Asian carp at the gates, jailtime for suburban polluter, trusting Enbridge ?

November 8, 2019 | CO2 2019/2018 410.07 / 406.95 ppm <<

In this edition:

  • Findings bring renewed urgency to the fight against Asian carp

  • Madison Heights electric plating firm owner sent to jail for violating environmental laws

  • Industry representatives delay new PFAS rules

  • Can Enbridge be trusted to clean up its own mess?

  • Trump begins the formal withdrawal process from the Paris Agreement


    • Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’

    • Big Food is betting on regenerative agriculture to thwart climate change

  • Solutions & Bright Spots

  • Events: Engage with Detroit’s Environment

Stuffed carp at the Asian Carp Electric Fish Barrier near Joliet, Illinois (Photo by Brian Allnutt)

Findings bring renewed urgency to the fight against Asian carp

Planet Detroit was lucky to find itself on the Illinois River this past week talking to experts about the threat that several species of Asian carp pose to the Great Lakes, as part of the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources’ (IJNR) “Asian Carp at the Gates of the Great Lakes” workshop.

The previous week, eDNA from silver and bighead carp was found in Chicago’s Bubbly Creek, well past the last defenses designed to keep the fish out of Lake Michigan. There were 76 total hits for carp in the creek, which could have come either from live fish or genetic material from dead fish.

Over several days in and around the Illinois River where carp are incredibly abundant, local and federal officials painted different pictures of the threats presented by the invasive fish and their potential to move past defenses like the Asian Carp Electric Fish Barrier run by the US Army Corps of Engineers near Romeoville, IL. The arrival of Asian Carp in the Great Lakes has the potential to decimate a $7 billion dollar commercial, tribal and recreational fishing industry.

Although eDNA samples and a few live fish have been found above the barrier, Nathan Evans from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) said the fish were essentially stopped at the Dresden Island Lock and Dam. This sits below the electric barrier and also the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, which has been proposed as the site for a new series of electric and sonic defenses and other deterrents.

Amy McGovern–also from USFWS–said of the Bubbly Creek findings, “eDNA is not itself a trigger for a response” and that “it does not mean there are live fish in the area”. She suggested that the findings in the creek could have come from human waste as a result of combined sewer overflows during Illinois’ wet spring and summer and the fact that many people in the Bubbly Creek watershed eat several species of Asian Carp.

Representatives from Michigan were considerably less sanguine about the situation.

“It could also be fish,” Tammy Newcomb from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said. She and Joel Brammier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Marc Smith, director of conservation partnerships for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Center, all said that the Brandon Road project was the best chance to stop the different carp species from entering the lakes while still allowing shipping in the river.

Newcomb also challenged some of the federal agencies’ suggestions that carp were being effectively managed in the Illinois river through commercial fishing programs, saying that the fish had made their way to the Rock Run Rookery just south of Brandon Rd. and well above the Dresden Lock. As Brammier said, “These fish are very cagey, very difficult to capture at low-density.”

Currently, the Brandon Rd. project is being held up by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, possibly over concerns about cost. The initiative would also need to secure congressional approval. Both officials and journalists at the IJNR events expressed concerns about “carp fatigue” as the problem has now been unfolding for decades. But Brammier counseled vigilance, saying that this was a “catastrophic threat” and that “we need to do everything we possibly can.”

Madison Heights chemical firm owner sent to jail for violating environmental laws

Owner of Madison Heights-based Electro-Plating Services will spend a year in prison and his company will pay $1.45 million in restitution to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for cleanup costs at the site on 10 Mile between John R and Dequindre.

The company had been storing toxic chemicals in leaky drums. Sayers had pled guilty in February to felony charges.

Industry representatives delay new PFAS rules

One legacy of the administration of former Michigan governor Rick Snyder is the Environmental Rules Review Committee (ERRC)—one of two bodies referred to in some circles as “polluter panels”— made up primarily of Snyder appointees and representatives from business and industry.

The ERRC is charged with overseeing new rules from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Leaks and Energy (EGLE). In its first major decision, it has moved to delay new standards for PFAS chemicals in drinking water by two weeks.

Members of the ERRC raised concerns about the new rules around the so-called forever chemicals, which EGLE regulatory affairs officer Dave Fiedler summarized as including impacts on small businesses, unclear cost-benefit.

However, Fiedler emphasized that the EGLE—not the ERRC—has final say over whether the new rules are passed.

Can Enbridge be trusted to clean up its own mess?

A Michigan court recently ruled that legislation to establish a new pipeline for Enbridge to move oil through the Straits of Mackinac is constitutional. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Governor Gretchen Whitmer will appeal the ruling. Following the decision, Liz Kirkwood from the Michigan group For the Love of Water (FLOW) made her own case against the pipeline in Bridge Magazine.

Among other things, she calls out Enbridge’s hardball tactics to influence lawmakers and the public with their ads that say, “We’re working to protect Michigan’s water” while using images of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) employee without getting his permission. More significantly, she questions Enbridge’s ability to pay for the damages from a pipeline leak into the Great Lakes.

On Tuesday, Enbridge representative Ryan Duffy told Bridge that it has $1.878 billion dollars to cover damage from a spill in the Straits. However, a study commissioned by Nessel suggests that Enbridge wouldn’t be contractually obligated to cover the costs of such an event. One might also wonder if the $1.8 billion is sufficient. At least one study has estimated the cost of a Line 5 oil spill at $45 million.

Trump begins the formal withdrawal process from Paris Agreement

The Trump Administration has notified the United Nations that it will begin the process to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. Trump first announced that he would pull out of the agreement in 2017, which he referred to this week as the “horrible, costly, one-sided Paris climate accord”.

Yet, inaction could be costly as well. In the Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells writes, “Every degree of warming, its been estimated, costs a temperate country like the United States about one percentage point of GDP…”

The Paris Agreement has already failed to drive much action on reducing future warming with David Roberts reporting in Vox:

The Climate Action Tracker has calculated that the initial pledges, if fully implemented, would have led to global warming of between 2.5 and 3.8 degrees Celsius. But the trajectory of current policy leads to 2.5 to 4.4 degrees — an outcome all parties agree would be devastating.


Solutions & Bright Spots

***SPONSORED EVENT*** Stop in and check out Arts & Scraps pop-up series at Norwest Gallery of Art in Grandmont Rosedale! Details >>>
This pop-up series will be set up at 19556 Grand River on Fridays and Saturdays (12pm - 6pm) through December. We will have a wide selection of unique recycled materials available at the pop-up shop for artists in the neighborhood to explore and create with! Come visit during one of these dates and find out just what might inspire you!    ***Interested in our SPONSORED EVENTS space? Email us with your details at***

CONNECT: Engage with Detroit’s environment

Have an opportunity you’d like to see featured here? Let us know at

November 8 | Michigan Interfaith Power & Light Conference | Detroit >>>

November 9 | Wild Edibles | Rochester Hills >>>

November 9 | Michigan Urban farming Initiative Fall Perennial Planting Day! | Detroit >>>

November 9 | VegMichigan Thanksgiving Buffet Annual Fundraiser | Old Shillelagh >>>

November 12 | Septic System & Well Use/Maintenance Workshop | Clinton Township >>>

November 12 | Energy and Environment Fireside Chat | Troy >>>

November 13 | City of Ann Arbor Town Hall on Carbon Neutrality | Ann Arbor >>>

November 13 | Your Water, Your Voice: Great Waters, Great Economy in Detroit | >>>

November 13 | Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Green MuseumTown Hall | Detroit >>>

November 13 | MSUE Offers Master Composting Course | Clinton Township >>>

November 15-17 Grounding: Discovering our sacred gifts in a climate emergency | Guelph, ON >>>

November 16 | Hazel Park Nature Initiative Fall Cleanup | Hazel Park >>>

November 20 | Michigan Sustainability Conference | Lansing >>>

November 20 "| You can pickle that! | Berkley >>>

November 21 | City of Grosse Pointe Urban Forestry Commission | Grosse Pointe Farms >>>

November 21 | How to compost at home | Novi >>>

November 22 | F**k Authenticity: Detroit chefs on food and identity | Detroit >>>

December 3 | Oakland Beekeepers Club | Bloomfield Hills >>>

January 4 | Detroit Garden Center Annual Meeting | Belle Isle Nature Center >>>

January 28 | Seed Swap | Ypsilanti >>>

February 29 | Quiet Adventures Symposium | Lansing >>>


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