Staying Warm: Largest Energy Efficiency Standards in History

For Friday, Jan. 22, 2016

1 – State policies to spur renewable energy have billions in benefits.

A new study estimates $2.2 billion in national benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to state renewable portfolio standards, like one in Michigan that ended in 2015.

retro-analysis-nrel

Find the report here

Another $5.2 billion in benefits came from national reductions in other air pollution.

The U.S. Department of Energy report looked at policies in effect during 2013.

Michigan’s 10 percent by 2015 standard for renewable energy was signed into law in 2008, and resulted in the construction of numerous wind farms, primarily in the Thumb region.

The report also shows national water withdrawals were reduced by 830 billion gallons and consumption was cut by 27 billion gallons.

Although the study takes a national view, the authors say many of the associated benefits and impacts were highly regional.

For example, the economic benefits from air pollution reductions were associated mostly with reduced sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and were concentrated primarily in areas including the Great Lakes.

– Fact Sheet

2 – Up to $5 million is available for local governments, nonprofits and other organizations to restore and enhance habitat in the Great Lakes basin.

Sustain Our Great Lakes, a public-private partnership, is taking pre-proposals until Feb. 17 for the funding.

Full proposals are due by April 21.

The program will award grants for on-the-ground habitat improvements.

The focus in this round is on improving the quality and connectivity of streams, riparian zones and coastal wetlands.

Preference will be given to projects designed to improve populations of species of conservation concern, including … native migratory fish such as brook trout and lake sturgeon, and marsh-spawning fish such as northern pike.

northern-pike-sikkema

Northern pike. Credit: Kelly Sikkema

Preference will also be given to projects that reduce sediment and nutrient loading to streams and other waters.

Up to $5 million is expected to be available for grant awards in 2016, with funding from partners including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

3 – It’s important to keep buildings warm in the winter.

And the cost and environmental impact of winter warmth will decline in coming years.

A U.S. agency has launched the largest energy efficiency standards in history.

They apply to commercial air conditioners and furnaces, used in buildings such as schools, restaurants, big-box stores and small offices.

It’s estimated that the changes will save more energy than any other standard ever issued by the U.S. Department of Energy.

winter-warmth-kart

Staying warm. Credit: Jeff Kart

Over the lifetime of the products, businesses will save $167 billion on utility bills and carbon pollution will be cut by 885 million metric tons, the energy department says.

The new air conditioning and furnace standards will occur in two phases.

The first will begin in 2018, with a 13 percent efficiency improvement in products.

Five years later, an additional 15% increase in efficiency is required.

The standards were developed in a rulemaking process with industry, utilities, and environmental groups.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

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Septic Tanks Don’t Work, Restoration Does

For Friday, Aug, 7, 2015

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/ng90urix4mxpayo/8-7-15-environment-report-mrgreatlakes.mp3]

1 – Great Lakes restoration projects are coming to Northeast Michigan.

Sustain Our Great Lakes, a public-private partnership, is funding 20 projects at a total cost of more than $5.7 million.

That money includes $350,000 to Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord.

Huron Pines will use $115,000 to restore more than 350 acres of wetland and shoreline habitat by controlling invasive species, planting native buffers, and reconnecting upland and wetland habitat.

Another $235,000 will be used in the Au Gres River Watershed, to replace five road–stream crossings, install in-stream habitat structures, and implement agricultural conservation practices.

Other grants went to conservation organizations and public agencies in Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

2 – Researchers at Michigan State University say, bluntly, that “septic tanks aren’t keeping poo out of rivers and lakes.”

poo sign michigan msu septic tanks

Credit: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson

The researchers sampled 64 river systems in Michigan for E. coli and human fecal bacteria as part of largest watershed study of its kind to date.

Sample after sample, bacterial concentrations were highest where there were higher numbers of septic systems in the watershed area.

It has been assumed that soil can filter human sewage, working as a natural treatment system. Unfortunately, such systems do not keep E. coli and other pathogens from water supplies, the researchers say.

The MSU study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers say information from the study is vital for improving management decisions for locating, constructing, and maintaining on-site wastewater treatment systems.

3 – Old habitat is being reopened to Saginaw Bay fish.

A Frankenmuth fish passage project began last week. The work will reconnect fish of the Saginaw Bay to more than 70 miles of historically significant spawning areas.

Construction crews are assembling a “rock rapids” system along the Cass River, which will allow passage of walleye, sturgeon and other fish beyond the a dam to areas that have not been accessible for more than 150 years.

Early work on the project was supported by the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, headquartered in Bay City.

The project should be mostly complete by mid-September.

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– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Saginaw Bay Could Benefit from Sustain Our Great Lakes: See the GLEAM Map

Mr. Great Lakes. As heard on Fridays on Q-90.1 FM, 9 a.m. Eastern. The Jan. 11, 2013, broadcast is below … (starts at 6:37)

great lakes gleam map saginaw bay

Saginaw Bay, on the GLEAM map.

1 — The Saginaw Bay area could see an influx of funding for habitat restoration and other environmental improvements.

The Sustain Our Great Lakes program, a public-private partnership, is accepting applications for funding through its 2013 grant cycle.

The submission deadline is Feb. 14.

This year, grant funding will be awarded in three categories:

  • Habitat restoration
  • Private landowner technical assistance, and
  • Delisting of habitat-related Beneficial Use Impairments.

Beneficial Use Impairments refer to Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes, which include the Saginaw River and Bay.

To apply for funding, projects must occur within the Great Lakes basin. Eligible applicants include nonprofits, educational institutions, and local governments.

Up to $9 million is expected to be available for Sustain Our Great Lakes awards, with individual awards ranging from $25,000 to $1.5 million.

Request for proposals (pdf).

2 — Saginaw Bay is red on a new map of environmental stressors in the Great Lakes.

The map comes from the GLEAM project, which stands for Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping.

The map, three years in the making, identifies environmental stressors from Minnesota to Ontario, according to University of Michigan researchers.

The project’s lead researcher says the condition of the Great Lakes continues to be degraded by stressors including coastal development, pollutants transported by rivers from agricultural and urban land, fishing pressure, climate change, invasive species, and toxic chemicals.

“Large sub-regions of moderate to high cumulative stress were found in lakes Erie and Ontario as well as in Saginaw and Green bays, and along Lake Michigan’s shorelines.

In contrast, extensive offshore areas of lakes Superior and Huron, where the coasts are less populated and developed, experience relatively low stress,” researchers say.

The map is designed to be used by federal and regional officials to sustainably manage the Great Lakes.

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Cleaning up the Rifle, Asian Carp Salesmen, and 1 Million Michigan Campers

As heard 9 a.m. Eastern, Oct. 26, 2012, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College NPR … 

Photo by Willie Lunchmeat (really)


1 – The nonprofit Huron Pines group in Gaylord is expanding its Rifle River Watershed Project. 

The group recently received a grant of nearly $700,000 for the work.

The broader program will cover the entire northern Saginaw Bay, according to the group, adding in the AuGres and Tawas watersheds.

The aim is to improve the water quality of the bay, increase and improve stream habitat for fish, and reduce runoff that negatively impacts rivers. Goals of the project include reducing sediment pollution by 850 tons a year and phosphorus inputs by 200 pounds a year.

With the most recent grant, from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes program, Huron Pines has added a fulltime watershed project manager.

The Rifle is one of 16 Designated Natural Rivers in Michigan and is a tributary to Saginaw Bay.


2 – Hey, wanna buy some Asian carp?  

The Great Lakes Commission is helping crack down on people who sell aquatic invasive species online.

The Commission is developing web-crawling software to troll the Internet for the sellers of plants and animals for use in aquariums, nurseries, water gardens, aquaculture, and as live bait.

Accidental or intentional releases of live organisms sold online can adversely impact the Great Lakes.

But officials say little is being done to prevent potentially invasive species from being imported, traded, or released into the lakes via the Internet.

Sellers identified by the software will be contacted about relevant regulations and potential risks associated with the species they’re selling. The tool also will be available to regulators who may take further action.

3 – Camping season is pretty much over for the year, and Michigan state parks are celebrating a milestone.  

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently marked the 1 millionth camp night of the 2012 season at a state park in St. Clair County.

There haven’t been that many campers in one season since 2005, officials say.

Michigan state parks have seen a 7 percent increase in advance reservations this year, compared to 2011.

Officials attribute the rise, in part, to travelers with strained vacation budgets, and a lower-cost Recreation Passport for entrance to state parks.

For the record, some Michigan state parks offer year-round camping and cabin rentals, so you can camp this winter if you’re up for it.


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Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay See Study Focus, and Restoration Funding

photo rv lake guardian great lakes research vessel

Via U. of Michigan

As heard Aug. 10, 2012, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM, Friday Edition, Environment Report … (I’ve been on vacation) …

The Least-Studied Great Lake

Lake Huron is home to a new long-term research program by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers from NOAA, and the agency’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor, have set up a base in Alpena, at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

According to Great Lakes Echo, scientists at the Alpena station are studying water quality, invasive species, nutrient levels and physical properties of the lake.

The program’s lead researcher says Lake Huron is the least-studied of the Great Lakes, although previous work has been done in Saginaw Bay.

The latest research is to focus mainly on significant changes in the Lake Huron ecosystem, including increases in algal blooms and shoreline muck.

The research is being done, in part, to help develop more effective methods for managing fish production and water quality in the lake.

The work also is being done with equipment including the Research Vessel Lake Guardian, which used to dock in downtown Bay City.

Watershed Management Gets Money

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has announced $4 million in grant funding for water quality improvement projects.

The money, from the state Clean Michigan Initiative and federal Clean Water Act, will go to restore and protect state wetlands, lakes and streams.

Those eligible to apply include local governments, nonprofits, and universities.

The Clean Michigan Initiative money totals about $1 million and is available for watershed management plans

The Clean Water Act funding totals about $3 million and is available to develop watershed management plans or implement key parts of previously approved watershed management plans.

Areas in the Saginaw Bay District with approved watershed management plans include the Kawkawlin River, Pigeon River, Pinnebog River and Rifle River.

Matching funds of 15-25 percent are required for the pools of grant money. For more information, see the DEQ website.

Watershed management plans considers all uses, pollutant sources, and impacts within a drainage area, according to DEQ. The plan serve as guides for communities to protect and improve their water quality.

Sustain Our Great Lakes

Meanwhile, a public-private group called Sustain Our Great Lakes has announced more than $8 million in grants to fund restoration projects throughout the Great Lakes basin.

The funding from Sustain Our Great Lakes is intended to improve “the quality and connectivity of tributary, wetland and coastal habitats.”

The money includes almost $700,000 to improve 150 acres of wetlands, and improve water quality in the northern Saginaw Bay watershed. That work will be overseen by the Huron Pines Resource Conservation & Development Area Council.

The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy also is receiving $150,000 to control invasive phragmites and restore 101 acres, 11,700 linear feet of stream bank, and 10,100 linear feet of coastal habitat along Saginaw Bay.

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