advocated that the federal government establish national standards to protect the nation’s water from PFAS contamination, but we can no longer wait for the [President] Trump Administration to act.” However, it’s not clear if the GOP-controlled Legislature will go along with Whitmer’s standard, as state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has promised a rigorous oversight process.

I study PFAS in Michigan. Trust me, they are everywhere

So far, the news in Michigan has focused on PFAS in firefighting foam and in industrial waste. But PFAS are also abundant in products we bring into our homes. For example, the Ecology Center recently helped test popular carpet and children’s car seat brands and found PFAS treatments were common. PFAS are common because they’re useful: think waterproof jackets, nonstick pans, takeout packaging, and a slew of other products. But at what cost? These items are made somewhere. The factory waste is dumped somewhere. Waste and water treatment plants are ill-equipped to filter out many PFAS chemicals.

Cuts to Great Lakes Restoration Initiative proposed again in federal budget

President Donald Trump’s proposed gutting of Great Lakes protection and cleanup funds for a third straight year has drawn frustration and eye-rolling from Michigan environmentalists. Trump proposed a $270 million cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative on March 11 for the 2020 fiscal year, a 90 percent decrease over current levels. That’s a little better than his 2018 budget proposal to eliminate it completely before proposing an identical 90 percent cut the following year.

Red swamp crayfish could be next Great Lakes invasive

The red swamp crayfish can reproduce multiple times a year. Females can carry up to 900 eggs. That means rapid population growth and possibly trouble for the Great Lakes. The species is native to the Gulf Coast region of the United States and Mexico, but it has invaded Michigan inland waters and threatens the Great Lakes. “This is a crayfish that when introduced outside of its native range has had big and well-documented negative effects on freshwater ecosystems,” said Eric Larson, an assistant professor in the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Illinois. Once established, the crayfish will eat aquatic plants, amphibians, native fish and other crayfish.

How a warmer climate is affecting southwest Michigan wildlife

When the Kalamazoo Nature Center moved its annual Maple Sugar Festival from the third weekend to the second weekend in March, it wasn’t because organizers had tired of the old date. Instead, they were trying to stay ahead of increasingly warm winters and a shorter sugaring season. Other species with changing patterns include migratory birds that are returning earlier in the season and insects populations whose geographic ranges are changing.

Renewable energy advocate named to state utility regulator

In February, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed a northern Michigan man to the agency that regulates utilities. Dan Scripps is joining the three-member Michigan Public Service Commissionunless the Senate objects. He follows Rachael Eubanks, who resigned to become state treasurer. Scripps, a Northport resident, is the Midwest policy program director at the Energy Foundation, which promotes renewable energy. Scripps also is a former Democratic member of the Michigan House.

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