The U.S. Forest Service is close to approving one of the largesttimber sales in the eastern United States. The Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The U.S. Forest Service is close to approving one of the largest timber sale
in the eastern United States. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
The Forest Service says it wants to cut timber on more than eight-thousand
acres of the Allegheny National Forest in pennsylvania. Dale Dunshie is a
spokesperson. He says it’s an attempt to improve an area of the forest that
has a lot of dead trees.
“Without a prompt action on our part, the forest ecosystem is
going to continue to decline and we will not have a healthy, thriving viable
forest in this mortality zone.”
But a group that opposes the timber cut says there’s another motive. Kirk
Johnson is with the Allegheny Defense Project. He says the forest service
is trying to make room for more commercially viable trees called the
Allegheny Hardwood Forest Type.
“So, there’s this enormous economic incentive to perpetuate
this artificial Allegheny hardwood forest type.”
Wood from trees such as black cherry and red oak can fetch as much as 20
times the price as hemlock and beech trees that were originally dominant
in the Allegheny Forest. Cutting could begin as early as this year.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
An important link in the food chain is fast disappearing in atleast three of the Great Lakes. Fisheries are already seeing theeffects.The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
An important link in the food chain is fast disappearing in at least three
of the Great Lakes. Fisheries are already seeing the effects. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Diporeia is a small shrimp-like creature. About a half-inch long. It’s an
important food for young fish. Marc Tuchman is an environmental
scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National
Program office. He says lots of fish depend on the disappearing food source.
“Fish such as the perch, the chub, the sculpin, smelt, and
whitefish all are known to feed on this organism. So, certainly we expect
to see some impacts to these fish.”
Diporeia has disappeared from Lake Erie and populations are way down in
Lakes Michigan and Huron. Commercial fishers already have seen declines
in some of the fish populations that depend on the organism. The scientists
aren’t sure why diporeia is declining. But they think it might be connected
to the zebra mussel invasion of The Lakes. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium,
this is Lester Graham.
The Great Lakes states will get about one-third of the federal dollarshunters and anglers in the U.S. paid in excise taxes last year. It’spartof the annual distribution of federal tax money. The Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The Great Lakes states will get about one-third of the federal dollars hunters and anglers in the
U.S. paid in excise taxes last year. It’s part of the annual distribution of federal tax money. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
When a hunter buys a shotgun or ammunition. Or when an angler buys
tackle or a boat motor, they pay an additional federal sales tax called an
excise tax. For the first nine months of sales in the governments fiscal
year, that ammounted to 293 million dollars nationwide. The Great Lakes States
will get more than 98 million dollars of that money. The money is distributed
state fish and wildlife agencies. It’s used for conserving, protecting, and
enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and habitat. It also gives hunters and
anglers a lot of sway with agencies. Some agency officials feel since
hunters and anglers pay the most. Their voices should be given greater
weight during disputes on the use of natural resources than other interest
groups such as environmentalists.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The production of toxic waste has been an unwanted by-product ofthe Industrial Revolution. In the Great Lakes region, a number offacilities have become disposal sites for this waste. One such proposedfacility, in Romulus, Michigan, and the method of disposalthey want to use, has attracted the attention of local environmentalistswho say that it is neither needed nor wanted. Great Lakes RadioConsortium commentator Suzanne Elston says nobody’slistening to their voices of discontent:
The production of toxic waste has been an unwanted by-product of the
Industrial Revolution. In the Great Lakes Region, a number of
facilities have become disposal sites for this waste. One such
proposed facility, in Romulus, Michigan, and the method of disposal
they want to use, has attracted the attention of local
environmentalists who say that it is neither needed nor wanted. Great
Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says nobody’s
listening to their voices of discontent.
The disposal method is called deep well injection. Dig a well, 4,000
feet below the surface, far below any aquifers, and fill it hazardous
waste. It seems like a simple way to get rid of a whole bunch of
stuff that nobody wants. The problem is that similar facilities in
other parts of the country have had problems – big problems. So many
folks in Romulus have decided that they don’t want this kind of
facility opening up in their community.
In light of this very vocal opposition, I was surprised to hear that
the facility was going to go ahead anyway. So I called the press
secretary for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He
said that I hadn’t heard wrong. The DEQ had already given its draft
approval. Barring any meaningful objections, the plan would go ahead.
But he and his department seem to be missing something here. There
have been meaningful objections, and not just from the residents.
Some state officials aren’t too happy either. Last year, the State
Review Board cited a whole pile of reasons that the facility
shouldn’t be approved. Apparently the well would be located just
1,500 feet from Detroit Metropolitan airport, and only 15 feet from
interstate 94 – one the busiest highways in Michigan. The site is
expected to receive 400,000 gallons of chemicals and hazardous waste
every day that will be trucked off I-94 and driven through the second
busiest intersection in Wayne County. Those concerns didn’t stop the
Department of Environmental Quality.
The official that I spoke to said that they had already made their
decision to approve the well, but to follow the law, they had to go
ahead with public hearings. I was told quite frankly that this is not
an issue of public opinion. If an application meets all the statutory
and technical requirements, then it will be allowed. The policy is
the applicant has rights, too and that an angry public doesn’t matter.
The people who are fighting the dump have a very different take on
things. The problem, they will tell you, isn’t when everything goes
according to the state-approved diagrams. It’s when some goes wrong –
like it did in Winona, Texas. People there have been getting sick and
dying for years. Some of them are convinced that their health
problems can be blamed on an injection well facility very similar to
the one proposed for Romulus. They don’t think that it’s worth the
risk to build another facility like the one in Winona. So despite
their pain and suffering, they’ve been trying to help the people of
Romulus stop the Michigan facility from being built.
While it’s unlikely that the state will withdraw its approval at this
point, the good people of Romulus have one last hope. The federal EPA
still has to approve the application to inject. But activists say
that the EPA was one the company’s biggest customers in Winona.
Apparently the EPA was using the facility to dispose of toxic waste
from other government agencies. The activists say it’s unlikely that
the EPA won’t approve the Romulus site.
The irony of all this is that the site isn’t even needed. Activists
say existing hazardous waste sites in Michigan are only operating at
about 25 percent of their capacity. They’re concerned that in order
to make up the difference, Michigan will be importing toxic waste
from Canada and other parts of the United States. Why the state would
go ahead and approve it anyway makes no sense whatsoever. But this
apparently isn’t about common sense. Nor is it about the will of the
people, or the democratic process. It’s about greed. Plain and simple.
Interest in solar power faded in the 1980s along with memories of the1970s energy crisis. But as most of us cope with rising costs forheatingand lighting our homes this winter, some pioneers are turning to the sunonce again as a way out of high utility bills. They’re taking advantageof a little-known federal law and the new era of utility deregulation togenerate their own electricity. And some of them are even selling itbackto the utility companies. They say that despite what skeptics maybelieve, there’s enough sunlight hitting the Great Lakes region to makesolar power viable. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell hasmore:
Interest in solar power faded in the 1980s along with memories of
the 1970s energy crisis.
But as most of us cope with rising costs for heating and lighting
our homes this winter, some pioneers are turning to the sun once again
as a way out of high utility bills.
They’re taking advantage of a little-known federal law and the new era of utility deregulation to generate their own electricity. And some of them are even selling it back to the utility companies.
They say that despite what skeptics may believe, there’s enough
sunlight hitting the great lakes region to make solar power viable.
WXXI’s Bud Lowell has more.
Bill Labine is a true believer. He drives an electric pickup
truck. He keeps it charged with panels of photo-voltaic solar
batteries in his back yard.
His garage and workshop are powered by batteries, kept
charged by solar panels on the roof. And then there’s his house.
“From the road it looks pretty much the way it did a hundred years ago when it was build. You know anybody walking their dog down the road is going to have no idea that this home is electrically self sufficient.”
Bill Labine and his family live in a century-old Victorian house, in
the heart of the Western New York village of Avon. He has what’s called
a “net metering” electric system.
“We have on the roof in this case, 20 solar panels. DC electricity, direct current, comes down from the roof. It plugs into this little white box on the wall, which converts it to utility grade AC electricity. Like we’re used to using for our appliances, and pretty much goes right into the breaker box.”
At night or on cloudy days, the Labines are buying electricity from
their local utility company — Niagara Mohawk. But when the sun is bright,
the solar batteries generate more power than they need.
Their electric meter then runs backwards – building up credits on
their bill as they sell energy back to the electric power grid.
The goal of a net metering setup is to have your energy credits
offset your energy purchases, so you’re left with only the monthly
The Labines have gradually replaced their appliances with new
energy- efficient models and have heavily-insulated their hundred-year-
With those changes, Bill Labine says it’s working out so far.
“As a whole, it works wonderfully. It’s past the autumn equinox, so we’re not making as much energy as we consume. But again, once we hit spring, I’m planning to put up a few more panels in the spring. And at that point I expect not to have an electric bill for the rest of my life.”
The genesis of net metering is a federal law signed by President
Jimmy Carter in 1978 to encourage alternate energy sources. The law
was mostly ignored until federal utility deregulation in the 1990s.
That’s when mechanisms were set up for independent power
producers to sell electricity back to the big utilities. And some states
even adopted their own laws forcing utilities to buy electricity back
from their customers at the same price they sell it.
Net metering isn’t very popular with America’s investor-owned
Mike Oldak is director of State Competition and Regulatory
Policies for the Edison Electric Institute – an industry trade group.
“It transfers cost of the system to other rate payers.”
Oldak says the cost of building and maintaining power lines is paid
by adding a couple of pennies per kilowatt hour to the cost of
everyone’s electric bill.
“This is zero sum game. If they’re not paying for their electric wires that are strung to their homes, and their transformers, and all of the infrastructure needed to deliver power to them. Then basically, under the regulated model, the other citizens, everyone else in the State, are going to pick up those costs. That’s not right and that leads to inefficient markets.”
Oldak says state net metering laws also force utilities to pay
retail price for electricity they could get for much less on the
Bill Labine says on the contrary — his net-metering system
produces high-value power when it’s needed the most.
“When you think about it happens during the summer in the middle of the day. That’s when anybody would have excess electricity to sell back to the utility company. And that’s precisely when the utility companies are cranking up every one of their last generators to try and meet the demand of all the air conditioners in the state. So it correlates very well with the utilities peak demand.”
It’s hard to get a handle on how many people are actually net
metering their electric power. The solar industry says thousands are
doing it. The electric power industry thinks the number is far smaller.
However, supporters of the practice say a long, cold winter this
year may turn more people into converts.
In Avon, New York, I’m Bud Lowell for the Great Lakes Radio
All around the Great Lakes people are worrying about heating
homes this winter. Some are trying to save up money to pay rising oil
natural gas bills. Others are stockpiling wood. But some families
worried about utility rates. They heat and sometimes light their homes
with solar power. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell has