Tuesday, June 27, 2017

State terminates independent contractor analyzing Line 5 risks; environmentalists call for Line 5 shutdown, transparency

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality and Oil and Water Don't Mix 

Displaying their "Shut Down Line 5" banner, Native and non-Native kayakers protest against Enbridge's 63-year-old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac during the Sept. 3, 2016, Pipe Out Paddle event in Mackinaw City, Mich. At right is the south end of the Mackinac Bridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Miguel Levy)

LANSING -- The State of Michigan terminated on June 21, 2017, a contract with Det Norske Veritas, Inc. (DNV GL), the firm preparing a risk analysis report on the Line 5 pipeline below the Straits of Mackinac. Because of a conflict of interest, the contract was terminated prior to the draft report being delivered to the state’s project team.

The environmental group Oil and Water Don't Mix, along with the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club and FLOW - For Love of Water, reacted to the decision immediately. Oil and Water Don't Mix stated, also on June 21, that this conflict of interest amplifies the need to shut down the Line 5 pipelines once and for all. The groups are calling on state leaders to inform the public and disclose all details of the DNV GL draft study.

Sign displayed during the Sept. 6, 2015, protest against Line 5 at the Mackinac Bridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Within the past month, the state’s project team became aware that an employee who had worked on the risk analysis at DNV GL subsequently worked on another project for Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., which owns the Line 5 pipeline, while the risk analysis was being completed. This is a violation of conflict of interest prohibitions contained in the contract.

"We took the initiative to terminate the contract based on our commitment to the complete integrity and transparency of this report. Ultimately the state will have to decide how to proceed with Line 5 and we can’t do that if there is any doubt regarding the nature of the information," said C. Heidi Grether, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) director.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette noted the risk analysis was supposed to be independent according to the contract with DNV GL.

"The evaluations of Line 5 were supposed to be independent, not tainted by outside opinions or information, but that’s not what happened. Instead, our trust was violated and we now find ourselves without a key piece needed to fully evaluate the financial risks associated with the pipeline that runs through our Great Lakes. This is unacceptable," Schuette said. "Terminating the contract is the only option we have to maintain the integrity of the risk analysis."

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW - For Love Of Water, called on Attorney General Schuette to shut down Line 5.

"This study was tainted by huge conflicts of interest and a complete lack of transparency from the state, all with Line 5 continuing to pose a clear danger to our Great Lakes, our economy, and our way of life," Kirkwood said. "In addition to a full and complete disclosure of the facts regarding this cancellation, we demand that Attorney General Schuette starts acting like the lead attorney for the people of Michigan, who elected him to protect us and the Great Lakes, and shut down Line 5 without delay."
Inset photo: Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, is pictured here at the June 13, 2016, meeting of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Board, where she spoke about Line 5 pipeline violations -- including the absence of supports, the curvature, wall thickness, and the degradation of the pipe, as well as the low-value insurance policy on the structure. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Diane Miller)

DNV GL was hired by the state in 2016 following an extensive request for proposal process including review and selection by a team with diverse technical backgrounds. The contract requires that DNV GL employees working on the risk assessment maintain complete independence from any other project involving Enbridge during the term and length of the contract.

David Holtz, chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, called for transparency from the State of Michigan.

"Citizens groups have been sounding the alarm bells for months about the massive conflicts of interest between Big Oil companies and the departments that are charged with regulating them, and this cancellation raises more questions than it answers," said Holtz. "The State of Michigan owes all citizens a full account of how and why this study was allowed to continue, even in light of the massive conflicts of interest. Michiganders deserve answers."*
Inset photo: David Holtz, chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, addresses the Michigan Pipeline Safety Board during their June 13, 2016, meeting. He asked that the state not compromise the risk and alternative analyses by having them funded by Enbridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Diane Miller)

Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, said DNV GL violated state requirements and that led to the state's decision to terminate the contract.

"The State put strict rules in place that required both contractors to avoid any appearance of impropriety," Brader noted. "We are disappointed that those requirements were not followed by DNV GL, as that rendered the work essentially unusable to us."

At the same time it hired DNV GL, the state also hired a separate firm, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc., to prepare an alternative analysis report on the Line 5 pipeline.

Public meeting, feedback sessions on Line 5 risk analysis to be held in July

Dynamic Risk Assessment System’s draft report is proceeding and will be delivered to the state project team by the end of this month. Their draft alternative analysis will be posted on the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline website, www.mipetroleumpipelines.com, for public review and comment by the end of the month.

"Public discussion of the alternatives analysis will help inform next steps regarding the risk analysis on Line 5," said Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Fundamental to the state’s actions is a shared commitment to protecting our Great Lakes."

Representatives from Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems will present their findings to the public at an open informational meeting beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 6, 2017, at Holt High School, Margaret Livensparger Theater, 5885 Holt Road, Holt, Michigan, 48842.

Later in July, the state will hold three public feedback sessions on the report, including one in the Upper Peninsula:

-- At 8 a.m. Monday, July 24, 2017: Holt High School (same location as the meeting above).

-- At 6 p.m. Monday, July 24, 2017: Northwestern Michigan College - Hagerty Center, 715 East Front Street, Traverse City, Michigan, 49686.

-- At 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, 2017: Little Bear East Arena, 275 Marquette St, St Ignace, MI 49781.

Steve Casey, Michigan DEQ Upper Peninsula District Supervisor, Water Resources Division, Marquette office, told Keweenaw Now he would be attending the July 25 meeting in St. Ignace.

The State of Michigan commissioned the two independent contractors to complete risk and alternative analyses on the Line 5 pipeline following a recommendation in the 2015 Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report.**


* Click here to learn about Oil and Water Don't Mix and the many groups working with them to protect the Great Lakes from the danger of aging pipelines, especially Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. You can join Oil and Water Don't Mix in submitting comments and requesting a public hearing on Enbridge's current permit application to install 22 anchor supports on the Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits by signing the petition to the Michigan DEQ here. The deadline for these comments is June 29, 2017

** Click here for the 2015 Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report.

Editor's Note: See Keweenaw Now's June 19, 2016, article, "Citizens express concerns about Enbridge Line 5 at Michigan Pipeline Safety Board meeting," by Diane Miller.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Local Finns to host Juhannus Mid-Summer Festival in Askel, Hancock, Toivola, Bruce Crossing June 23-25

Juhannus poster courtesy Finlandia University.

HANCOCK -- The Finns of the Copper Country will host the Juhannus Mid-Summer Festival June 23, 24 and 25 -- a celebration of Finnishness and community -- featuring live music, Finnish food, an expanded Tori market, a music camp, plays, dances, a traveling sauna and more. Juhannus '17 is a celebration of the Finnish American presence in the Copper Country in the context of the Republic of Finland's Centennial.

Events will take place in four communities: Askel, Hancock, Toivola and Bruce Crossing. All are welcome.

Here is the schedule:*

Friday, June 23: Annual Hanka Heritage Day (moved from August to June) will take place at the Hanka Finnish Homestead Museum in Askel: Celebrating Finnish farm life
        1 p.m. - 5 p.m. -- Museum open with docents, enactors and farm animals
        1 p.m. - 5 p.m. -- The Traveling Sauna (Finland 100 USA)
        1-p.m. - 5 p.m. -- Live music performance: Ameriikan Poijat and others
        1 p.m. - 5 p.m. -- Representatives from the World’s Largest Greeting Card project on site, collecting signatures
        1 p.m.- 3 p.m. -- Finnish Folk Music Camp class: Arto Järvelä at the caretaker’s cottage
        1 p.m. - 3 p.m. -- Finnish American log buildings lecture by Frank Eld at the horse barn
        3 p.m. -- Flag raising, with remarks by Finland’s Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi
        4 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. -- Kivajat Dancers perform
        5 p.m. - 8 p.m. -- Dance on site with a traditional Finnish tanssilava (outdoor dance floor)

Saturday, June 24 -- Finnish American Heritage Center/Finlandia University, Hancock:
Celebrating bonds between Finland and the U.S. -- Old and New
       9 a.m. -10:30 a.m. -- "Topics in Modern Finnish Genealogy" by Greg Isola – Chapel of St. Matthew
       Midsummer pole (Juhannussalko) dedication
      10 a.m. - 4 p.m. -- The Traveling Sauna
      10 a.m. - 4 p.m. -- Outdoor Tori (Quincy Green), including Tori + art fair, and indoor Finnish Tori (Finnish American Heritage Center’s Martha Wiljanen Hall)
      10 a.m. - 4 p.m. -- Representatives from the World’s Largest Greeting Card project on site, collecting signatures
     11 a.m. -- Flag raising, and remarks from Ambassador Kauppi
     11 a.m. - 1 p.m. -- Music by Ameriikan Poijat and others w/ short performance by Kivajat Dancers
     1 p.m. - 3 p.m. -- Finnish Folk Music Camp class, Chapel, upstairs: Arto Järvelä
     1 p.m. - 3 p.m. -- "A History of the Quincy Hill Scandinavian Church," by Greg Isola, Chapel, downstairs
    4 p.m. -- Tammy Santti-Kero art reception, Community Arts Center. See right-hand column.

Saturday, June 24 -- Agate Beach, Toivola: Celebrating the ancient traditions of Juhannus and the 125th anniversary of the community’s settlement
        1 p.m. -- Registration for Toivola homecoming participants
        1:30 p.m. -- Welcome by 125th anniversary celebration committee
        2:30 p.m. -- Original play "Stories of Oar" by Kris Kyrö
        3:30 p.m. -- Group photo of Toivola 125th anniversary participants
        4 p.m. -- Log building preservation lecture by Frank Eld at Agate Beach Hall
        4 p.m. -- Supper w/food vendors
        6 p.m. -- Raising of Finnish and American flags; greetings by Ambassador Kauppi
        6 p.m. - 10 p.m. -- Traveling Sauna on site
        6 p.m. - 10 p.m. -- Representatives from the World’s Largest Greeting Card project on site, collecting signatures
        6:15 p.m. -- Original play "Stories of Oar" by Kris Kyrö
        7 p.m. - 10 p.m. -- Dance with Ameriikan Poijat and others (Kivajat to perform during intermissions)
        9 p.m. -- Lighting of the Juhannus kokko

Sunday, June 25 -- Settlers’ Co-Op Centennial, Bruce Crossing: Celebrating Finnish American Co-operatives
        1 p.m. - 4 p.m. -- Live music at Settlers' Co-op
        1 p.m. - 6 p.m. -- Traveling Sauna on site
        1 p.m. - 6 p.m. -- Representatives from the World’s Largest Greeting Card project on site, collecting signatures
        3 p.m. -- Kivajat performance
        3:30 p.m. -- Dedication of Heritage Wall
        4 p.m. -- World premiere of Kristin Ojaniemi’s documentary of the Settlers’ Co-Op at VFW Hall
        6 p.m. -- Dance at VFW Hall

* All events subject to change.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hancock City Council to hold Public Hearing including White Street preceding June 21 meeting

These one-way signs at the corner of White Street and U.S. 41 in Hancock are intended to warn motorists the street is for upbound traffic only, with the exception of bicycles. The bike lane (lower left in photo) was added last summer to allow cyclists to ride downhill on White Street. (June 19, 2017, photo by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- The question of whether White Street in Hancock should continue to be one-way going uphill from downtown Hancock to U.S. 41, according to the City Council decision in 2014, or return to a two-way street will be discussed at a Public Hearing at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday, June 21, preceding the monthly City Council meeting in the Council Chambers, 399 Quincy Street, Hancock.

The no-right-turn sign (upper left in photo) above U.S. 41 warns northbound traffic not to turn down White Street now that it is one way. (June 19, 2017, photo by Keweenaw Now)

Three years ago, in 2014, the Hancock City Council approved making White Street from Reservation Street to N. Lincoln Dr. (US 41) one-way upbound only. The Council made its decision after several residents supported the one-way upbound for safety reasons.*

Prior to the 2014 decision, White Street had 24-hour vehicle counts of 2,339 downbound and 3,356 upbound for a total of 5,694 vehicles. In 2015, the 24-hour vehicle count on the upbound lane was 4,825 -- an increase of 43 percent over the prior upbound lane count. The City estimates that if White Street was reopened to two-way traffic, there would be a 24-hour vehicle count of between 7,325 and 8,000 vehicles. Another addition to White Street is the bike lane marked for downbound bicycles, which are allowed despite the one-way upbound for vehicle traffic.**

This photo, taken in 2014 at the corner of White Street and US 41, shows traffic barrels and barriers that were set up to prevent cars from turning downhill on White Street, which is now one-way going up from downtown Hancock. Cars going up the hill, like those pictured here, can still turn left or right on US 41 (North Lincoln Ave.). Eventually motorists got used to the one-way street, and improved signs replaced the barriers. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Oral and written comments are welcomed.

The Council will discuss and consider White Street options during the New Business part of the meeting.

In addition to the question on White Street, these two issues will also be a part of the Public Hearing:
  • Public Hearing on FY 17/18 Fiscal Year Budget with $7,958,150 in revenue and $7,441,347 in expenses.
  • MEDC Grant # MSC-215003-CDF Close out grant for Vollwerth’s Expansion Grant.
The Council will also welcome John Haeussler as At-Large City Council member for a term ending in November 2018.

Editor's Notes:

* See our June 22, 2014, article, "Hancock City Council approves one-way street changes."

** See our Aug. 30, 2016, article, "Hancock bike lane on White St. allows cyclists to ride against one-way motorized traffic."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Portage Lake District Library to host Houghton County Democratic Party workshop on running for local office June 19

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host the Houghton County Democratic Party from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, June 19, for "A Primer on Running for Local Office: Getting You to 'Yes.'"

This workshop will be lead by Valorie Troesch and will address the truths and myths about what it takes to run for local office. Participants will learn what the local elective and appointed positions are and what qualifications are required for each position, how to get on the ballot, how to prepare to run for local office, how to run a winning campaign, and what resources are available to support candidates. People who have run for local office, including Troesch, will share their experiences.

Valorie Troesch waves to supporters during a local parade last summer, when she first ran for Houghton County Commissioner. Troesch, an active member of the Houghton County Democratic Party, said she may run for this same office again. She plans to share her experiences with citizens interested in running for local office at a workshop on Monday, June 19, at the Portage Lake District Library. (Keweenaw Now file photo courtesy Valorie Troesch)

"We Democrats work hard to advocate for values and policies that reflect who we are and that promise better lives for the people in our community," Troesch commented. "Too often, however, local elective offices go unchallenged by Democrats because the prospect of running for office is so daunting. If you have ever considered putting your hat in the ring, this workshop is for you!"

There is no cost to attend, and light refreshments will be served. Those who are interested in participating may contact Troesch at houghtondems@gmail.com.

All library events and programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information please call the library at 482-4570.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Local "Die-In" opposes House American Health Care Act; June 14 is Stop TrumpCare Senate Call-In Day

By Michele Bourdieu

At their "Die-In" event on May 13, 2017, local opponents of the Republican House of Representatives' American Health Care Act of 2017, gather at Veteran's Park in Houghton to protest Michigan 1st District Rep. Jack Bergman's "yes" vote for the May 4 passage of the bill, H.R. 1628, which proposes to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and "defund" Planned Parenthood. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- On May 13, 2017, about a week after Republicans in the US House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017 (H.R. 1628) to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA or Obamacare), about 75 local concerned citizens gathered in Veteran's Park in Houghton and stretched out on the grass in a symbolic "Die-In" to protest the proposed law that would deprive millions of health insurance they now receive through the Affordable Care Act.

Participants in the May 13 "Die-In" display tombstone-shaped signs protesting aspects of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the Republican House -- including projections that 24 million people would lose health care coverage nationally. Over 40,000 in Rep. Jack Bergman's Michigan District 1 could lose coverage under the AHCA.

Now, a month later, Republicans in the US Senate are preparing their own version of the bill "behind closed doors," in the hope of passing a bill before July 4th, according to a June 12, 2017, article in USA Today, which notes concerns of some Republicans and strong opposition from Democrats because of the lack of transparency in preparation of the bill.*

The Indivisible Movement, one of the hosts of the May 13 "Die-In" has declared today, June 14, 2017, Stop #TrumpCare Senate Call-In Day. Indivisible asks concerned citizens to call their senators today and tell them to reject TrumpCare and their closed-room deal to take health care away from millions of people.**

At the "Die-in" speakers and other participants noted reasons for their strong opposition to the American Health Care Act passed by the House.

Matt Seigel of Houghton offered an introduction.

"We're here today in response to a threat to the lives and health of thousands of people in Michigan and across the country, a threat aided by the actions of our own Congressional Representative, Jack Bergman, for the primary purpose of further enriching the wealthiest Americans while unnecessarily hurting the most vulnerable among us," said Seigel. "Jack Bergman voted to take health care away from millions of ordinary, working Americans so that he could give a huge tax cut to the richest and most secure among us, the very people who need the least, but take the most."

Seigel noted also that the AHCA lets states opt out of coverage for pregnancy, maternity and newborn care. It would also roll back protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including cancer, asthma, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer's and more.***

Two high school students from Houghton -- Ganna Omar and Daphne Maki -- were among the youngest participants in the "Die-in."

Daphne Maki, left, and Ganna Omar, both of Houghton, display their sign of concern for those with pre-existing conditions, who could lose health care coverage under the American Health Care Act passed by the Republican House.

"I'm 16, but I would have a pre-existing condition under this bill," said Maki. "I'm here for myself and my future, but also the future of others who would be negatively affected as well."

Omar, a high school freshman, said, "I'm very fortunate to have insurance and not be affected by this bill, but I feel strongly about voicing the need to protest other Americans' health care."

Signs at the "Die-in" show strong opposition to the House Republicans' American Health Care Act (AHCA).

One of the speakers, Marika Seigel, co-organizer of the "Die-in," shared a testimonial from her brother, who had four different types of cancer that totaled $100,000 in medical bills after surgery.

"Luckily, about a year earlier I had enrolled the Affordable Care Act," her brother said. "As a part time woodworker and teacher, I had no health benefits. I found a plan that was reasonably priced, and in the end saved me tens of thousands of dollars. Even after a large price reduction given by the hospital due to my income level, it's likely I would have had to declare bankruptcy without the coverage I had under the Affordable Care Act. It is not a perfect bill, but it encouraged me to get insured after going about 6 years without medical insurance if any kind. Luckily I now have a job with benefits, but the ACA helped me when I needed it."

More signs at the "Die-in" reflect concerns about cancer and other serious illnesses that require good coverage.

Valorie Troesch, co-organizer of the "Die-In" event and active member of the Houghton County Democratic Party, spoke about the experience of her niece, who suffered from stage 4 melanoma before the ACA and had no health insurance. Troesch recounted how she accompanied her niece to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and helped her pay for tests, but she still lacked the thousands it would cost for surgeries and treatment.

"No one who hasn't been there can understand how it feels to hear a doctor tell a 30-year-old mother with a 10-month-old baby at home that she has 3-6 months to live without treatment," Troesch said. "Her only option for health insurance coverage was Medicaid -- and, to qualify, she had to separate from her husband (who had lost his job). So that is what she did. She received the care she needed and today is in full remission. But the stress of separation destroyed her marriage so she still paid a very high price."

Troesch reminded the audience that the United States is the only developed country in the world without universal health care, while Rep. Bergman, as a retired general, has the very best health care money can buy -- paid for by us, the taxpayers.

Valorie Troesch, right, addresses participants in the "Die-in." She told a story about how lack of health insurance affected her niece's life. Pictured with megaphone is Matt Seigel.

Cynthia Drake spoke about her own personal experience as a single parent and business owner without health insurance until the ACA came along.

"Before the ACA was created, I did not have health insurance for over a year when I left 'regular employment' to build my own business," Drake said. "I could not afford to buy insurance and so I went without it. The ACA has allowed me to have health insurance again, and now I can build my business and support my family as a single parent while having health care so that I do not have to worry about emergencies which might arise in my health -- and I get preventative health care to maintain my health. Without the ACA I still wouldn't have insurance -- and I think I represent many people."

Anne Newcombe of the Keweenaw People's Movement, said she believed the "Die-In" action showed people are not taking health care lightly.

"I guarantee that for every person that was out there (at Veteran's Park) there are 20 more that think the same thing," she said.

Bill Binroth of Chassell spoke about his own experience of family loss.

"I recently lost a grand-nephew due to a lack of healthcare coverage in a misunderstanding with his employer," Binroth said.

Today Binroth added his concerns about the potential Senate bill.

"What's going on in the Senate right now is of major concern," Binroth told Keweenaw Now. "From the leaks that have come out, it sounds like their bill is not much better than that of the House of Representatives, i.e., leaving millions without healthcare coverage. We're anxiously awaiting what might be in store for the American people."

In addition to Indivisible, the "Die-In" was also hosted by the Houghton County Democratic Party and Houghton/Keweenaw Forward Action Michigan.

** Click here to learn about the Indivisible June action plan to stop TrumpCare in the Senate.

*** For details on the AHCA see the May 4, 2017, New York Times article, "What’s in the AHCA: The Major Provisions of the Republican Health Bill."  For a Library of Congress summary of the bill, click here.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Houghton Elementary fourth graders present interactive skits on climate issues

By Michele Bourdieu

Houghton Elementary fourth graders take turns describing the advantages and disadvantages of various types of energy, from oil to solar, during their June 2 climate program, organized by volunteers from the Keweenaw Climate Community and their teachers. Each energy type was examined to determine whether or not it is "clean" and/ or "renewable." (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- Last week, as President Trump made his announcement about pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, 106 fourth graders at Houghton Elementary School, coached by their teachers and several Keweenaw Climate Community (KCC) volunteers, were busy practicing for their June 2 presentation of lively, interactive, creative skits on climate issues.

The event began with a song about why we should try to "make the world a better place."

Music and art were incorporated into this introductory presentation with a motivational song and posters created by the students. Click on YouTube icon for larger video screen. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Next a game of "Jeopardy" involved all the students who, divided into groups, competed to answer questions related to renewable energy, pollution, ways to conserve energy and other climate issues.

KCC member Jim Vendlinski and his group of students take the stage to ask "Jeopardy" questions on the climate, while the fourth graders in the audience compete in small groups to be the first to answer correctly. At left, KCC member Stephen Handler assists his group by clarifying a question. The prize for the winning group: "bragging rights."

KCC member Andi Vendlinski coached a class in demonstrating -- through pantomime -- the many steps and many people involved in producing one apple that they might buy at the grocery store. Students were invited to mime the planting of seeds, fertilizing and watering the apple tree, picking the apples, driving the apples to the market and selling them in the store.

Students raise their hands to volunteer for the pantomime skit on the steps involved in growing, transporting, selling, buying and eating an apple. At center is Andi Vendlinski, KCC member and coach for the skit.

Andi Vendlinski noted the high interest and enthusiasm of the fourth graders.

"After the first lesson, all the instructors were really impressed with how much many of the kids already knew about climate change, and how eager and enthusiastic they all were to learn more," she said. "It's so much fun when the kids are into it!"

Following the presentations on different types of energy (photo above), the final skit told the story of how a local healthy ecosystem works and how its plants and animals might be threatened by climate change.

These students mime the change in trees when climate change begins to have damaging effects on the ecosystem.

Students demonstrate through pantomime the effects of extreme heat and flooding on the ecosystem that was once healthy. Click on YouTube icon for larger video screen.

KCC volunteers Rob Handler and Emily Shaw assisted teacher Ken Klein with this skit on the effects of climate change.

"We were in Mr. Klein's class for two days, talking about the effects of climate change on plants and animals," Handler said.

On the third day the students developed the skit, he added, and Mr. Klein had them practice it in class.

"They were awesome," said Shaw. "They practiced a lot."

In addition to Mr. Klein, other fourth-grade teachers who participated were Margo Hall, Neeta Jacobson, and Shannon Lehto.

Pictured here in the Houghton Elementary School cafeteria following the climate program are Keweenaw Climate Community (KCC) volunteers, from left, Hunter King, Emily Shaw, Jim Vendlinski, Andi Vendlinski, Stephen Handler, Kathy Halverson and Rob Handler. Not pictured is KCC volunteer Jenny Dunn, who also helped coach the students but was unable to attend the Friday program.

After the presentations all the students received LED energy-efficient light bulbs, donated by HEET (Houghton Energy Efficiency Team), and a reusable bag from Wal-Mart. Other sponsors were FOLK (Friends of the Land of Keweenaw), who donated supplies, and GS Engineering, who contributed funding for the project.

To learn more about the work of the Keweenaw Climate Community, visit their Web site and their Facebook page.

Editor's Note: Jim and Andi Vendlinski's children, twins Lewis and Catherine Vendlinski, who just celebrated their 9th birthday, participated, along with twins Stephen and Rob Handler, in the Keweenaw Climate Community's third Climate Café held last November. See our Nov. 30, 2016, article, "Keweenaw Climate Community to hold 4th Climate Café Dec. 1 at Orpheum Theater; video report on October, November KCC events."

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Questions on Eagle East: DEQ to hold public meeting June 8

From: Mining Action Group*

This aerial photograph shows (1) Eagle Mine facility and active drill rigs in the (2) southern drilling area for Eagle East, (3) northern drilling area for Eagle East and (4) eastern drilling area for Eagle East. The general location of the Eagle East ore body, some 3000 feet below the surface, is outlined by the large circle. Click on photo for larger version. (May 2017 photograph © Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

MARQUETTE -- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is holding a public meeting on the permit amendment request to expand Eagle Mine's operations to include Eagle East -- and eight kilometers of tunnels to connect these ore bodies. The public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 8, 2017, at the Westwood High School, 300 Westwood Dr, Ishpeming.**

While the proposed permit "amendment" is described as a "significant change" to the Eagle Mine permit, Eagle East is actually a new ore body, located beyond the previously permitted boundary of Eagle Mine. More mining spells serious trouble for the environment, with a widening industrial footprint and impacts never considered under the original permit. More mining means more tailings, more dewatering, and an increased risk of water contamination.


1. Lundin Mining claims that the Eagle East deposit will extend the life of Eagle Mine by only one or two years. What the mine doesn’t mention is that this modest extension to life of the mine comes at a cost: increased truck traffic, increased air emissions, more toxic mining waste permanently stored in a pit lake at Humboldt Mill, and increased discharge of pollutants to the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. Is Eagle East worth the enormous environmental footprint?

2. Lundin describes the combined ore as "Eagle ore" but Eagle and Eagle East are two different ore bodies, born from different volcanogenic events and sources. The new Eagle East ore body contains higher grades of copper and nickel, as well as other toxic heavy metals.

3. How will this new ore body impact water quality? The Eagle East ore body is located three thousand feet below the surface, so the ore and waste rock contain high quantities of entrapped salts from ancient brines, laced with heavy metals. This will, in turn, create long-term problems for the Humboldt Pit, where the addition of huge amounts of Eagle East waste tailings will dramatically increase Total Dissolved Solids. At the present Eagle Mine, the wastewater treatment plant will also need a new crystallizer to handle the salts and metals.

4. Last year’s undisclosed "partial pillar collapse" at Eagle Mine draws the overall safety of the expansion into question.*** Has the underlying geology been thoroughly studied? Can we trust Lundin to tell us when our watersheds and their employees are in danger? Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that a Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation found that a significant "large block failure" resulted from an undetected rock fracture. Mining experts have repeatedly warned that the Eagle ore body is filled with hard-to-map "smaller-scale discontinuities that could weaken the rock mass." Was the data correctly interpreted? Has the stability of Eagle Mine been dangerously overestimated from the beginning? Concerns about last year’s rock failure at Eagle Mine must be addressed before the company’s mining permit is amended.

Written public comment on the proposed permit amendment will be accepted until 5 p.m. on July 6, 2017. Send all comments to DEQ-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov, including "Eagle East Permit Amendment" as the subject, or mail them to:

DEQ Eagle East Permit Amendment
Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals
1504 West Washington Street
Marquette, MI 49855

Editor's Notes:

* The Mining Action Group (MAG), formerly Save the Wild U.P., is a volunteer grassroots effort defending the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining. MAG is a new semi-autonomous arm of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC).

** See Keweenaw Now's May 30, 2017, announcement of the public meeting: "MDEQ to hold public meeting on Eagle East Mining Permit Application Amendment June 8; public comments accepted until July 6."

*** See the Mining Action Group's May 25, 2017, article, "Eagle Mine Buries Underground Collapse," citing details of a 2016 underground collapse incident at Eagle Mine and grave concerns with the company’s lack of transparency. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Michigan Tech News: Saving Lives and Money: The Potential of Solar to Replace Coal

By Allison Mills*
Posted June 1, 2017, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted with permission

Michigan Tech researcher Joshua Pearce, pictured here, says by transitioning to solar photovoltaics (PV) in the US, up to 51,999 American lives would be saved at $1.1 million invested per life. (Photo © Sarah Bird and courtesy Michigan Tech University)

HOUGHTON -- By swapping solar photovoltaics for coal, the US could prevent 51,999 premature deaths a year, potentially making as much as $2.5 million for each life saved.

In a new study published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2017.05.119), a team from Michigan Technological University calculated the cost of combusting coal in terms of human lives along with the potential benefits of switching to solar.

(Inset photo: Guest author Allison Mills.* Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Health Impacts

Tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely each year from air pollution-related diseases associated with burning coal. By transitioning to solar photovoltaics (PV) in the US, up to 51,999 American lives would be saved at $1.1 million invested per life.

"Unlike other public health investments, you get more than lives saved," says Joshua Pearce, a professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Tech.** "In addition to saving lives, solar is producing electricity, which has economic value."

Using a sensitivity analysis on the value of electricity, which examines the different costs of electricity that varies by region throughout the country, saving a life by using solar power also showed potential to make money -- sometimes as much as several million dollars per life, says Pearce.

"Everybody wants to avoid wasting money. Just based off the pure value of electricity of the sensitivities we looked at, it's profitable to save American lives by eliminating coal with solar," he explains.

Pearce worked with energy policy doctoral student Emily Prehoda on the study, and their main goal was to better inform health policy. They gathered data from peer-reviewed journals and the Environmental Protection Agency to calculate US deaths per kilowatt hour per year for both coal and solar. Then they used current costs of solar installations from the Department of Energy and calculated the potential return on investment.

Michigan Tech energy policy doctoral student Emily Prehoda worked with Michigan Tech Professor Joshua Pearce on a new study calculating the cost of combusting coal in terms of human lives along with the potential benefits of switching to solar energy. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Pearce and Prehoda also analyzed the geographic impact of coal-related deaths.

Certain geographic regions are harder hit by coal-related deaths from air pollution. (Map courtesy Michigan Tech)

"Here, we have solid numbers on how many people die from air pollution and what fraction of that is due to coal-powered plants in each state," Pearce said.

Power of Solar

To fully replace all the coal production in the US with solar PV, it would take 755 gigawatts -- a significant increase compared to the 22.7 gigawatts of solar installed in the US currently. The total cost of installing that much solar power totals $1.5 trillion, but that investment is figured into Pearce and Prehoda's calculations, and is a profitable investment.

As Pearce sums it up: "Solar has come down radically in cost, it's technically viable, and coupled with natural gas plants, other renewables and storage, we have ways to produce all the electricity we need without coal, period."

He says resisting the rise of solar energy is akin to if computer manufacturers kept using vacuum tube switches instead of upgrading to semiconductor transistors.

"My overall take away from this study," Pearce says, "is that if we're rational and we care about American lives -- or even just money -- then it's time to end coal in the US."

Next Steps

The World Health Organization reports that millions die each year from unhealthy environment. Air pollution is notably the largest contributor to non-communicable diseases like stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Future work can expand this study globally.

"There's roughly seven million people who die globally from air pollution every year, so getting rid of coal could take a big chunk out of that number as well," Pearce says.

He adds that another goal of future research is to dig deeper into the life cycles of coal production, as this study only looked at air pollution-related deaths. Doing so will continue to illuminate the multiple positive impacts of solar power and its potential to do more than keep the lights on.


* Michigan Tech science writer Allison Mills studied geoscience as an undergrad at Northland College before getting a master's in environmental science and natural resource journalism at the University of Montana.

** Click here to learn more about Professor Joshua Pearce and his work.