Lester Graham | Michigan Radio
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Lester Graham

Reporter, The Environment Report

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report and previously hosted Stateside on Fridays. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.

He has been a journalist since 1985. Graham has served as a board member of the Public Radio News Directors Inc., and also served as President of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. He is a member of the Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), Society of Professional Journalists and other professional groups.

Lester has received 15 first place national awards for journalism excellence and scores more at the national, regional, and state levels.

Ways to Connect

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The COVID-19 pandemic made “business as usual” at the Secretary of State’s offices impossible. Instead of walking in to renew license plate tags, people have been making appointments. Some of those appointments are months away.

The renewal extension that was implemented is running out on September 30. So, months away is no longer going to work.

police stop
Adobe Stock

A proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the ballot this November. It could limit how law enforcement scans for data on your cell phone.

If you’re stopped by police, there are devices which can scan your cell phone or other electronic devices and download your documents and other information. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The union representing corrections officers in Michigan is holding pickets outside some of the state’s prisons. The union says the prisons are understaffed, creating a dangerous situation.

The President of the Michigan Corrections Organization, Byron Osborn, and several officers were in front of the Detroit Detention Center on Wednesday. Osborn says there are about 750 unfilled positions at Michigan prisons right now and each year the department only hires about as many staff as the number who quit.

Map of 1,4-dioxane plume in Ann Arbor.
Scio Residents for Safe Water

Between 1966 and 1986 a manufacturing plant owned by Gelman Sciences used a chemical called 1,4 Dioxane. Today, ground water is contaminated by that chemical. While there have been previous court agreements on cleanup, a fourth amendment has been proposed to require stricter cleanup levels, and more monitoring wells to track the underground plume of Dioxane.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A new report finds nuclear power plants in this region will face heat stress in the future because of climate change. The analysis from Moody's Investors Service is titled "Nuclear operators face growing climate risk, but resiliency investments mitigate impact."

In the report, analysts found the Cook, Fermi, and Palisades nuclear power plants in Michigan and the nearby Davis-Besse plant in Ohio fall into the High Risk category (although Palisades is scheduled to close in 2022).

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There are few distilled spirits that have become so infamous that they were banned in countries across the globe. Absinthe is chief among them. In fact, absinthe was banned in the U.S. from 1912 to 2007.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups are supporting a permit that further restricts spreading animal manure on farm fields.

Livestock farmers and the Michigan Farm Bureau are suing the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to stop changes in the general operating permit for Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Now environmental groups are siding with the agency to enforce the stricter regulations, seeking to legally intervene.

white propane tank in backyard
Carolyn Franks / Adobe Stock

One of the major arguments against shutting down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is that it supplies propane to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula. A new company plans to use an existing pipeline to ship propane from Sarnia to the Gaylord/Kalkaska area.

rona4real.com (used with permission)

Soon you’re going to see Rona on billboards, hear Rona on the radio, and Rona will pop up on some of your favorite social media sites. Rona is a new ad campaign to get young adults to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Rona – as in co-RONA-virus – is a red dot wearing sunglasses, described as a mischievous, malevolent character bent on infecting Michiganders who let down their guard. It has several arms that cannot quite reach six feet away.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium
michigan.gov

Two conservative groups, One Nation and Election Integrity Fund, filed suit in federal court, claiming that Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Orders violate their rights. Whitmer's orders limit the number of people who can gather in an attempt to avoid spreading the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

More than one billion dollars has been spent in the U.S. since 2010 dealing with algae blooms that potentially harbor toxic cyanobacteria. A report by the Environmental Working Group’s analysis found the majority of that money was spent in Ohio. That state has spent more than $815 million as it struggles to control algae blooms in Lake Erie and some other inland lakes. Lake Erie is a hot spot for cyanobacteria.

The group’s analysis found Michigan only spent thousands of dollars around Lake St. Clair and that came from communities and homeowners.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A campaign to amend the state Constitution has attracted a coalition of hunters, fishers, environmentalists, businesses and unions. The group calls the campaign “Vote Yes For Michigan Water, Wildlife, and Parks.”

The proposed amendment, the Michigan Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment, will be on the November ballot. In 2018, the Legislature voted for it in a rare bipartisan move. It takes a legislative vote of two-thirds to put an amendment on the ballot.

The amendment would make changes to how two funds for parks and recreation could be spent.

the exterior of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor
Dwight Burdette / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0

A Black high school student has filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, alleging violations of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination based on "religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status" in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations.”

“We are alleging that she has faced — and other Black students have faced — a racially hostile environment at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor,” said Liza Davis of the Civil Rights Litigation Initiative at the University of  Michigan Law School, which assisted with the complaint.

a classroom of empty colorful chairs
Flickr user Frank Juarez / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

School districts will be looking for some hints as the state’s budget experts and economists try to forecast state revenues.

The COVID-19 pandemic and economic crash mean cuts are ahead for schools.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

New research  shows Detroit is the seventh-fastest shrinking big city in the U.S.

Using Census data, the insurance company AdvisorSmith Solutions put out a report on growing cities and shrinking cities. It used the population in 2014 and compared it to 2019.

During that period, Detroit lost 12,600 people, a drop of 0.4%

Birds
USFWS Midwest

Every year about 93% of all the Kirtland’s Warblers in the world fly from the Bahamas to Michigan. The rare bird is making a comeback from the brink of extinction.

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Georgetown Environment Initiative teamed up to go the Bahamas and put tiny radio trackers on the birds.

It was thought when they got to Michigan the birds paired up and nested, end of story.

needle
Partha Sahana / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Two people will stand trial for the murder of 11 Livingston County residents.

In 2012 hundreds of people got sick and dozens died across the nation. The cause was traced back to the New England Compounding Center and a contaminated steroid. The president, Barry Cadden and the chief pharmacist, Glenn Chin now face trial for second-degree murder.

The City of Harper Woods has fired two police officers because they allegedly changed a police report connected with the death of a Black woman held in custody.

Priscilla Slater was detained in the early morning hours of June 9th in connection with reports of a shooting. She died in a holding cell that afternoon.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups and consumer advocates want electric utilities to think more long term. The Citizens Utility Board of Michigan, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club formed a coalition and hired a consultant to do an analysis of Michigan’s future demands on the electric distribution system. The coalition submitted testimony to the Michigan Public Service Commission regarding a proposed rate increase from Consumers Energy.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

 This story was updated 8:00 p.m. August 19, 2020. 

Groups representing business, environmentalists, and Native Americans are calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to shut down Enbridge's Line 5.

The more than 600 mile long pipeline carrying crude oil and natural gas liquids is 67 years old. A section of Line 5 sits on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lakes Michigan and Huron. The pipeline splits into twin pipelines under the Straits.

Black woman in therapy sits with her head in her hands as her therapist takes notes on a clipboard
Adobe Stock

A new report shows Michigan falls short when it comes to mental health services. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan looked at several aspects, but one of the worst was a severe shortage of mental health professionals. An estimated 1.3 million Michigan residents have a mental health condition. About 38% of people who need help are not getting it.

Enbridge

A newly constructed segment of the Enbridge Line 5  is now operating. This section is under the Saint Clair River just south of Port Huron, Michigan and crosses into Sarnia, Ontario.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is calling on the Legislature to change the law to allow mailed in ballots to be counted if they’re postmarked by Election Day. Right now, if a ballot is received after 8 p.m. Election Day, it’s not counted. In the recent primary election, Benson said many voters were disenfranchised because of the current law.

That's 6,400 voters who did everything right. They mailed their ballots in on time. It was postmarked prior to Election Day. And yet because of our law, they were not able to be counted,” Benson said.

Lester Graham

A Trump administration rule change to the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act dropped fines for industries killing birds unless the deaths were intentionally caused.

Conservation groups such as the National Audubon Society sued to stop the rules.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A shaken daiquiri is really simple to make. Making a frozen daiquiri at home can be done, but there’s a trick to making it right as Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings shows us.

“If you just take the regular ingredients of a daiquiri: rum, lime juice, simple syrup and put them in a blender and add some ice...When you finish mixing that up, the results going to be kind of watery,” Tammy explained. 

The way to make your own slushy daiquiri at home takes just a little bit of advance prep as Tammy learned.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Farm groups are using a two-pronged approach to stop the state from changing the rules for spreading manure. The Michigan Farm Bureau, large livestock farmers (Confined Animal Feeding Operations CAFOs), and several farm groups are suing the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). The same groups in May appealed changes to pollution permits dealing with spreading livestock manure on farm fields.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Researchers have found in a 30-year period, 130 square miles of farmland or natural areas were developed in southeast Michigan.

335,000 new buildings were built in the seven county area of Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne between 1985 and 2015.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan is waiting on more details about President Donald Trump’s executive memorandum regarding supplemental unemployment payments.

In an email, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency indicated it is waiting for guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor regarding $400 per week supplemental payments for people on unemployment.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lester: Hi Tammy!

Tammy: Hi Lester!

Lester: That's Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings. And you have a bottle there that I really like. We visited Eastern Kille in Grand Rapids a while back. I actually bought a bottle of their rye, which was really delicious. You've got the bourbon.

Adobe Stock

Legislation soon will be introduced in Michigan to ban food packaging that contains toxic chemicals such as PFAS, bisphenols, or phthalates.

Some restaurants stopped using packaging containing PFAS, but some of the biggest chains still do.

State Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) says it’s time to stop.

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