Archive for November, 2009

View of Lake Michigan: At the Beach in November

November 28th, 2009 No comments
Categories: View of Lake Michigan

EROWI – Energy Return of Water Invested

November 24th, 2009 No comments

via [ The Oil Drum ]

The data in the table originate from “Energy demands on water resources”, report to the congress, 2006 [ link ]

For the past century, America has invested significant research, development, and construction funding to develop both fresh surface- water and groundwater resources. The result is a water infrastructure that allows us to harness the vast resources of the country’s rivers and watersheds, control floods, and store water during droughts to provide reliable supplies of freshwater for agricultural, industrial, domestic, and energy uses. During this same period, the U.S. developed extensive natural resources such as coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium and created an infrastructure to process and transport these resources in an efficient and cost-effective manner to consumers. These two achievements have helped stimulate unprecedented economic growth and development.

However, as population has increased, demand for energy and water has grown. Competing demands for water supply are affecting the value and availability of the resource. Operation of some energy facilities has been curtailed due to water concerns, and siting and operation of new energy facilities must take into account the value of water resources. U.S. efforts to replace imported energy supplies with nonconventional domestic energy sources have the potential to further increase demand for water.


Water is an integral element of energy resource development and utilization. It is used in energy-resource extraction, refining and processing, and transportation. Water is also an integral part of electric-power generation. It is used directly in hydroelectric generation and is also used extensively for cooling and emissions scrubbing in thermoelectric generation. For example, in calendar year 2000, thermoelectric power generation accounted for 39 percent of all freshwater withdrawals in the U.S., roughly equivalent to water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture (withdrawals are water diverted or withdrawn from a surface-water or groundwater source) (Hutson et al., 2004).

Categories: Energy, The Water I Drink

Asking Locally to Someone Speaking Globally

November 24th, 2009 No comments

A few moments ago I asked Al Gore, who was speaking on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight program the following question.

(My question comes at 36:30)

I would like to thank the Vice President for all his work in global warming.

My question has to do with what we can do to support and redevelop our industrial fence-line communities where the negative impacts of industries have created the most severely unsustainable conditions?

I am speaking directly about what has been allowed to occur on the Southern Shores of Lake Michigan (the world’s greatest fresh water resource), in Northwest Indiana. Where BP, the second largest oil refinery in the country is located, along with ArcelorMittal the largest integrated steel mill and U.S. Steel.

The results of this kind of concentration of industry has created such a threatening environment, effecting the land we use, the air we breath and the water we drink and recreate in. Consequently, this is the location of the:


  • Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal, arguably the most polluted waterway in the country (the only waterway to fail every beneficial use).
  • Joerse Beach, the most polluted beach in the Great Lakes and the third in the country


  • Lake County Indiana’s air-shed – ranking as the 7th most polluted county (of 3,100 counties) based on TRI.


  • ~17% of East Chicago’s residential properties are apart of a superfund site, having been build upon an old lead refinery.
  • ~40% of the lands are considered to be brownfields, e.g., out of productive use and perceived to be contaminated.

Al Gore’s disappointing response highlights a serious perceptual divide.

Now that the environmental debate has been made a middle-class issue. Let’s desegregate Gore’s solution and begin to focus on the source of pollution and the mostly poor minority communities that carry the greatest burden of industrial productivity and receive the heaviest concentration of negative effects from these activities. Middle-class America is so worried in how industry has effected their quality of life, that they haven’t hesitated to acknowledge the devastating effects industry continues to have in the communities in which the industry resides.

150-years ago American’s recognized that it wasn’t a good thing to drink from the same waters in which you shit. So in 1856 Chicago broke ground on America’s first sewage system. Today the challenge is to separate industrial waste and pollutants from the the waters we drink.

Here’s a simple solution – Solve the environmental problems for fence-line industrial communities and you solve the problem for middle-class America and the causes of global warming.

View of Lake Michigan: Workshop on Water

November 18th, 2009 No comments

Workshop: Communicating Watershed Concerns to an Urban John Q. Public

The workshop will be held at the Hammond Marina, 701 Casino Drive, Hammond.

I will be speaking at the workshop on Friday, November 20, discussing barriers to public access on our lakefront. I hope to post my presentation soon.

Speakers to include:

Dan Gardner:

Biographical Information: Dan Gardner directs the water quality enforcement program in Lake County. As director, he oversees a $700,000 program, mandated by the federal Clean Water Act, to clean county rivers and lakes of eroded soil and other pollutants. Previously, he served as executive director of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission.

Dr. Kenneth J. Schoon:

A Geological Perspective of the Calumet Rivers: The routes of the three Calumet Rivers are the result of the glacial, lacustrine, and human histories of the area. The glaciers set the stage, the waves of Lake Michigan altered the landscape and determined the original routes of the Calumet Rivers, and human intervention has made additional alterations. Human actions sometimes have unintended consequences.

Biographical Information: Dr. Schoon is a professor of science education at IU Northwest and teaches the methods of teaching science to preservice teachers. He has an A.B. in geology and an M.S. in secondary education both from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University of Chicago. Since January of 1999 he has served the School of Education as Associate Dean.

After 22 years experience teaching middle and high school science, in 1990 Dr. Schoon joined IU Northwest’s Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP). Two years later he became the science-education faculty member for the School of Education.

Dr. Schoon’s research interests center around local studies and misconceptions in science. He serves on the coordinating committee for Science Olympiad, He is a part president of the board of the Dunes Learning Center.

Dr. Schoon’s book, Calumet Beginnings, was released in October of 2003 and is now in its 5th printing. A tree identification book focusing on Midwestern urban trees should be released next year.

George Roadcap:

Biographical Information: Dr. Roadcap is a hydrologist with the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois, Champaign, IL. His research in the Calumet region dates to 1996 with the diagnostic-feasibility study of Wolf Lake and Lake George. This was followed by an assessment of the hydrology and water quality at Indian Ridge Marsh and the potential effects of wetland rehabilitation in 1999. His research includes projects in Kane, Will, McLean, and Tazewell counties in Illinois.

Nicole Kamins:

A brief PowerPoint presentation describes the Hegewisch Marsh water control structure project.

Biographical Information: Nicole Kamins is a Program Director with the City of Chicago Department of Environment. For more than ten years, she has advanced the Calumet Initiative, an effort to revitalize open space on the Southeast Side. In that time she has helped to secure over $3 million dollars in grant funding for ecological restoration, stewardship, and research for Calumet. Nicole earned her B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her M.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

George Van Til:

In the State of Indiana, County Surveyors are responsible for some aspects of the care and maintenance of creeks and ditches that are considered county regulated or “legal” drains, as part of the state’s patchwork quilt of drainage laws and regulations.

Biographical Information: Van Til has been dealing with these issues during his 17 years as Lake County Surveyor as he stressed coordination, intergovernmental cooperation and planning for flood and pollution control, while working in tandem with the County Commissioners on the Drainage Board.

Before this he was involved in drainage concerns for 8 years on the Highland Town Council on its Flood Control Committee and for 2 years on the County Council as Chairman of the Council’s Drainage Board and Surveyor’s Committee.

During his service in this office he missed only 1 public meeting in nearly 28 years while developing many projects and unheralded improvements. Van Til has been heavily involved for many years in many civic, charitable and environmental organizations and efforts, as well as AWLI.

Kathy Luther:

Tom McDermott Jr., Mayor of Hammond:

Rory Robinson:

In 2000, the National Park Service (NPS) took the lead in facilitating a public process that involved nearly 150 participants that developed a shared vision for the future planning protection and development significant natural and recreation resources of Wolf Lake. Many of the goals and actions defined jointly during this process have been implemented, many more not. Rory Robinson of the National Park Service will look back at this effort and forward at what can be done to complete this vision.

Biographical Information: Rory L. Robinson, During his thirty year career with the National Park Service, Rory has worked in five different NPS units primarily in the fields of interpretation and cultural resources management. For the past 15 years, Rory has worked in the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program where he has provided assistance to the Ohio and Erie Canal, Maumee Valley, and Wabash River Heritage Corridors. He has been involved in trails planning efforts throughout Indiana and Ohio, and worked on river and watershed projects along the Little Miami, Wabash and Blue Rivers.

In 2006 Rory received the Mike Carroll Award for Distinguished Leadership by a Professional Planner by the Indiana Planning Association. He provided leadership in the nationwide Towpaths-to-Trails Initiative with the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy, and the revitalization of the National Recreation Trails program. A native of Northeast Ohio, Rory holds a BS in Parks and Recreation Management and Environmental Interpretation from The Ohio State University. Phone: 330-657-2950, E-mail:

Pete Visclosky:

Biographical Information: A lifelong resident of Northwest Indiana, Pete Visclosky represents Indiana’s First Congressional District, which includes Lake, Porter, Jasper, Newton and Benton Counties. A member of the Appropriations Committee, Visclosky serves as the Chairman of the Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee. He also serves on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and is the chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus.

Through his position as Chairman of the Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Pete has worked in a bi-partisan fashion to boost research and development funding for alternative energy sources and new conservation initiatives. Working with Senator Richard Lugar, Visclosky was also able to secure $9.5 million for the construction of a bio-mass ethanol plant in Indiana’s First Congressional District.

In addition to supporting steel and manufacturing jobs in Northwest Indiana, Visclosky has been a leading advocate for major economic development projects throughout the area, including the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana and the Marquette Plan, Pete’s strategy to invest in Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Additionally, Visclosky has supported local infrastructure projects that will help build a new economy in Northwest Indiana, such as the South Shore Rail Line and the Gary/Chicago Airport.

Pete was born in Gary and graduated from Andrean High School in Merrillville, He earned a B.S. degree in Accounting from Indiana University Northwest, a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1973, and a Masters degree in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University.

Mike Molnar:

The purpose of the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program is to enhance the State’s role in planning for and managing natural and cultural resources in the coastal region and to support partnerships between federal, state and local agencies and organizations. The Program provides financial and technical assistance to state, local and regional government and NGOs to protect, preserve and properly manage coastal resources. This presentation provides an overview of the opportunities available for resource management under the Coastal Program.

Biographical Information: Mike Molnar is the manager of the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program, and has served in that capacity for six and a half years. Born and raised along the shores of Lake Erie, Mike learned first-hand the environmental impacts of pollution on the Great Lakes and how combined efforts can result in success. He developed a lifelong love and appreciation of the Great Lakes through many fishing and camping trips with his family as a child. Molnar is a graduate of Miami University of Oxford, Ohio and Indiana University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science and a master’s degree in public administration from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He is a firm believer that through accountable and efficient planning, practice and stewardship we can make a difference.

Rod Sellers:

The Bi-State Calumet through the Years. A century ago Daniel Burnham’s Plan for Chicago did not stop at the state line, but continued across the Calumet region to Michigan City. Maps used by early settlers followed Native American trails along ridge lines and early planners followed these trails that had evolved into roads and waterways or rail lines with little regard for state boundaries, much less those of counties, townships, villages and cities.

Biography: Rod Sellers taught American History, Chicago History, and Law at Bowen High School and Washington High School in Chicago. He is retired after a 34 year career with the Chicago Public Schools. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree in Urban Studies, and a master’s degree in Public Service, both from Governors State University.

Rod has a special interest in local history and volunteers at the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. The museum has a collection of thousands of photographs, slides, and negatives, as well as artifacts and documents related to family and community history. Rod has worked extensively with the Southeast Chicago Historical Project Collection since its acquisition by the Southeast Chicago Historical Society. He is the co-author of Chicago’s Southeast Side, a pictorial history of the community and is the author of Chicago’s Southeast Side Revisited both published by Arcadia Publishing.

Thomas Frank:

A brief discussion on the barriers to access in our older urban industrial communities along our southern shores of Lake Michigan.

Biographical Information: A fairly recent settler to East Chicago, Thomas has a long family history with the Chicago region. In recent years he has worked to address the concerns of the older urban industrial communities along the southern shores of Lake Michigan, while pursuing a masters degree in urban planning at University of Illinois Chicago. He served as President of the East Chicago Redevelopment Commission. Participated in regional planning initiatives. Initiated a comprehensive plan for the City of East Chicago, and served as Director of the East Chicago Waterway Management District with the responsibilities to envision a waterway that meets the environmental, demographic and economic needs of the coming decades. He is also a past director of the Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative.

He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1987 with a degree in Painting, Philosophy, and a concentration in Languages (French and Russian), and studied for a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1993 He graduated from Indiana University with an MFA in Painting.

He spent the next decade working in Medical Education where he secured funding from the Washington Post to launch, the leading online learning community for medical students and professionals around the world. He is presently pursuing a career as an artist and maintaining a blog at:

John Pope:

Biographical Information: Alderman John Pope is a lifelong resident of Chicago’s 10th Ward which is located on the far southeast side of the City. The captain of Mount Carmel’s football team, Pope then attended Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana where he was a member of the Student Council, played football, and obtained a degree in economics.

He worked as an analyst in the City of Chicago’s Office of Budget and Management for 3 years and later served in the City’s Building Department as Director of Demolition. Pope then served as an assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley and was involved with neighborhood improvement and infrastructure programs.

Pope became Alderman of the 10th Ward on May 3, 1999 when he was sworn in at the City of Chicago’s City Council meeting. John was re-elected for his second term on February 25, 2003.Pope sits on various City Council committees including: Economic & Capital Development, Special Events where he serves as the Co-Chair, Housing & Real Estate, Energy, Environmental Protection & Public Utilities, and Police & Fire, and Buildings.

The workshop is co-sponsored by the Indiana Lake Management Society and the Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative. For further information on the workshop, call 219 933-7149 or 312-220-0120.

Environment: Reframing 1st Principles

November 7th, 2009 2 comments

“The Precautionary Principle” | “Law of the Commons” | “Guardians of Future Generations”

Carolyn Raffensperger of the Science and Environmental Health Network has one of the clearest voices on reframing environmental issues. Carolyn spoke today on Illinois Public Radio discussing the “Precautionary Principle” the “Law of the Commons” and being “Guardians of Future Generations.”

I find myself a student of her great work.

Protecting Public Health & the Environment

Categories: Environment

Environment: Indiana Dunes Among Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

November 5th, 2009 No comments

via [ Great Lakes Echo ] “Climate Change greatest threat to national parks; Indiana Dunes among most at risk”, By Haley Walker and Yang Zhang

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is among U.S. national parks most vulnerable to climate change, according to a recent report.

The park on the southern end of Lake Michigan faces an increase in flooding, overcrowding and air pollution and a loss of wildlife, plants and fish.

The report includes 32 recommendations to reduce the impact of climate change on national parks, lakeshores and monuments.

“I think we should regard this as the biggest threat there has ever been to national parks, in terms of their ecological integrity,” Easley said. “We are quite optimistic however that things can be done to mitigate these effects.”

Full Report [ pdf ] By Stephen Saunders, Tom Easley, Susan Farver, Contributors: Jesse A. Logan, Theo Spencer.

Categories: Environment

The Air I Breath: The Significance of EPA’s Challenge to BP’s Air Permit

November 2nd, 2009 No comments

As you can see I have been a skeptic of the EPA”s recent challenge to BP’s air permit.

<fb comment> a small victory. The EPA has order Indiana to rewrite the permit, essentially discrediting Indiana’s ability to manage their environmental resources. All I see this doing is fortifying a poorly written permit against future disputes. In the end BP is the beneficiary of the action</fb comment>

Noah Hall, author of the Great Lakes Law blog is beginning to clear me of my skepticism.

via [ Great Lakes Law ]

Tar sands oil gives coal some competition for the title of dirtiest fuel.  From mining to refining to burning, tar sands oil is an environmental disaster.  The Great Lakes is becoming a center for refining imported tar sands oil, which comes from western Canada.  As a result, refinery pollution is threatening our water and our communities.  BP’s Whiting Refinery on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana has become a focal point in the legal fight to stop tar sands pollution in the region.  Environmental groups scored a victory earlier this month when the EPA objected to an Indiana permit for air pollution from the refinery.  Meleah Geertsma, an attorney and public health expert with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, was involved in the fight against the air pollution from the tar sands refinery, and wrote this guest post on the victory and what it means in the fight against tar sands pollution in the Great Lakes.

On October 16, in a move that could significantly improve air quality for the Great Lakes region, the U.S. EPA sent a clear message to the oil industry that the federal agency is serious about air pollution from refining – especially the processing of dirty Canadian tar sands crude. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on that day issued an order objecting to a permit granted by Indiana to BP’s Whiting Refinery, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. At the heart of Administrator Jackson’s order is a concern that numerous potential sources of air pollution are going uncounted and uncontrolled. And that the industry is ignoring or downplaying the air pollution impacts of processing the much heavier, dirtier Canadian tar sands crude, a crude that contains high levels of sulfur and toxic metals.

The BP operating permit was issued to enable a significant increase in the processing of heavy tar sands crude at BP’s Whiting, Indiana facility. However, the permit allowed BP to expand without installing so-called “best available control technology,” on the premise that increases in air pollution from the expansion would be balanced by decreases in pollution from the existing refinery. Such a trade-off of increases and decreases is referred to in air permitting as “netting.”

In response, several environmental groups and individual citizens filed a petition with U.S. EPA, asking the agency to object due to BP’s and the agency’s failure to count numerous potential sources of increased air pollution. Among these sources are increased operations of certain equipment needed to process larger amounts of Canadian crude, as well as greater levels of sulfur and toxics in the crude itself.

Great Lakes Law: Environmental groups and EPA step up the fight against tar sands oil refinery pollution in the Great Lakes.

What I’m Reading

November 1st, 2009 3 comments

I just received copies of two books my Great Great Grandfather, Edward Gay Mason published on the History of Chicago and Illinois. Unfortunately, he died before completing what he expected to be a three volume history of Illinois. I’m just beginning to learn more about this history on my mother’s side and I hope to learn more about my father’s family history. Both sides are inextricably tied to Chicago.

I suppose many people have a sense of the way they move through this world comes from what the behavior and events our ancestor’s faced. Although I have always been secured in my own practice as an artist, this often entailed going off into other disciplines and discovering more about myself and the things I cling to.

Early Chicago and Illinois (1890) by Edward Gay Mason

Chapters From Illinois History (1901) by Edward Gay Mason

Edward Gay Mason was the eldest son of Roswell B. Mason, who I am beginning to understand to have been an important civil engineer in America’s expansion west into the “Hinterlands” and who was Mayor of Chicago during the Chicago Fire of 1871.


“MASON, Edward Gay, historian, was born in Bridgeport, Conn., Aug. 23, 1839; son of Roswell B. and Harriet L. Mason. Roswell B. Mason removed from Connecticut to Chicago, Ill., when that place was a village; was a civil engineer, mayor of the city, and was influential in encouraging business enterprises. Edward Gay Mason was prepared for college in Chicago and was graduated at Yale in 1860. He was admitted to the bar in 1863 and in March, 1865, formed a law partnership under the firm name of Mattocks & Mason. He subsequently practised in partnership with his brothers Alfred and Henry, under the firm name of Mason Brothers. He was married, Dec. 25, 1867, to Julia M. STARKWEATHER of Chicago, Ill. He was president of the Chicago Bar association, the Chicago Literary club, the University Club of Chicago, and the Chicago Historical society, 1887-98, and was a member of various historical societies; a fellow of Yale, 1891-98, and was named successor to President Timothy Dwight of Yale in 1898.

He contributed historical articles to magazines and is the author of numerous papers on the early history of Illinois collected and published as Chapters from Illinois History (1901). He died in Chicago, Ill., Dec. 18, 1898″ [The 20th Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, Vol.7, p.284].


Just a year ago you couldn’t find books like these, but today with on-demand printing and Google Books posting more esoteric and old books, I’m suddenly able to find things I never knew existed. This is changing what we know the about the past.

Categories: Reading List