Friday linkaround: Rail line creates buzz, pesticide wipes out bees

Oh, man. It's Friday and it's summertime. Does it get any better?

We hope this weekend's a classic for you: family and friends, time outdoors, maybe a Michigan-made beer or two, if that's your thing.

Meanwhile, why not wrap up the week with a look at some environmental news and events? Here's your linkaround:

Energy fair: If you're interested in renewable power and our energy future-and of course you are-see if you can carve out a few hours to attend the 10th Annual Michigan Energy Fair this weekend at the Ingham County Fairgrounds. Our friends at the Michigan Land Use Institute have a nice backgrounder on why the popularity of this event just keeps growing. By the way, the event's keynote event is a talk and book signing by big-tree champion David Milarch, whose work we explored in a recent issue of MEC's newsletter. He's a fascinating guy and you're going to want to hear what he has to say.

Solar report: Speaking of renewable energy, a draft report from the Michigan Public Service Commission shows the state's utilities could expand their solar programs at no cost to customers. A final version of the report is expected early next week, and we'll provide updates once we've had a chance to review it. Spoiler alert: We will continue to urge Consumers Energy and DTE Energy to expand their solar programs. It's what their customers want, and it's what Michigan needs to catch up with neighboring states.

For background on the process that led to this report, the Michigan Land Use Institute once again has you covered. They're helpful folks.

Coast to coast: Wouldn't it be sweet to hop a train in East Lansing and take a relaxing ride to Holland for a day at the beach? Instead of a long drive home, you could finish that Elmore Leonard book or just take a snooze. How about a quick trip by rail from Ann Arbor to Detroit for dinner and drinks or to watch Miguel Cabrera make a fool of some poor pitcher? No need to find parking or grit your teeth through traffic.

Michigan lawmakers recently brought that vision closer to reality by instructing the Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of the route. A report is due next May. The proposed Coast-to-Coast line would use existing rails to link Grand Rapids, Detroit and Lansing.

The idea gained a fair amount of attention in the media this week. MEC's Dan Sommerville discussed the Coast-to-Coast proposal during radio interviews with Michigan Radio and with WKAR. "This could be something that helps stem that brain drain and keep young people here," he told the Detroit Free Press.

Also: Some other stories that caught our eye this week.

  • Michigan officials announced the creation of a task force to review the safety of oil and gas pipelines.
  • Scientists say there's conclusive evidence that a widely used group of pesticides are causing mass die-offs of bees.
  • A study found those same pesticides in the majority of plants marked "bee-friendly" at home and garden stores in the U.S. and Canada. Ugh.
  • Wind power for the first time accounts for more than 5 percent of the energy produced in the U.S., according to new federal data. Solar power, meanwhile saw a 108 percent increase over the same time last year.
You know, all this talk about oil pipelines and wind power remind us of the two outstanding environmental champions we'll honor at our 16th Annual Environmental Awards Celebration July 9 in Ann Arbor. You're going, right? Learn more about the event here.

Enjoy the weekend!


Photo courtesy USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab via Flickr





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