Mayors’ Letter on Tar Sands Oil & Bottle Bill Lawsuit

  • State officials in Michigan want to crack down on people who smuggle cans and bottles across the state line for the deposit money. (Photo by Sarah Alvarez)

Mayors of nearly two dozen U.S. cities are urging the State Department to thoroughly study a proposed new oil pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil from northern Canada south to Texas. Lindsey Smith reports Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell signed the letter to the federal government:

In the letter, the mayors say they’re worried about the environmental impact of the pipeline. It would be built west of the Mississippi River – nowhere near Grand Rapids. But Mayor Heartwell says the location doesn’t matter so much to him.

“You know, the truth of the matter is we should all be concerned about any environmental damage anywhere in the world.”

The oil that would flow through the proposed pipeline would come from the same tar sands region of Alberta as the oil that spilled into the Kalamazoo River last year originated from.

FAQs about the bottle bill from the Department of Treasury

American Beverage Association

The Department of Environmental Quality’s Remediation Division


(music sting)

This is the Environment Report.

(cans and bottles clinking)

We’re all used to hauling our bottles and cans back to the store to get our 10 cent deposits back. But not all bottles get returned. If they’re lost or recycled or thrown away… the money from the unclaimed deposits goes into a state fund used to clean up pollution. And now, a lawsuit might threaten this fund. Sarah Alvarez has more:

All the unclaimed deposits from Michigan cans and bottles really add up. The state gets about 12 million dollars a year out of it.

A small amount of this money goes back to the retailers who sell the containers. But most of it is used for cleaning up old industrial land or toxic waste. The state also uses the money to finish the clean-up of federal Superfund sites.

With budget cuts, money for pollution cleanup is harder to come by. Anastasia Lundy is with the Department of Environmental Quality. She says her department used to rely on Michigan’s general fund.

“Well, the programs that are funding environmental cleanup no longer receive any general fund whatsoever, so this has increased our reliance on these bottle bill funds to try to keep the programs meeting the most critical needs.”

The state wants as much money in the clean-up fund as possible…They’re worried they are losing money to people they call smugglers. These are people bringing cans into Michigan from other states for deposit money.

You might remember that Seinfeld episode where Kramer and Neuman drive cans and bottles into Michigan.

(Seinfeld clip)

The state is getting serious about cutting down on bottle deposit fraud. So, they want bottle manufacturers to put a special mark on containers sold in Michigan. Bottle return machines would then only take containers with the mark. The state changed the bottle bill to require manufacturers to add the mark… and the manufacturers are now suing the state over the changes to the bill.

The American Beverage Association is bringing the suit. Now, they didn’t return calls for comment on this story. But, they’ve told other media outlets that making special cans and bottles for Michigan will be expensive and they don’t want to do it.

Retailers are siding with the state in the suit. Mike Lashbrook is the President of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesaler Association.

“Well, you know, this issue, the fact that there is this smuggling that’s been going on, it’s not a joke like the Seinfeld episode. It is a major problem.”

He says retailers are also worried about losing money to bottle smugglers.

The state has already put a little over a million dollars into upgrading the bottle machines to read the special mark. If the Beverage Association wins their case the state will lose this money.

For the Environment Report, I’m Sarah Alvarez.

Rebecca: The case is now moving forward in federal court. State officials say they’ll continue to upgrade bottle return machines in counties along the Ohio and Indiana borders.

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

Oil Spilled While No One Reacted

  • Booms across the river to try to contain the spill. Governor Granholm has called the cleanup efforts inadequate. (Photo by Steve Carmody)

One of the biggest oil spills ever in the Midwest.
An underground pipeline that carries crude oil from Indiana to Ontario sprung a leak earlier this week. The EPA estimates more than 1 million gallons of oil have spilled into a creek near Marshall, Michigan. Now oil has flowed into the Kalamazoo River.

Government warns Enbridge of potential problems
A Pattern: another Enbridge pipeline spills oil
Background on the company


Officials are hoping to stop the oil before it gets into Morrow Lake, which is about 60 miles from Lake Michigan.

(UPDATE 6:15pm – 7/29/10: The EPA and Enbridge say the oil has not reached Morrow Lake. Several dozen homes in the area are being evacuated)

Here’s Police Captain Tom Sands. He did a flyover Wednesday afternoon to assess the damage.

SANDS: Some of the oil has gone over the dam and it’s a very light sheen at that point, once the water mixes over the dam you see a little bit of sheen on the river.

GRANHOLM: The situation is very serious.

That’s Governor Granholm. She says Enbridge Energy Partners, the Canadian company responsible for the leak, and the EPA had promised to send more resources to try to contain the spill.

GRANHOLM: And the new resources that have been provided so far are wholly inadequate.

Health officials say the area where the spill occurred is highly toxic. They want people to stay away from the river. That means no boating, no fishing, no swimming.
When I drove to Marshall yesterday, I could smell the oil from the highway. Basically everywhere you go in Marshall you can smell the oil.
Kayla Nelson lives in Marshal and she says it’s bad.

NELSON: I’m kinda scared to drink the water but I’m not sure. I haven’t heard anything but I’m just kind scared myself to drink it.

EPA officials are testing the water to see if it’s safe to drink. A county official I talked to said if people are worried about it, they should not boil the water. Instead, he recommends drinking bottled water.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra has also been following the story. So Jen, Enbridge has promised to not only pay for the cleanup but to cleanup everything. Is that really possible?

GUERRA: Well, I talked to Peter Adriaens, he’s a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Michigan, and he says no.

ADRIAENS: We cannot restore the site to exactly to what it was before any spill occurred. All we can remedy it as much as possible, minimize the exposure of wildlife and we can minimize health effects and we can try to contain it.

GUERRA: The official cause of the leak is unknown. Enbridge did shut down the pipeline, but there are questions as to when Enbridge knew about the leak and when they reported it to the authorities.

WILLIAMS: Right, residents like Debbie Trescott say they could smell oil on Sunday. She lives southwest of Marshall.

TRESCOTT: Sunday morning I came in to get groceries and it was about 9:30 in the morning, maybe 10 o’clock and I smelled this oil. This was just horrible, and as I almost got to A drive it was just a horrible smell and I knew then that something must be wrong.

WILLIAMS: So, Trescott smelled oil Sunday morning, but the energy company says they didn’t detect the spill until around 10:30 Monday morning.

GUERRA: Right, so now that the oil is there, we wondered what the long term effects are. I asked Peter Adriaens, he’s the professor at U of M, and he said one of the many chemicals in oil is benzene. It’s a neurotoxin, which is bad, so if you have a big oil spill like the one in the Kalmazoo River in the summer, that benzene can evaporate and gets into the air quickly.

ADRIAENS: Inhalation of high concentrations in the air is very toxic from neurological and a number of other perspectives.

GUERRA: Again, that’s a possible long term effect.

WILLIAMS: Thanks Jen

GUERRA: Thanks.

WILLIAMS: The smell is so bad in Marshall, that a lot of people near the spill site are relocating to hotels, but now all the hotels in the area are booked, so the Red Cross has set up a shelter for people who want to leave their homes. The energy company officials say they’ll have frequent updates, but last night they canceled a press conference two minutes before it was scheduled to begin.
That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.

Getting Water to the Dry, Dry West

  • Colorado Springs pumps water through the Rocky Mountains into town (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Out West, a lot of cities figure many more people will be moving in over the next few decades. Water engineers wish those people would bring along all the water they’ll need, but of course they won’t. Shawn Allee reports these cities want to pipe more water from far away, and some people think that’s a bad idea:


Out West, a lot of cities figure many more people will be moving in over the next few
decades. Water engineers wish those people would bring along all the water they’ll
need, but of course they won’t. Shawn Allee reports these cities want to pipe more
water from far away, and some people think that’s a bad idea:

The air in Colorado Springs is usually so dry it quickly chaps your lips.

What gives? Colorado Springs sounds wet enough.

“There’re really no springs in Colorado Springs, so when you start talking
about water, it’s a divergence between our name and reality. Sounds like we
had a lot, and in reality we didn’t.”

This is Matt Mayberry, Colorado Spring’s historian.

I’ve heard about this massive water pipeline project the town’s cooking up, and I was
curious just how long the city’s worked to quench its thirst.

Mayberry’s got an exhaustive book on that with an exhaustive title.

“Blah, blah, blah … the emergence and appropriation of rights in Colorado

The crib notes version?

Early on, buffalo manure poisoned Colorado Spring’s creek, so people dug wells.

Then, the wells got infested with grasshoppers.

And the town grew, and grew, and grew again.

“Very soon you had to bring water from further away, and ultimately to the
Western Slope which is a couple hours drive of here.”

Today, Colorado Springs pipes water through the Rocky Mountain range.

Doing the extraordinary for water is kinda ordinary for Colorado Springs.

Its latest pipeline project is called the Southern Delivery System, and it’ll pump nearly
80 million gallons into town each year – and it’ll pump that water forty five miles –
completely uphill.

Impressive, but some people are asking tough questions about it.

“Our concern with this project is the greenhouse gas emissions that it would
contribute to.”

Stacy Tellinghuisen is with Western Resource Advocates, a Colorado environmental

She says there’s a connection between pumping water uphill and a large carbon

“Water is heavy. Pumping it over a great distance takes a lot of energy, and
in the process it would require something along the lines of 60 MW of power,
which is about a tenth of a power plant.”

And, for the most part, the utility burns natural gas and coal to generate power. Both
emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Tellinghuisen says Western cities are considering at least five other water pipeline
projects, some with even larger carbon footprints.

She wants Colorado Springs to set an example by using dedicated low-carbon sources
like wind power for its water pumps.

I ask the Colorado Springs Utilities about that.

Keith Riley helped plan the Southern Delivery System.

“We think there are some ways we can minimize the carbon footprint by
looking at some new technologies.”

Riley says there were lots of environmental regulations to wade through before the
Southern Delivery System got approved.

But a large carbon footprint doesn’t disqualify utility projects.

Riley says, even if carbon were considered, the project might have gone forward
anyway because the city’s expected to grow over the next few decades.

“Water is the essential element for all of us, so when it comes to that level of
sustaining our own lives, then you get to some trade-offs on what we’re
willing to do to keep ourselves alive where we we live, where our cities are.
No matter what happens, we’ve got to move water to Colorado Springs, and
we’re uphill from the river, so we’ve got to get the water uphill one way or

Riley says Colorado Springs Utilities is considering low-carbon renewable power for its
new pipeline.

But it’ll be expensive, and no one’s stepped forward with all the money.

Other Western cities are engineering clever ways of moving loads of water around,
too. And it’ll be a political and financial challenge for them to pay for the carbon

For The Environment Report, I’m Shawn Allee.

Related Links

Diversion Debate Focuses on Bottled Water

  • Some consider shipping bottled water to areas outside the Great Lakes basin a form of water diversion. (Photo by Cris Watk)

Governors throughout the region are talking to their constituents about proposed Great Lakes water rules. They hope to have the so-called Annex 2001 rules ready to go by the end of the year. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rick Pluta reports that bottled water has entered into the diversion debate:


Governors throughout the region are talking to their constituents about proposed Great Lakes water rules. They hope to have the so-called Annex 2001 rules ready to go by the end of the year. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rick Pluta reports that bottled water has entered into the diversion debate:

Michigan just concluded its final public hearing. The state’s grappling with the potential impact of a growing bottled water industry, and the question of whether shipping bottled water should be considered a diversion of Great Lakes water.

Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak’s district touches on three of the Great Lakes. He says the simplest solution would be to simply ban any use that allows significant amounts of water to be moved out of the Great Lakes basin, whether that’s by ship, pipelines, or bottles.

“As we move towards a growing population worldwide, by 2025, water will be the most sought-after commodity in the world. We’d better have our act together, have one standard, and let’s ban the sale or diversion of Great Lakes water.”

But business groups are lobbying for less restrictive rules. They say water bottling has a tiny impact on the Great Lakes, and tight restrictions will hurt business development in the region.

For the GLRC, I’m Rick Pluta.

Related Links

Proposed Pipeline Divides Community

A Findlay, Ohio-based oil company says it needs a new petroleum pipeline to help get gasoline and jet fuel products to market in the Great Lakes states. But Marathon-Ashland’s proposal has sparked opposition from environmentalists and some small business owners in Southeast Ohio who fear possible contamination of waterways and disruption of some pristine areas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Borgerding has the story:


A Findlay, Ohio based Oil Company says it needs a new petroleum pipeline to help get gasoline and jet fuel products to market in the Great Lakes states. But, Marathon-Ashland’s proposal has sparked opposition from environmentalists and some small business owners in Southeast Ohio who fear possible contamination of waterways and disruption of some pristine areas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Borgerding reports.

The proposed 149-mile long pipeline will cross the Ohio River from Kenova, West Virginia and snake through parts of the Wayne National Forest and scenic Hocking Hills in Southeastern Ohio and South Central Ohio. Company spokesman Tim Aydt says the project will help stabilize gasoline prices in a region stretching from eastern Illinois to western New York.

“The existing pipeline infrastructure that serves us today is decades old and it was designed when there was only one grade of gasoline and one grade of diesel fuel. And it was designed to serve a population about half the size it is today. Over time, with the growth we’ve had in the Midwest we’ve outgrown that pipeline capacity and as a result we’ve witnessed the last two summers where we’ve had constrained supply that’s resulted in price spikes.”

The pipeline might help stabilize gasoline prices in the region by adding a second source of supply for refined petroleum products. Currently, The Great Lakes region is dependent solely on pipelines running out of refineries in the Gulf Coast states such as Louisiana and Texas. But, Marathon-Ashland’s proposal also presents a potential environmental risk. The pipeline will cross 363 streams, 55 wetlands, and parts of three watersheds. For some, the prospect of a pipeline carrying gasoline and jet fuel through environmentally sensitive areas has sparked fears. Jane Ann Ellis is a founder and trustee of Crane Hollow…. a privately owned, dedicated state nature preserve in the path of the pipeline.

“If this pipeline would be built and if there was any kind of leak this would decimate the clean water that we have. It is easier to keep your drinking water clean than it is to clean it up afterwards. And it’s cheaper in the long run for the general public.”

Michael Daniels also opposes Marathon-Ashland’s project. He owns a country inn that attracts tourists from Ohio and surrounding states. He says many of his customers come to the region to hear chirping birds, babbling brooks, and to see the fall foliage. Daniels says both construction and operation of the pipeline will have a negative effect on his business.

“Certainly! Who would want to come as a tourist and be exposed to that kind of noise and intrusion into their experience? So, there’s no question that it will impact my business.”

But company spokesman Tim Aydt says the pipeline route through parts of a national forest and other environmentally sensitive areas is the best possible route.

“We wanted to avoid population centers. We wanted to avoid residential or commercial developments and we wanted to avoid flood plains where we could. So, when all of that was put into the mix we came up with the best route overall. Obviously it’s not the cheapest route because it’s not a straight line between two points. But, about 80 percent of the route follows existing utility corridors or those areas that are less prone to development.”

Marathon-Ashland says without the pipeline the Great Lakes could soon face shortages of gasoline, lines at the pump and greater fluctuations in gas prices. The tension between the company and pipeline opponents turns on the question of whether Marathon-Ashland will be required to submit an “environmental impact statement.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to make that decision early this year following a recommendation from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Corps spokesman Steve Wright says there’s no question such a requirement will delay the project.

“That will take longer. You know they take varying lengths of time but certainly they can’t be done very quickly.”

Marathon-Ashland contends an environmental impact statement (EIS) is unnecessary. But, opponents of the plan say the EIS is critical since the pipeline puts so many streams and wetlands at risk for potential pollution.

For the Great Lakes radio Consortium I’m Tom Borgerding

Lake Erie Pipeline Nears Approval

Over the past weeks, a proposed natural gas pipeline under Lake
Michigan has been making headlines. But in the meantime, another Great
Lakes pipeline is nearing the final stages of a regulatory review. The
four-hundred-forty mile millennium pipeline will run between Dawn,
Ontario, and the New York City area. Most of the natural gas pipeline
will follow a land route. But a ninety-mile stretch is expected to be
beneath Lake Erie. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy
Nelson reports, that appears to be the path of least resistance:

Pipeline to Go Under Lake Michigan

Two energy companies are proposing a natural gas pipeline under
Lake Michigan. Peoples energy services corporation and coastal
corporation want to lay more than a hundred miles of pipe under the
western shore of the lake. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy
Nelson reports, the project has environmentalists wondering what might
be next: