Upper Peninsula Nickel Mine Moves Ahead

  • Resistance to the Kennecott mine project has been present since the project was first proposed. (Photo by Chris McCarus)

For ten years, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company has been pushing to mine nickel and copper near Marquette. The company started underground blasting of the mine in September.

The Department of Environmental Quality issued permits for the mine in 2007. But several of those permits have been challenged in court.

A circuit court judge in Ingham County recently upheld the mining permit.

Michelle Halley is an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation. It’s one of the groups that challenged that permit. She says they’re concerned about the type of mining that will happen in the Eagle Mine. It’s sometimes called sulfide mining.

“The rock at Eagle is extremely acid producing, very high in sulfides and so once that rock is exposed to air and water, there’s really no debate it will begin producing acid.”

That acid is sulfuric acid. According to the Environmental Protection Agency… that acid can cause heavy metals to leach from rocks. The resulting fluid can be highly toxic to people and wildlife.

This is called acid mine drainage. On its website, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company says there is a risk that it can happen. But the company says it’s taking a number of steps to reduce that risk.

Matt Johnson is with Kennecott. He says the company will use a state of the art water treatment plant to purify the mine water using reverse osmosis.

“The entire mine site is designed to control water with water protection in mind. Which is why it’s the company’s commitment not to discharge any water back into the environment until it meets safe drinking quality water (sic) standards.”

And he says the state is also requiring them to do that.

But critics are still concerned about the nearby Salmon Trout River and Lake Superior.

Michelle Halley says the treated water from the mine will eventually be discharged to groundwater.

“The wastewater treatment plant is unproven technology. There is no wastewater treatment plant that uses the components that are at Eagle on mine water. And so whether it will work, how those components will respond under the pressure of the metals that are there and the other constituents in the water, it’s an unknown entity.”

Those unknowns about possible water pollution have divided the surrounding communities.

“People are looking for dollars now. There’s not a lot of jobs. So any job is a good job.”

Daryl Wilcox is the Powell Township Supervisor. The company’s estimating there will be about 240 mining jobs available. They say the jobs will last seven or eight years. Wilcox says he knows a lot of people who are planning to apply for those jobs.

“Everybody agrees we need the jobs, everybody agrees we need the clean water. You have people feeling the water’s more important than jobs and you have people who feel the jobs are more important than water, not that it’s totally 100% on each side. It’s hard for everybody, including myself, how do you find the middle road?”

Wilcox says the mining company took him on a tour of their new water treatment plant. And he says he’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

“That the mine does their best to hold to their word, and we need people to watch the water to make sure it is done the way they say.”

The company is expecting to start pulling minerals out of the ground in 2013.

Many people have been watching what happens with the Kennecott Eagle Mine. It’s one of several companies hoping to tap into potentially billions of dollars worth of nickel, copper, gold, and platinum – in the Upper Peninsula.

That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.

Yoga Retreat & Fishermen at Odds Over Dam

  • Dave Smethurst of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited says the dam at Golden Lotus Yoga Retreat is ruining the fishing in certain stretches of the Pigeon River. (Photo by Bob Allen)

A small but notorious dam on one of northern Michigan’s prettiest trout streams might soon come down. But what fishermen value about the Pigeon River is at odds with how the owners of the dam view it. Bob Allen has more:

Owners at Golden Lotus yoga retreat have twice made big mistakes operating their dam over the last quarter century. And each time, muck from the pond behind the dam surged downstream. It smothered river life, and killed tens of thousands of trout.

Dave Smethurst has been fishing, hunting and hiking in the Pigeon River State Forest for the last 40 years. And both times the dam failed, he was there to witness the destruction.

“To see my river, and for trout fishermen rivers are very personal, to see my river devoid of life for several miles, it just wrenches your gut.”

Smethurst is on the board of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. T.U. is party to a lawsuit by the state of Michigan against Golden Lotus. The organization has been pushing for the entire dam to come out.

And when it’s gone, Smethurst expects to see a better river. For one thing, he says, the 50 acre pond behind the dam eventually will go away. The shallow pond releases water too warm for trout to live in.

Not only that, Smethurst says, but it acts as a choke point piling up sand and sediment for miles upstream.

“Today that fishing up there is a shadow of its former self because all the holes are filled in and there’s sand everywhere.”

But fishing is not a high priority for the owners of the Golden Lotus yoga retreat.

Carol Armour is chair of the board of the non-profit group. She says the retreat was founded several decades ago by a wealthy Detroit businessman.

“It was traditional to take your disciples to the forest to teach them wisdom and understanding. And the quiet, the beauty, the contact with nature, the still, you know you’re just a little bit closer to God, it’s just a little easier.”

Armour says the dam and the pond have been here for more than a hundred years. And she says the setting has become a spiritual home for those who return to get in touch with the deeper aspects of yoga.

Dave Smethurst with Trout Unlimited also feels the Pigeon River is the kind of place that restores the soul.

But he says the Golden Lotus property doesn’t fit his idea of a natural place.

“There, there’s a dam with boulders that are obviously placed by man, not by God. There’s buildings. And there’s this muck hole of a pond.”

Ordinarily the Department of Natural Resources would agree. It’s agency policy to completely remove dams whenever possible.

But in an unusual twist, DNR officials sided with Golden Lotus to allow part of the structure to remain.

The yoga group says it needs to keep concrete walls along the sides of the dam and a concrete pad on the bottom to support a small bridge across the top.

That’s the main way to reach their office, lodging and classrooms.

Tim Cwalinski is a DNR fisheries biologist. He says it’s a big win to get an agreement just to remove guts of the dam. With that gone, he says, the possibility of another failure and more fish kills disappears.

“I don’t think in my career we’d ever see a structure removal at the Golden Lotus site. And I can say now, we will. So how can you not feel good about that.”

But members of Trout Unlimited don’t feel good about it. They say leaving concrete on the bottom of the river will speed up the flow of water so much that most fish will not be able pass upstream.

State officials think mostly smaller fish will be blocked.

The question of how much of Golden Lotus Dam will have to be removed is headed to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

For the Environment Report, I’m Bob Allen.

Detroit Residents Consider Marathon Buyout Offers (Part 2)

  • Linda Chernowas says she has health problems related to living in her polluted industrial neighborhood. But she says Marathon's offer isn't enough for her to get a comparable house elsewhere. (Photo by Sarah Hulett/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s only oil refinery is in the middle of a $2 billion dollar expansion project. Marathon Petroleum is expanding its refinery in southwest Detroit to process more heavy crude oil from Canada.

That expansion project is moving the footprint of Marathon’s refinery closer to people’s homes, especially the Oakwood Heights neighborhood in Southwest Detroit. A couple weeks ago, the company made a big announcement. Marathon is offering to buy about 350 homes in Oakwood Heights. The company is offering a minimum of $40,000 dollars plus half of what the home appraises for. There’s also money to help people relocate.

“We think it’s a very generous program. We think the neighborhood is going to be very happy with it.”

Tracy Case is with Marathon. He says the company is planning to demolish the homes it buys and create about a hundred acres of green space next to its refinery.
“You know, I think if you asked anybody in industry, or if you asked anybody that lives next to industry, they’d say yeah, that’s a good thing to have, to have the green space.”

He says the program is voluntary and no one will be forced to move.

For some people in this neighborhood, it’s the news they’ve been waiting for. This part of southwest Detroit is packed with heavy industry. There’s the oil refinery, the salt mine, the steel plants, the wastewater treatment plant. Many residents were born and raised here. But many of them are tired of living here.

Theresa Landrum has lived in this area all her life. She’s on Marathon’s community advisory panel. She says she’s happy with the news of the buyouts. But she’s not eligible for one because she lives outside of the designated neighborhood.

“If I was to receive the offer I would consider moving, yes I would.”

Some people who are eligible for the buyout say it’s not enough money.

Carrie Elliott says he’s too old for a new mortgage… and he doesn’t think he’d qualify for one anyway.

“I’m unemployed, got laid off. I don’t have the money to start a new home.”

He says he’d consider moving for $100,000 dollars.

Marathon says they looked at comparable neighborhoods both inside and outside the city of Detroit. That includes areas like Melvindale, Wyandotte and Southgate. A company spokesperson says they wanted to make sure the buyout offers would be enough for residents to buy a similar size home in another area.

Many people who live in this area have owned their homes for decades. The majority of people are low-income, and many are seniors on fixed incomes.
Linda Chernowas has asthma and reflux laryngitis that makes her lose her voice. She says when her doctor gave her the diagnosis… he asked her where she lived, what zip code.

“And I said, 48217 and he said, I suggest you move.”

But she isn’t sure she wants to give up her home.

“We’re on social security. This was going to be our last home. I love being here. I don’t want to give up what I have, but I don’t like not feeling good. You can’t have a garden when you end up with silver tomatoes and silver on green peppers.”

Residents have complained to state officials about metallic dust that fell from the sky, coating their cars and the vegetables in their gardens. State officials have sent a violation notice for the metallic fallout to a nearby steel plant, Severstal.

Rashida Tlaib is the Democratic state representative for this district. She says Marathon is moving in the right direction with their new buyout offers. But she wants to wait and see how things pan out.

“Look, I think all the families agree this needs to be done, a green buffer area needs to be created up against the only oil refinery in the state. But I think folks will be debating whether or not these offers are enough for that better quality of life.”

Residents of Oakwood Heights have until the end of February to decide whether or not to sign up for the buyout offer.

That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.

Sarah Hulett contributed to this report.

Living With Heavy Industry

  • The playground at the Salina Elementary school in Dearborn with the Severstal steel plant in the background. (Photo by Rebecca Williams/Michigan Radio)

A little more than 50 years ago, Delores Leonard and her husband moved into their red brick ranch in Detroit.

“I selected it because the sun comes up over there in the morning and I was thinking about my flowers.”

They’ve raised their two kids here and now they have four grandchildren and five great-grandkids and they all live nearby.

But she says on any given day… she doesn’t know what she’ll smell when she steps outside.

“Sometimes it’s a kerosene odor. Sometimes it’s a horrible stench, like at a slaughterhouse. Sometimes, you’re out in public and people will say, ‘where do you live?’ And they’ll say,’ oh yes, I know that area, that stench, I don’t see how those people live there.’”

“There” is zip code 48217. It’s a corner of Southwest Detroit packed with heavy industry.

There’s the state’s only oil refinery, owned by Marathon Petroleum. The salt mine. The city’s wastewater treatment plant. DTE’s coal-burning power plant. Severstal Steel. And many more.

Delores Leonard grew up just a few streets over, in River Rouge. She remembers asking her dad why people were covering their cars with tarps.

“And he said it was because of the fallout, the pollution. Well, if they’re covering their cars so the paint pigmentation won’t peel, then what happens to the person who lives and who’s breathing all this stuff?”

Like Delores Leonard, a lot of people have lived here their whole lives.

“In my block, there are 17 people who have died of cancer. I can’t say it’s cancer from where because we’re sandwiched between a lot of industry.”

So… why do these neighborhoods look like this?

Ren Farley says it all dates back to the late 1800s. He’s a research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

A lot of raw materials and products were shipped on the Great Lakes, so it made sense for industries to locate in Southwest Detroit.

“And workers tended to congregate very close to where they worked, and so a lot of what you’d call workingmen’s homes were built there.”

They were built very close to factories, so people could walk to work.

Farley says most of the industries in Southwest Detroit were there by the time World War I began. Some factories have shut down. Others have expanded. Farley says over the decades, federal housing policies and discriminatory lending practices called redlining were used to help white families move to the suburbs… and keep minorities out of the suburbs.

“For a period of time, racial practices were responsible for keeping blacks in densely settled neighborhoods in the city of Detroit, many close to factories.”

He says redlining was made illegal in the 1970s, and many black families who could afford to move away from the factories did.

These neighborhoods of Southwest Detroit close to heavy industry are now racially diverse, with black, white, Latino and Arab American families living near each other. Farley says it’s a mix of people who have chosen not to leave the area… and those who can’t afford to leave.

“For the most part, it is low-income individuals, and elderly individuals who have owned their home for 30, 40, 50 years who are just not going to move out.”

But this is not a community that’s been sitting still. They’re vocal. People here call the state Department of Environmental Quality whenever they see something or smell something that seems out of place. Residents fought the expansion of the Marathon oil refinery… and lost. The refinery expansion is underway.

Delores Leonard says she’s not sure things will change. But she’s also not sure she wants to leave.

“I have relatives in the Rouge still. The cemetery isn’t very far away. There are relatives who are buried there. And it’s home.”

Marathon Petroleum recently announced a major buy-out program for residents living near its oil refinery. On Thursday we’ll hear what people in the neighborhood think about those offers.

That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.

States Ban Lead Wheel Weights

  • A collection of lead wheel weights that have fallen off cars and trucks. (Photo by Jeff Gearhart)

The U.S. has worked to get lead out of gas and out of paint, but the biggest source of lead in a consumer product is still on roadways. It’s in the form of wheel weights, used to balance the tires on our cars. The Environmental Protection Agency says about 1.6 million pounds of lead fall off of vehicles each year, and it winds up in the environment. A handful of states is leading the effort to ban lead wheel weights. Julie Grant reports:

If you notice a wobble or vibration when you’re driving, it could mean you’ve lost a wheel weight. Jeff Gearhart is a researcher with the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor. He says wheel weights are about the size of your pinky finger, and there are usually one or two of them for each tire.

“If you look at the rubber part of the wheel, then there’s a metal part, and if you look carefully, then you’ll see a clip-on weight.”

Gearhart isn’t a traditional car guy. He cares about wheel weights because in most states, they’re made with lead. Gearhart says it’s easy to bump a curb, and lose a wheel weight. The EPA says 13% of them fall off. On the roads, the weights get crushed into dust. He says the lead winds up in the soil, in drinking water and ground water.

“Lead’s a neurotoxin, leads to learning disabilities, lower IQ. We don’t know of any safe level of lead exposure in the environment.”

Gearhart says there’s an easy solution – switch from lead, to weights made from steel or zinc. He wants the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a federal ban on the lead weights.

But for now, about six states are getting the ban rolling. New York’s ban on lead wheel weights went into effect earlier this year.

(sound: auto shop)

Robert Pike owns an auto repair shop upstate. He was taken by surprise when his tire supplier told him he wasn’t allowed to keep lead around the shop anymore.

“Spent 1500 dollars to buy this new product, which is environmentally friendly. Which I am 100% for. But it was sprung on us like that…”

Pike says his new wheel weights are made with zinc. He and other repair shops say they’ve haven’t noticed much cost increase. But Pike says it makes more sense to ban lead wheel weights nationally, rather than state by state.

Jeff Gearhart at the Ecology Center says the private sector is already moving away from lead weights.

“ We’ve worked with companies as large as Walmart, auto makers like Ford and GM, tire retailers around the country, we’ve worked with the United States Post Office. All of these entities have been able to very successfully move toward lead free wheel balancing, some of them completely, in a way that has not in any significant way impacted the bottom line of their operations.”

Gearhart says American companies are already manufacturing both lead and non-lead weights – but they’d like to stop making the lead weights.

“The biggest thing that they want, is for everything to be the same.”

Matt White owns an auto repair shop, and he’s also a spokesman for the Tire Industry Association. It represents everyone from tire manufacturers, to Walmart, to independent tire dealers.

Companies have to make wheel weights without lead, because there’s so much demand from other countries.

White says that means they have to maintain a variety of manufacturing processes.

“Right now, they’ve got people using lead weights, and they got people using steel weights, and they got people using zinc weights. So they really have to manufacture three different kinds of wheel weights to take care of everybody in the industry.”

White says his trade group is encouraging everyone in the tire industry to move toward non-lead wheel weights. But the tire industry group won’t go so far as to call for a federal ban on lead weights. A couple of years ago the U.S. EPA said it planned to write new rules on lead wheel weights, and the agency says a decision on that could come next year.

For the Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

  • A worker cleans fly ash from one of the containers inside the silo at the Eckert power plant. (Photo by Steve Carmody)

There’s new cleanup work underway along Talmadge Creek near Marshall…near the site of 2010’s Enbridge oil spill.

The area was already the site of a massive cleanup effort. But now… work crews are back. The first round was supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency. This time… the state Department of Environmental Quality is overseeing the work.

Mark DuCharme is with the DEQ.
He says the initial EPA-supervised cleanup focused on removing visible oil and sheen from Talmadge Creek.

“Our criteria is a little bit steeper than that in that we’re looking at chemical constituents as well as we have a little more of a threshold for what’s sheen and oil than what EPA had.”

DuCharme says the work going on now will ensure that erosion in the creek is controlled and that there’s not a chemical problem with the groundwater or in any of the soils.

He says the work that the DEQ is overseeing on Talmadge Creek should be wrapped up by March.

Enbridge delivered a revised cleanup plan to the EPA last month. It outlines the company’s plans for removing submerged oil from the Kalamazoo River into 2012.

Mark DuCharme with the state DEQ says there is a possibility that more work will need to be done after that….

“We have the potential to find problem areas that are a concern under the state’s compliance endpoints… where we may go to Enbridge and say ‘You need to conduct a response action.’”

The DEQ is working with Enbridge and the EPA to identify areas where a second round of cleanup may be needed.

Enbridge estimates that the cost of the total cleanup will be in the range of 700 million dollars.


This is the Environment Report.

Coal burning power plants are often scrutinized for what they emit from smokestacks. But now a by-product of burning coal for electricity is getting a closer look. Steve Carmody reports:

For the past few days… Dennis Brabant and his crew have been vacuuming up tons of fly ash trapped in the silo at the Lansing Board of Water and Light ‘s Eckert Power Plant.

“That’s what we’re dealing with right there… it’s part of electricity.”

Brabant lets the fine power pour through his fingers. It spreads like water on the silo floor… and coats everything.

Fly ash contains trace amounts of mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic chemicals.

Deborah Allen is the plant manager. She says BWL does everything it can to contain the fly ash in its silo…and keep it from escaping…and blanketing the surrounding neighborhoods in a fine dust.

“We had a gate that didn’t close last year….and it ended up putting about two to three inches of ash all over the equipment…the vehicles…and over into the park.”

But fly ash is not just by-product of burning coal…it’s also a commodity.

As recently as 2006…Lansing Board of Water and Light earned a million dollars from selling ash collected from its coal burning power plants to companies that make concrete and asphalt. What wasn’t sold was landfilled.

But as the recession slowed the economy… it also slowed demand for fly ash.

Meanwhile… there could be changes coming that could affect how BWL and other Michigan utilities dispose of their fly ash.

The EPA is thinking about changing the rules. Under one proposal… coal ash would be regulated as a ‘special waste,’ something akin to hazardous waste. The other proposal would classify coal ash as ‘non-hazardous waste.’

The public comment period on the proposed new regulation ends next week.

A Lansing Board of Water and Light official says BWL will “do whatever is necessary to comply with any existing or future regulation from the EPA.” That same official declined to speculate on what those changes may eventually be.

For the Environment Report, I’m Steve Carmody.

Marathon Buyouts & Coal Ash Spill

  • Linda Chernowas says she has health problems related to living in her polluted industrial neighborhood. But she says Marathon's offer isn't enough for her to get a comparable house elsewhere. (Photo by Sarah Hulett/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s only oil refinery is offering to buy out homeowners near its Detroit facility as it wraps up a major expansion project.

As Sarah Hulett reports, some residents say they’d love to trade their polluted neighborhood for a cleaner one. But they’re not sure the deal will work for them:

(refinery sound)

Marathon Petroleum is upgrading its refinery in southwest Detroit to be able to process heavier crude oil from Canada. And it’s expanding its operations closer to a neighborhood called Oakwood Heights.

Tracy Case is Marathon’s Michigan refining division manager. He says residents in Oakwood Heights face a unique challenge.

“The fact that you have a community that is so isolated and so surrounded, and is sort of stranded there. So it’s a problem, and you either want to be part of fixing the problem or you want to be part of the problem, and we’re choosing to be part of resolving the problem.”

The company is offering a minimum of $40,000 dollars, plus half a house’s appraised value. There’s also money to help people with moving expenses, and some other bonuses.

For some homeowners, it will be a sweet deal. But Carrie Elliott says he’ll pass.

“Not enough money. I mean, we’ve lived here 32 years. I’m too old for a mortgage.”

Homeowners have until the end of February to request an appraisal, and offers will be made over a two-year period.

For the Environment Report, I’m Sarah Hulett.

(music sting)

This is the Environment Report.

Earlier this week, there was a landslide at a coal-burning power plant in Wisconsin. We Energies operates the plant. On their property, there’s a ravine next to a bluff on the shore of Lake Michigan. That ravine is filled with coal ash. Coal ash is what’s left over when coal is burned to create electricity. Coal ash can contain toxic substances like arsenic, mercury and lead.

When the bluff collapsed on Monday, mud, soil, and coal ash spilled into Lake Michigan.


Barry McNulty is with We Energies.

“The vast majority of the debris including the soils and even coal ash, remain on land today. But a portion of that debris certainly spilled into Lake Michigan, which includes three vehicles, we believe, some coal ash, different soil from the bluff.”

McNulty says they don’t know how much coal ash got into the lake. He says they are installing booms and using skimmers to clean up the spill. The cause of the spill is under investigation.

“I don’t view it as a particular hazard. It’s not something obviously we want in Lake Michigan but it is not something that is a hazard to human health and the like.”

Coal ash is not currently listed as a hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is regulated… but it’s regulated in different ways by different states. The EPA has proposed tighter regulations on coal ash. The regulations could require liners on coal ash storage sites and groundwater monitoring.

Tiffany Hartung is with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

“It is regulated less stringently than our household waste, yet it contains all of these hazardous materials: mercury, arsenic and other life threatening toxics.”

Hartung says there are nine active coal-ash storage sites in Michigan… and another seven that are closed.

She says the Sierra Club is concerned about efforts in Congress that are attempting to stop the EPA from categorizing coal ash as a hazardous waste.

There are two proposals from the EPA. One would regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste and the other would regulate it like household waste.

The Senate is expected to take up the debate any day now.

That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.

Governor Snyder Touts Higher Speed Rail for Michigan

  • The 135 miles of rail line from Dearborn to Kalamazoo will be owned by the state of Michigan. The state is purchasing the line from Norfolk Southern Railway with the help of federal stimulus money. Once completed, the upgraded line will increase speeds. (Image courtesy of MDOT)

Governor Rick Snyder met with lawmakers, federal officials and the railroad industry yesterday to talk about the future of rail transportation in our state.

Rick Pluta is the State Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He was at the Michigan Rail Summit and he joins me to talk more about this. So Rick, what did the Governor say?


Rick Pluta: Rebecca, the governor is a big fan of rail service. He says it’s a big part of the future of the state. This is what he had to say to this rail summit:

Governor Rick Snyder: “This isn’t about a piece of rail in Michigan. This is about being the centerpiece of a broader logistical connection that goes all the way from St. Louis to Chicago to Detroit and I would like to see it continue on to Toronto and to Montreal.”

Pluta: For him, this is a critical part of his plans for the state’s economic revitalization. And we should say this isn’t going to be like the 220 mile per hour bullet trains that they have in Europe and Asia, but faster trains that will go for about 110 miles an hour. And he envisions Michigan being part of this business corridor that runs from the western edge of the Midwest in St. Louis all the way up to Toronto, Montreal, the new port that is being built in Halifax. And Michigan is sort of a central point in that corridor, and that could make Michigan a key player in a Midwestern-Canadian economy.

Rebecca: You know, I’ve taken a lot of train trips to Chicago that were supposed to take six hours and took a lot longer than six hours. What’s going on there and what are people doing to fix those problems?

Rick Pluta: What we’ve got right now is a system of freight vs. passengers. And because almost all the track is owned by freight companies, part of the agreement is that when a freight train is coming and an Amtrak train is en route, the passenger train has to stop.
What state officials are hoping is they can come up with something, you know, better coordination of routes and scheduling of freight trains and passenger trains… more turnouts, where when there are two trains that are sharing the same piece of track, that there’s someplace else for them to go… basically you’re not going to have the same level of competition for the same track between freight and passenger service, and if there is competition, then it’s not always going to be the passenger train that’s going to have to stop and wait.

Rebecca: So Rick, is anybody talking about establishing passenger rail lines between someplace in northern Michigan and southern Michigan?

Rick Pluta: Yeah, there’s always some talk and it’s somewhat whimsical, you know, recreating the tourist trains that were popular in another era. And most of the people I talked to here said that’s probably a long way off. But there is a lot of focus though, on improving the freight service from northern Michigan, because there’s a lot of manufacturing in northern Michigan, there’s a lot of agriculture and agricultural processing in northern Michigan. And so the challenge is, how can you take the track, especially the hundreds of miles of state-owned track, and improve that, so that trains can get eggs from Kalkaska very quickly to markets maybe in St. Louis or somewhere in northern Canada or even to the new port that’s being built in Halifax and get it over to potential markets in Europe and Asia more quickly than they’re getting there right now.

Rebecca: All right, thank you Rick.

Rick Pluta: My pleasure, Rebecca.

Rick Pluta is the State Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. That’s the Environment Report for today. I’m Rebecca Williams.