Archive

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The Great Lakes: Water Levels on the Rise

December 28th, 2009 No comments

via [ AP ]

DETROIT — Water levels in the Great Lakes are continuing a two-year rebound.

The Detroit News reports today that the latest estimates from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers show levels in the Lake Michigan-Huron system and Lake Superior are between five inches and nine inches above levels from one year ago.

Statistics also show Lake St. Clair is one inch lower than last year, and Ontario is three inches lower.

Army Corps data indicates Lakes Ontario, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Superior ended November within inches of historical levels for this time of year. Lake St. Clair is slightly above its historical level.

The lakes had been declining for most of the past decade

Categories: View of Lake Michigan

View of Lake Michigan: States sue to prevent spread of Asian carp

December 28th, 2009 No comments

via [ Journal Sentinel ]

Michigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to close shipping locks near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and endangering their $7 billion fishery.

State Attorney General Mike Cox filed a lawsuit Monday with the nation’s highest court against Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. They operate canals and other waterways that open into Lake Michigan.

Bighead and silver carp from Asia have been detected in those waterways after migrating north in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers for decades

via [ Chicago Public Radio ]

Ohio Endorses Lawsuit Against Illinois in Battle over Carp.

Categories: View of Lake Michigan

The Water I Drink: Trading on The Great Lakes Water Resources

December 28th, 2009 No comments

Quarterly average water bills for high-volume industrial customers:

  • Sheboygan: $37,119
  • Milwaukee: $41,151
  • St. Louis: $53,497
  • Green Bay: $64,086
  • Chicago: $65,800
  • Dallas: $79,512
  • Louisville: $80,087
  • Kansas City: $90,544
  • Philadelphia: $105,717
  • Denver: $110,717
  • New York: $115,528
  • Cleveland: $121,430
  • San Diego: $157,557
  • Pittsburgh: $172,367
  • Phoenix: $176,405
  • Seattle: $209,482
  • Atlanta: $251,984
  • Los Angeles: $274,000

Source: Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

via [ Journal Sentinel ]

Milwaukee, which has a lackluster record in luring new industry with tax breaks or subsidies, has a new plan up its sleeve: giving deeply discounted water to new companies that create jobs.

At a time when regions such as metro Atlanta and the Southwest face acute water shortages, the Milwaukee Water Works operates at only a third of its capacity. And it draws off the Great Lakes, which hold a fifth of the world’s surface supply of freshwater.

That means the city, which operates the utility, can add new water customers at marginal cost – even if they guzzle prodigious volumes of water.

“This is our comparative advantage,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Monday at a conference on the economics of water at Marquette University. “We have to sell on our comparative advantage. We cannot sell our winter weather.”

“We would be the first city to offer water for jobs,” said Richard Meeusen, the chief executive of Badger Meter Inc., a Brown Deer-based maker of water meters.

Meeusen said Milwaukee should begin by poaching industries from metro Atlanta, which was regarded as an economic boomtown for the past two decades. Atlanta, which already faces water shortages, will confront even tougher challenges after a federal judge ruled in July that Atlanta must stop drawing water from its Lake Lanier reservoir within three years.

“Their taps are going to run dry in three years,” Meeusen told the conference. “We should be running full-page ads in the Atlanta papers, ‘Worried about Water?’

John Laumer of Treehugger offers a response Milwaukee’s plan for economic development.
via [ Treehugger ]

Although superficially, this may seem quite sensible, there is a high risk of unintended and unwanted consequences if a cheap water incentive were offered to all comers. The choice is one of seeking sustainable industry or returning to the Iron Age trade offs of environmental degradation and hidden impacts on taxpayers.

Strategic context.
Duluth, Green Bay, Escanaba, Marquette, Munising, Green Bay, Racine, Kenosha, Chicago, Toledo, Erie, Buffalo, Toronto and other Great Lakes cities all are capable of making a similar offer of cheap water for jobs. In that context, any well-led business would step back into due dillegence, looking for possible unintended consequence down the road.

High industrial water consumption brings other intensities.
Water-intensive industries very often also are energy intensive, and also tend to have high air and water pollution burdens. The much diminished paper and steel industries, once common in the Midwest, exemplify the pairing of water and energy intensities with water and air pollution.

For every gallon of water taken in by industry, there will be some fraction of a gallon discharged into public sewers: typically flowing into a publicly owned treatment works (POTW), constructed and operated at public expense.

Water supplies from Lake Michigan are, for local purposes, near infinite. On the other hand, both sewerage treatment capacity and ability of Lake Michigan to assimilate pollution are limited. Overuse can have hidden direct and indirect costs. Logical questions to precede any water sale to industry, then are:

is there excess treatment capacity at the sewerage treatment plant which matches the discharge potential of water intensive industries?

could waste water discharges from a single, new polluting industry potentially “limit out’ waste water treatment capacity, excluding other job opportunities?

is it possible to compare jobs creation potential per million gallons per day of wastewater discharged by industry sector?

To The Holiday Potluck:

December 11th, 2009 No comments

A Cold View Of Lake Michigan:

December 11th, 2009 No comments

Categories: View of Lake Michigan

The Air I Breath {Regional Rats}: 2008 TRI Data (9th of 3140 counties)

December 9th, 2009 No comments

The economic downturn has some benefits for fence-line industrial communities.

View Outside My Window

It is becoming clear that Gitte Laasby is one of the most important journalist in Northwest Indiana. Here again she writes on a subject I am acutely sensitive towards.

via [ Post-Tribune ] “Lake County pollution bad despite reduction” By Gitte Laasby

New toxic release data from EPA shows Lake County industries released the ninth-most pollution in the nation in 2008 — more than 31.5 million pounds.

The high ranking, released Monday, comes despite a 31.1 percent reduction in releases from Lake County industrial plants compared to 2007.

The data, self-reported by the industries to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory, also shows that two Lake County steel mills are among the nation’s 50 biggest polluters.

U.S. Steel Gary Works is No. 37 with about 12.6 million pounds. ArcelorMittal in East Chicago is No. 46 despite cutting its releases by more than half, from about 25.8 million pounds in 2007 to 11 million pounds in 2008.

By comparison, BP Whiting increased its releases 33.8 percent from nearly 529,000 pounds in 2007 to nearly 708,000 pounds in 2008.

Among the 650 chemicals included in the data are carcinogens and other toxic material that cause adverse health effects and potential environmental harm.

Not all toxic releases are harmful or bad. The numbers include toxic material emitted into the air, discharged into water and disposed of in underground injection wells, but also materials that are landfilled or recycled.

A Post-Tribune analysis of preliminary TRI data published in September concluded that Northwest Indiana industries had reduced their overall pollution by about 30 percent. The most significant reductions were at area steel mills.

At the time, Branch Chief of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Pollution Prevention Jennifer Schick said the reductions were likely a result of production cuts rather than regulatory requirements or voluntary reductions.

On Tuesday, IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock stopped short of drawing such a conclusion.

“Because an analysis has not been done for the 2008 data for Northwest Indiana, in particular, it would be speculation on our part to attribute reductions to the economic downturn,” Hartsock said. “What we do know based on information available to us for the state is that industry is doing a better job reducing pollutants than what the decrease in economic activity would account for.”

Lake County polluters reduced their releases by 31.1 percent compared to 2007, Porter County polluters by 5.8 percent. Lake and Porter counties released 36.9 million pounds of toxics — 17.6 percent of the total 209.3 million pounds released by Indiana facilities.

Four of the 20 counties in the nation that released the most toxic material were in Indiana, according to EPA.

The Land I Use {Regional Rats}: Lead Contamination in My Community

December 8th, 2009 5 comments

~17% of my neighbors live on contaminated land. ~17 East Chicago’s residential properties are part of a Superfund Site. After more than 20-years of knowledge of the real potential for contamination, and clearing the legal slate of PRPs (prior responsible parties) the site was placed on the National Priority List (NPL) in March 2009.

via [ Post-Tribune ] “EPA Testing Soil for Lead Contamination” By Gitte Laasby

EAST CHICAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is collecting soil samples in East Chicago to find out whether residential yards are contaminated with lead.

The residences are located between East Chicago Avenue and 151st Street and between Aster and Parrish avenues near one of the most contaminated sites in the nation, the former U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery Inc. site at 5300 Kennedy Ave.

The EPA began collecting samples from front and back yards Monday and will continue for about two weeks. The soil samples are free to residents and all work is done outside the homes.

The EPA held an informational session to explain the testing process and answer questions about the site Monday and will hold another one today.

EPA will also hold a meeting on Dec. 17, to update the community about sampling and clean-up plans. Representatives from EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will be available to answer questions.

The U.S. Smelter site was added to the EPA’s Superfund list in early September. The list contains the most toxic sites in the nation that pose a risk to health and the environment.

The site and residential properties north of it are contaminated with lead. The lead was most likely dispersed from long-removed smokestacks while the business operated between 1920 and 1985. The company recovered lead from car batteries.

In July 2008, EPA removed lead-contaminated soil from 15 homes near the site. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause developmental problems and lower intelligence in young children. Lead exposure can also increase blood pressure in middle-aged men, according to IDEM.

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.

ENERGY AND WATER INTERDEPENDENCIES

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:

<Water>

  • 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

<Air>

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

<Land>

  • ~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: rory_robinson@nps.gov

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 KaplanMedical.com, 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: www.blog.thomasfrank.org.

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.

The Waters I Drink: Environmental report gives NWI {Regional Rats} another bad mark

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Report [ Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clear Water Act ]

Indiana industries discharge 33% more toxins into its waterways than any other state. This is more than the following 26 states combined (Idaho, Delaware, West Virginia, Oregon, Tennessee, South Dakota, Minnesota, Maryland, Missouri, Washington, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Hawaii, Connecticut, Vermont, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Alaska, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Dist. Of Columbia, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Arizona, Nevada). Together these states have a population of 100.1 million people compared to Indiana’s 6.4 million people. That is 15-times the population of Indiana.

Indiana also discharges more toxins than Colorado, Maine, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, California, and Wisconsin Combined. Together these states have a population of 59.8 million people compared to Indiana’s 6.4 million people. That is 10-times the population of Indiana.

However we chunk-out this data (lbs./state GDP, lbs./medium income, lbs./capita) it does not bode well for the residents of Indiana.

Environmental report gives NWI another bad mark :: Local News :: Post-Tribune.

The Air I Breath: EPA Orders IDEM’s {Regional Rats} to Rewrite BP Air Permit

October 20th, 2009 No comments

I wonder to what extent the EPA’s recent order that “IDEM rewrite BP’s air permit” can be said to challenge IDEM’s ability to properly discharge its responsibility and manage the state’s environmental resources?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forcing the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to rewrite part of the air permit for BPs Whiting refinery. EPA said BP?and IDEM left out several sources of air pollution that need to be counted when determining what kind of air pollution control equipment is necessary

EPA: BP permit must be rewritten :: Post-Tribune.

Albert Tar Sands

September 11th, 2009 No comments

Another video about the Tar Sands.

Canada’s Dirty Oil: breaking our addiction from Dirty Oil Sands on Vimeo.

Categories: BP / TAR SANDS, Misc, Tar Sands

Alberta Tar Sands

September 9th, 2009 No comments

via [ h2oil ] :: previous post [ Alberta Tar Sands ]

View of Lake Michigan: Portage Lakefront

August 27th, 2009 1 comment

Portage Lakefront Pavilion

This is a story about the good, and a lot of tough love between communities.

To date the Portage lakefront is the only location where progress toward realizing the Marquette Plan is visible, and there are significant reasons why this is the case. The predominant reason is that Portage is a solidly white middle-class suburban community with middle-class values and an intact civil society. That is not the case with East Chicago or Gary. The Marquette Plan comes out of middle-class desires to access and utilize the commons on our lakefront.

Portage Lakefront Plan seen in context of the Marquette Plan

[ Summary presentation of the Marquette Plan – pdf]

<Quick History Lesson>

Unlike Hammond, Whiting, East Chicago and Gary, Portage’s industrial history only goes back to 1959 when National Steel opened a plant along Lake Michigan on the very site where the new Portage Lakefront Park now resides. In 1961 the Port of Indiana at Burns harbor, a deep water port, was opened. And in 1963 Bethlehem Steel Company started construction on their large integrated steel facility.

This eastern expansion of heavy industry along Lake Michigan’s southern shores prompted Senator Paul H. Douglas of Illinois to establish the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in an effort to preserve portions of Indiana’s natural shoreline, including its biodiversity, and unique landscape left thousands of years ago by the receding glaciers of the ice age.

In a few short years Portage went from a farming community with ancient dunes and swales and an expansive lakefront to an industrial community with no lakefront access. While Gary experienced a hollowing-out of its neighborhoods due to “White Flight” and massive disinvestment by Industry, Gary’s new neighbor, Portage was a fast expanding brand new, and mostly white, industrial community. Today, Portage has an estimated population of 36,000, the largest city in Porter County and the third largest in Northwest Indiana, behind Gary and Hammond. Portage is still mostly white with 92% white, ~8% hispanic, and <.2% black. Like most developments during this era Portage was designed on a suburban pattern model.

</Quick History Lesson>

Building Success:

Portage’s civic leaders not only adopted the Marquette Plan immediately, they expanded on it with their City’s Northside Master Plan. Of the five lakefront communities included in Phase I of the Marquette Plan, Portage is the only community to take advantage of JJR’s (award winning) work. You can see from the diagrams below how Portage has benefitted from a consistent visioning and planning process. Like East Chicago, Portage suffers from very little public access to the lake, and yet they propose to gain additional access by recovering existing brownfields along its waterway – the same strategy proposed in the Marquette Plan for East Chicago. You can see from these plans how Portage is looking to maximize what little they have by leveraging its waterways and River front. Clearly they have a long way to go, and not all the solutions are the most ideal, but this is a very good beginning. It is a testament to what can be done.

Marquette Subarea Conceptual Plan for Portage Lakefront Portage Master Plan for Lakefront and Riverfront

In contrast to Portage, East Chicago has traded against the plan for a private development along the lakefront for one of the Mayor’s largest fundraisers (a family member was chief of staff and is now chief of police) and branded it as the Marquette Plan with no public input. The Mayor’s plan completely abandons the Marquette Plan which, like Portage, aimed to recover abandoned brownfields along its waterway – The Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal. Both the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) and the Regional Development Authority (RDA) have not only allowed this to occur without objection, but are encouraging and funding it. I will leave this story for another post.

It is important not to down play Portage’s regional identity as a white community as a contributing factor for its success. Unfortunately, “white” is still an important factor in identity politics in this challenged region. I don’t mean in any way to take away from the hard work that went into Portage’s successes, but to clarify the impediments the other communities face. It is just as important to acknowledge Portages ability to pull together a professional staff capable of realizing opportunities, attracting investment dollars, managing resources, and implementing solutions. And this is exactly why Portage poses a formidable challenge for the highly blighted older minority and urban communities along the lake. Because the leaders of Portage are more capable of forging the right relationships to produce results through an efficient process they are afforded more opportunities. Portage isn’t sitting still, in fact, they have begun to cherry pick opportunities slated for the other shoreline communities.

As an advocate for the older urban Lakefront communities, which dominate the Southern Shores of Lake Michigan, there is a part of me that is insulted that this project spearheads the redevelopment efforts as envisioned in the Marquette Plan. There is also a reality that money’s from the other minority communities, through the RDA, help finance this project. Now that Portage has completed this catalytic project, and jump-started its market by bringing valuable brownfields into productive common recreation use, Portage is set to realize its broader vision. Unfortunately, now that they have realized all this they no longer have a need to contribute to the RDA.

What Portage is able to realize is exactly what we had hope would happen when we first set out to develop the Marquette Plan. That is why we developed catalytic projects in each of our urban lakefront communities. The blighted conditions that remain in East Chicago and Gary are waiting for someone to implement their catalytic project as outlined in the Marquette Plan.

While regional entities praise the Portage project for reclaiming valuable though contaminated lakefront property, they also sight contamination as an impediment to redevelopment in my community. When it comes to redeveloping the Brownfields in East Chicago, all too often we are treated as if East Chicago were Chernobyl. If East Chicago is Chernobyl, and I am serious about this, then the USEPA ought to make this perfectly clear so we can begin abandon our properties and all our industrial facilities. If East Chicago is not Chernobyl then lets get to work and stop avoiding the impediments to change.

With the Portage project success has been gained, but now we need greater success.

This past spring we went out to Portage to take a look at the new lakefront park. Finding the entrance and then realizing that it was the entrance was just plain weird to say the least. It required entering and traversing a poorly marked U.S. Steel facility adjacent and across the river from the park. I suspect this was only a temporary solution, at least until they can construct a more formal and appropriate entrance. The most striking feature of the park besides the feeling of trespassing on industrial property when you enter is the pavilion. The Pavilion provides a very strong silhouette dominating the site and the visual field. By its design it begins to inform your experience in this rather strange setting.

<Recommended Video>

The NWI Times posted a wonderful video introducing the new lakefront and laying out the awesomeness of its achievement:


Former Portage Mayor Doug Olson and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Costa

Marquette Plan – Portage Lakefront ]

</Recommended Video>

<Build it and they will come>

via the [ Post-Tribune ] August 27, 2009

Portage lakefront draws crowd :: Porter County :: Post-Tribune.

</Build it and they will come>

View of Lake Michigan: wbew Chicago Public Radio

August 27th, 2009 No comments

Below is a short Interview I did with wbew Chicago Public Radio out of Chesterton Indiana about the Marquette Plan and the challenges we face envisioning diverse uses on our lakefront.