Great Lakes invasive species proliferate, Is DTE's IRP 'the worst ever?', & Why the Amazon is not our lungs (but still critical)

August 30, 2019 | CO2 409.67 ppm <<

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Giant ragweed. Via Flickr.

Invasive species proliferate in the Great Lakes

Invasive species continue to make news in the Great Lakes , most recently with reports of the arrival of European frogbit in Michigan’s inland lakes. Like many invasive species, this plant used in aquariums is so small and innocuous looking that it would hardly seem worth paying attention to. But multiplied a few billion times over, it becomes a problem, forming thick mats, choking out other invasive species, and making it difficult for fish to move around.

According to Bridge Magazine, that regulation of ballast water used to to balance and stabilize freighters in the lakes has helped slow the spread of invasive species. But the law exempts “lakers”— freighters which travel exclusively within the Great Lakes and can move species from point to point within the watershed.

A number of species have spread across the Great Lakes in the recent years, including the problematic quagga mussel that threatens to disrupt the entire food web, pesky starry-stonewort and chronically unloved rock snot (which may actually be native but enhanced by climate change). The presence of quagga and zebra mussels in particular has been shown to correlate with a decline in whitefish, a culturally and economically important species.

Learn more in this video from Nature Change:

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently drawing up new standards for handling ballast water, but the US Coast Guard will decide how these are implemented. The deadline for the new standards is 2020.

Across Detroit

DTE Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan continues to draw heat | A blog post from Joseph Daniel at the Union of Concerned Scientists pulled no punches this week, asking “Is this Michigan Utility’s Resource Plan the Worst Ever?” Among the elements of the IRP that Daniel dislikes is how DTE executed the proprietary modeling used to develop the plan, which he says,

actually prevented the model from selecting resources that would otherwise provide real economic value to DTE’s customers. This is the exact opposite of the outcome one should hope for when conducting resource planning. 

According to him, the model as implemented by DTE for the IRP forces the utility to run coal and gas even when it is uneconomic to do so. Other problems include the company’s stance on energy waste, which it has said is “not cost-effective” to reduce (???) . Cost effective for whom was not immediately clear.

The author concludes that the plan’s modeling is a “sham analysis”.

In all my years of reviewing IRPs, the DTE IRP might be the worst. The only thing preventing me from using more definitive language is that I’m not entirely certain it qualifies as an IRP.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has also called out DTE for the plan’s underinvestment in solar energy, saying that its IRP essentially disregards the utility’s own modeling. In testimony to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), SEIA Director of Rate Design Kevin Lucas said that an investment in 2 gigawatts of solar-energy in the near term could save customers around $1 billion by 2040 when compared with the current plan.

Bills seek to hold polluters accountable in Detroit, Dearborn | State representative Abdullah Hammoud from Dearborn is co-sponsoring a package of bills along with several other legislators to address the high levels of pollution in Dearborn, Southwest Detroit and neighboring areas.

Hammoud held his press conference in a playground in a part of Dearborn where the asthma rate is two to four times higher than other areas.

This playground that is no more than 800 feet away from a steel factory to its back,” Hammoud said. “I think this serves as the picture of environmental justice that is far too normal in communities such as Dearborn and nearby communities

The bills—set to be introduced next week—would strengthen air-quality standards and increase local control over permitting for emissions. A.K. Steel is singled out as a frequent violator of the Clean Air Act on the Michigan House Democrats’ website and is a likely target of the legislation.

Itchy nose, dry eyes? | Detour Detroit took a closer look this week at research done out of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, originally reported in Undark, on the link between demolitions and ragweed, a potent allergen that can worsen asthma in a city with already high asthma rates.

According to the study:

Of the parcels with ragweed, 75.9% were vacant, 64.5% contained a demolished structure, and 50.4% were vacant lots where a demolition had occurred 

This map shows what the researchers found:

Source: Landscape and Urban Planning Volume 190, October 2019, 103615

Detour Detroit also discuss the pros and cons of various land management techniques like intermittent mowing (good for plant diversity, attracts dumping) and seeding with ecologically diverse plantings (more pollinators, needs mowing and management).

Across Michigan & the Great Lakes

Renewable energy shows potential in farm country | Like much of the nation, rural Michigan has been hit hard by flooding in the spring as well as the Trump administration’s ongoing trade war with China. Wind and solar power offer opportunities that could help farmers with revenue sources that are often compatible with agriculture.

Crain’s profiled farmers installing solar panels in Saginaw and Eaton counties. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has supported these efforts with an an executive order that allows farmers to install renewable energy over 3.4 million acres of the state without ending their contracts with the state to retain it for agricultural use, which could otherwise cost them thousands of dollars.

Elsewhere, Bridge Magazine reported on how wind farms in places like Gratiot County and Huron County are helping boost rural school districts. University of Michigan researcher Sara Mills says

Introducing new services, hiring more teachers, is something that most local governments don’t have the luxury of doing, but in places with wind farms they have been able to maintain if not improve some services.

Another benefit of these technologies is that they often allow for planting or at least animal foraging underneath, preserving the land for agricultural uses while generating additional revenue.

Draining Lake Michigan for Foxconn | Detroiter and author of The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy. Anna Clark penned this editorial for the Washington Post exploring how Taiwanese company Foxconn and its host city Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin essentially cheated (Clark uses the word “sidestepped”) the Great Lakes Compact by getting coastal Racine to expand its service area to include the plant. Thus, although the Foxconn plant is located outside of the Great Lakes watershed, it did not have to go through the compact process, something that took Waukesha, Wisconsin 7 years to do when it sought an alternative to its radium-contaminated municipal water system. As Clark notes, the Great Lakes are “are vast, but they are not limitless.”

The New York Times took the Great Lakes Circle Tour | An NYT writer and a photographer drove over “1,234 miles, four states, two time zones and 34 counties” to document how rising Great Lakes water levels impacted beach towns this summer in a photo documentary piece entitles “Summer on the Swollen Great Lakes.” They found shrinking beaches, erosion, faltering sea walls, overwhelmed sewer systems, failing bridges, endangered piping plovers, underwater roads, trails, and marina docks, and more.

Across the Globe

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The Amazon is not our lungs, but fire is still a major problem | An article by Michael Shellenberger in Forbes this week argues that recent concern over fires in the Amazon rainforest that have referenced it as our “lungs” are misplaced. As Amazon expert Dan Nepstad says:

“It’s bullshit…There’s no science behind that. The Amazon produces a lot of oxygen but it uses the same amount of oxygen through respiration so it’s a wash.”

And yet, the destruction of one of the world’s largest sites of carbon-storage—particularly by fire for chrissakes!—is a major concern. Still, Shellenberger cites experts who say that more of the rainforest has been burned in past years, and that most of this year’s fires have been on previously cleared land.

The New York Times says that the Amazon is only one of many areas where fires are out of control this year. Forest fires in Indonesia, Siberia and sub-Saharan Africa are all showing signs of events that have been exacerbated by climate change.

The lungs argument may be inaccurate, but there’s no disputing that forests and trees represent a significant opportunity for ameliorating climate change. In two words: carbon storage.

Where is the “next Flint?” | America has a problem with lead in its drinking water, and it seems to be concentrated in poor, Black cities. Newark is the latest example of the “next Flint” (except that officials there have known about the problem for years.) Resident Michigan badass Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha has some thoughts:

Flint and Washington and Newark are all viewed as black cities and have a shared history of segregation, redlining, race riots, white flight, economic decline, violence, a pernicious drug epidemic and a loss of local control. Newark’s water crisis, like Flint’s and even Washington’s, is an obvious case of environmental racism, a case of blindness to the people, places and problems we choose not to see.

Connect | Engage with Detroit’s environment

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

August 30 | Detroit Critical Mass | Detroit >>>

September 1 | Trash Fishing Round #6 | Ecorse >>>

September 4 | Autumn Gardening: The Late Show | Royal Oak >>>

September 5 | Healthy Soils and Wise Fertilizing | Mt. Clemens >>>

September 7 | Native Plant Sale, North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy | Clarkston  >>>

September 7 | Nature Walk | Eliza Howell Park, Detroit | >>>

September 7 | Native Garden Tour | Stage Nature Center, Troy | >>>

September 8 | Make Food Not Waste | Eastern Market >>>

September 8 | Michigan Monarch Festival | Clarkston >>>

September 8 | Downriver Butterflies Plant Swap | Lincoln Park >>>

September 10 | The 13th Annual Garden Party on Belle Isle | Belle Isle >>>

September 12 | Crafts on the Clinton | Yates Cider Mill >>>

September 14 | Fall Migratory Bird Walk #1 | Davisburg >>>

September 14 | Monarch Butterfly Tag & Release | Livonia >>>

September 14 | Bird Walk at Ford House | Grosse Pointe >>>

September 15 | Cranbrook Gardens Tour | Bloomfield Hills >>>

September 21 | 13th Annual D-Town Farm Harvest Festival | Detroit >>>

September 21 | Applied Soil Mycology with Leif Olson (hosted by FungiFreights | Detroit >>>

September 24 | The Gardening Guru: Soil, Water and Hardscapes | Southfield >>>

October 4 | Wild Night Out | Pontiac >>>

October 5 | State of Compost | Detroit >>>

October 9 | Bees, pollination and beekeeping | Clinton Township >>>

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