- Associated Press - Monday, August 11, 2014

Lansing State Journal. Aug. 6.

Citizens, study for November election

With the dust settled and the primary ballots counted, Michigan moves forward to a general election that will have much impact on mid-Michigan. Voters have three months to do their homework for a lengthy and important ballot.

Topping the ticket will be races for governor and the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by a retiring Carl Levin.

Expect the race between Gov. Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, a former minority leader in the state Senate and one-term U.S. congressman, to heat up now that primaries are past. Same with the U.S. Senate race between Republican Terri Lynn Land, a former secretary of state, and Democrat Gary Peters, a three-term member of the U.S. House and former state senator.

Recent polls show Republican Snyder and Democrat Peters with an edge, but it’s a long time until Nov. 4. The contests should be exciting for Michigan voters, who are known for not giving either party a complete monopoly on statewide races.

Closer to home, Democrat Eric Shertzing, Ingham County’s treasurer, will face Republican Mike Bishop, former state senate majority leader, in the contest for the 8th District seat in Congress. That, too, should be a boisterous contest.

Bishop, who was term-limited out of the state Legislature, will be able to draw on his GOP contacts and an endorsement from outgoing GOP Rep. Mike Rogers. And Schertzing, as a sitting elected official, should command more resources and support from Democrats than Rogers’ most recent challengers enjoyed. While the district has been safe for Rogers, this should be a tougher contest than recently seen.

The 23rd District state Senate seat also is open, with incumbent Gretchen Whitmer reaching her term limit. Democrat Curtis Hertel Jr., currently Ingham County’s register of deeds, will take on Republican Craig Whitehead for that open seat. There will be numerous contests lower on the ballot, including Ingham County commission seats and the nonpartisan race for Lansing Board of Education.

Expect, too, a handful of ballot proposals including, hopefully, a Lansing City Charter amendment that would allow expansion of the Board of Water & Light’s governing board to include nonvoting representatives from neighboring communities that use BWL power.

Citizenship in a democracy is serious business. Make time to get informed, then vote. Ingham County’s turnout in Tuesday’s primary was a meager 16 percent. Let’s do better in November.

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The Alpena News. Aug. 6.

What’s the contingency plan Obama?

Given President Barack Obama’s record, it is unlikely he has a contingency plan in place to deal with a potential disaster involving Ukraine - success by that nation in battling Russian-backed separatists.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has thumbed his nose at U.S. efforts to punish Moscow for intervening in Ukraine. But overt, massive Russian help for the separatists has been kept to a minimum. That could change.

During the weekend, Ukrainian troops scored several successes against the separatists. The rebels were in danger of being surrounded in Donetsk, one of their strongholds.

That falls into the good news, bad news category, unfortunately.

Every victory by Ukrainian government forces makes it more likely Putin will increase his support for the separatists, possibly by using the Red Army openly.

If that happens, what will Obama do? In all likelihood, more of the same. He will hold a press conference to announce new economic sanctions against Russia -on top of several rounds of them, each in its turn proclaimed as irresistible.

They were not, of course.

Obama cannot commit U.S. military forces to the fight, of course. But he can provide more military hardware to the Ukrainians. And he can take other actions to pressure Putin.

The question is whether Obama has any plan for increasing Russian involvement. If not, he should get one ready.

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Detroit Free Press. Aug. 5.

Toledo water crisis must be a wake-up call

If what happened in Toledo last weekend doesn’t scare you, it should.

In a modern U.S. city - on the Great Lakes, the nation’s most expansive freshwater resource - some 400,000 residents went days without water after an algae bloom turned the waters of Lake Erie into something resembling pea soup. Treated water was unsafe for human consumption, even if boiled, even for bathing or cleaning dishes.

Here’s the worst part: This crisis was almost entirely man-made. And unless something changes, it will keep happening.

The toxin microcystin was produced by a blue-green algae in Lake Erie. States don’t require testing for this toxin, and there are no state or federal regulation of acceptable standards of microcystin, which can cause health problems such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, liver inflammation and pneumonia. When coming in contact with skin, it can cause rashes, hives and blisters.

This type of algae needs warm temperatures, nitrogen and phosphorus to grow. Nitrogen and phosphorus arrive in lake waters via sewerage overflows and runoff that contains agricultural and residential fertilizers. Humankind is providing the warmer temperatures through climate change.

Ecologists suggest in a story by the Free Press’ Keith Matheny that the problem could occur again as blooms expand in late August and early September.

This isn’t the first time algae blooms have threatened Lake Erie. In 1960, the lake’s oxygen levels dropped so sharply that it was declared “dead” because of algae blooms. Its recovery is largely the product of standards put in place by the U.S. Clean Water Act. But in 1995, algae blooms began again, the Toledo Blade reports, as researchers tracked an increase in the amount of phosphorus deposited in the Maumee River.

If the impacts of pollution or climate change seem largely theoretical to you, what happened in Toledo should bring it all very, very close to home.

There are a number of practical policy steps any state with significant freshwater resources should be taking. First is to develop state safety standards to provide guidelines for acceptable quantities of nutrients like nitrogen or phosphorus, something few states have, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an important part of reversing the impacts of pollution. Ditto microcystin.

At the federal level, lawmakers should stand firm behind the Clean Water Act.

There’s no credible scientific counterweight to the prevailing opinion that climate change is happening and that it is caused by human activity. Yet policymakers continue to wrangle over the reality of climate change as though it’s fringe science. There are sensible steps that can and should be taken to curb human behavior that causes climate change, but it’s a question lawmakers - particularly on the Republican side of the aisle - aren’t taking seriously.

Eleven million people rely on Lake Erie for drinking water, 26 million on the Great Lakes.

If the water crisis in Toledo doesn’t spur voters to demand response and lawmakers to take action, what will?

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Times Herald (Port Huron). Aug. 4.

Nuke dump too close to Lake Huron

Not in my backyard is the standard response of most nuclear waste dump opponents. But proponents’ pat response is the stuff nobody wants still has to go somewhere.

It’s a reasonable counter-argument, but it doesn’t fare so well against the furor about proposed radioactive waste facility in Ontario. If Ontario Power Generation gets its way, low- and intermediate-level waste would be buried a half-mile underground in a rock formation.

The problem, though, is the storage site is in Kincardine, Ontario - less than a mile from Lake Huron.

There is a substantial volume of scientific research that concludes there is no reason to worry. The waste would be housed in a 450 million-year-old limestone rock formation with little to no permeability and little or no water movement. Once the repository is full, it would be sealed with a layer of a thick, shale formation.

Despite these assurances, critics are unconvinced. The nuclear dump’s location is just too close to Lake Huron. If the unthinkable should occur and the radioactive waste somehow reaches the Great Lakes, 20 percent of the world’s fresh water would be in jeopardy.

The Great Lakes are too precious a natural resource to endanger. That the Kincardine waste dump has drawn international protest and concern should come as no surprise. No matter how safe it is purported to be, the proposed storage site proximity to Lake Huron is unlikely or impossible to dispel fears that something could go wrong.

Michigan lawmakers, although several years late to the game, are right to oppose the Kincardine facility. A package of legislation approved by the state Senate and pending in the House calls on the president, Congress and secretary of state to ask the International Joint Commission to start an investigation of the proposed facility.

But one of the legislation’s provisions goes too far. It would ban the importation of radioactive waste into Michigan, a measure likely to prompt other states to follow suit.

It is the worst expression of the “not-in-my-back-yard” stance. Nuclear waste is a fact of life and must go somewhere.

The Kincardine dump’s location makes it unacceptable.

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