The Environment Report

The Environment Report

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A Michigan-based environmental news report that comes to you twice a week.More from The Environment Report »

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Utilities are taking steps to save energy - and money - on the hottest days of the year

Most of us don't think about how much electricity costs at different times of the day. But the state's two largest utilities are planning to change that. When it's really, really hot and humid out, what do lots of people do when they get home? They turn on, or turn up, the air conditioning. There are big spikes in electricity demand on the hottest summer days, between 2:00 in the afternoon to 7:00 in the evening. And that electricity is really expensive to produce. DTE Energy and Consumer's Energy have to fire up gas-burning peaker units that sit idle most of the year. Now they're figuring out ways to get customers to use less energy when it most counts. Michael LeHaye is a DTE Energy customer who lives in Ann Arbor. He's enrolled in a program DTE has had for a long time. It lets the utility cycle his air conditioner compressor off for roughly 15 minutes an hour on the very hottest days. He gets a discount on his bill - and it's pretty painless. "You know, I have never noticed them

Utilities are taking steps to save energy - and money - on the hottest days of the year

In Ohio, farmers are being trained to avoid nutrient build

The buildup of nutrients in western Lake Erie can trigger algae growth – and contaminate drinking water in nearby cities. That happened as recently as 2014, when Toledo residents could not drink their water for two days.

As the climate gets warmer, some mammals are getting smaller

Here's one way to react to a warming planet: get smaller. We know mammals literally shrank, during a massive global warming event 56 million years ago. Imagine an early horse ancestor the size of a cat. Now back then, the earth was 46 degrees hotter on average than it is right now. So researchers wanted to know: do mammals still experience shrinking - a.k.a. dwarfing - during other, less intense periods of warming? Abigail D'Ambrosia is a researcher at the University of New Hampshire, and she did a study with scientists at the University of Michigan to answer that question. "And we found that, yup! There's definitely dwarfing in a couple of the mammals we found," she says. She says nobody's sure why generations of mammals gradually shrank during those periods of global warming in the past. Maybe because it's easier to cool yourself off if you're smaller. Or maybe global warming killed off so many plants, animals didn't get enough food. D'Ambrosia thinks it's some combination of the two

How climate change is altering spring

You know how in old Disney cartoons and movies, spring arrives and all the birds and woodland creatures just wake up all at once? That's kind of how nature works, too. But new research suggests that what we typically think of as spring: flowers blooming, ice melting... is starting to change.

Funding for Great Lakes protection at risk?

Early budget indications suggest the Trump administration could slash funding for the Great Lakes. There are many possible cuts to EPA programs. Great Lakes restoration money could be cut by 97%, and money for beach monitoring could be also at risk.

We have a lot of old water infrastructure, so what do we do about it?

President Trump called for a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure this week in his address to Congress. The Great Lakes Commission has ideas for where some of the money should go. The Commission is an interstate compact agency that represents Great Lakes states. The agency released recommendations today for rebuilding our water infrastructure.

We have a lot of old water infrastructure, so what do we do about it?

These maps show the early arrival of spring

Scientists have known that spring is arriving earlier across the U.S. because of climate change. Now, you can take a look at new maps from the U.S. Geological Survey to see how early spring is arriving where you live.

No lethal control for cormorants in the Great Lakes this spring

For more than a decade, double crested cormorants could be killed in 24 states in the eastern U.S. In the Great Lakes, it was mainly done to protect sport fish like perch and bass. But last spring a federal judge stopped the program, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wasn't doing the research on cormorants necessary to justify killing them. Sport fishing groups hoped that research would have been done by now and the program could resume.

Highland Park residents lighting up their streets with solar power

Energy costs can be a huge burden on low-income communities. That's especially true in Highland Park. The tiny enclave within Detroit was literally left in the dark after it ran up a big street lighting bill. But there are some small bright spots popping up—thanks to solar power, and the efforts of one community group.

IJC urges U.S. and Canada to keep microplastics out of the Great Lakes

The International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that advises the United States and Canada, says the two countries should do more to keep microplastics out of the lakes. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are five millimeters or smaller. Microbeads are used in things like soap and toothpaste. Microfibers are tiny fibers that wash off our synthetic clothing, like fleece. Those tiny plastics can end up in the Great Lakes and can get into fish.

IJC urges U.S. and Canada to keep microplastics out of the Great Lakes

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