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.

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Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan has a draft plan to reach carbon neutrality. The President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality’s recommendations call for the university’s campuses to reduce emissions and to use carbon offsets to become carbon neutral by 2025 and reduce total U-M emissions to net-zero by 2040.

The U.S. Postal Service predicts this week will be the busiest time of the season for mailing, shipping and delivery. It’s also turning out to be a season of delays. Some people are tracing their problems back to Allen Park, Michigan.

That Detroit suburb is home to the U.S Postal Service Detroit Network Distribution Center. That facility serves not just Detroit, but a chunk of southeast Michigan and the Toledo, Ohio area.

The first day of winter arrives soon. The chilly fall days will give way to temperatures “so cold they make your face hurt,” as the well-worn meme goes.

So, Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings decided to make a fall drink.

“This is kind of a riff on an Old Fashioned,” she said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

If they choose to do so, the governors of the Great Lakes have less than three weeks to object to an Environmental Protection Agency proposal.

That proposal would exempt cargo ships that only travel in the Great Lakes from having to treat ballast water to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. For years, the Great Lakes shippers say they were not responsible for invasive species; it was the ocean-going cargo ships that were the problem.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There were two bottles of gin on the table. Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said we were going to have a little experiment. One of the bottles was Liberator Gin from Valentine Distilling. (You can listen or read about the Cheers! visit to Valentine Distilling here.) The other bottle had a simple white label that just said Gin Batch #4. It looked as though it was from an ink jet printer.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit western counties in the Upper Peninsula hard this fall. The population of Delta County is about 36,000. There have been more than 2,500 cases of COVID-19 and 60 deaths.

Chris Anderson is with the Anderson Funeral Home in Escanaba’s downtown. He says the pandemic caught them by surprise. They did not see the surge of cases in the first wave of the infection in the spring.

nurse about to administer a flu shot to a patient
artursfoto / Adobe Stock

You might be taking precautions to avoid the coronavirus, but the flu is also a threat.

Washing hands, wearing masks, and avoiding people are all good measures to prevent exposure to influenza as well as coronavirus. But, the best bet is to get the flu vaccine.

Chris Montgomery / Unsplash

State employees are to work from home for two additional months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This month, coronavirus infections in Michigan have increased to their highest level so far in the pandemic.

A sign of the University of Michigan Central Campus
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

A group wants the University of Michigan to think beyond its campuses as it works on a climate action plan.

Voices for Carbon Neutrality says climate change affects people of color and low-income people first.

Ember McCoy is a U of M student and one of the panelists on a webinar. She said those are the people who should also be part of the plan.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is paying more than nine million dollars to settle complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct by a former top official with the university.

Eight women, former or current university staff and students, accused former Provost Martin Philbert of sexual harassment and misconduct.

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Biden campaign platform promises to designate some chemicals in the PFAS family as hazardous substances. That’s something the Trump administration also promised. The EPA completed recommendations more than a year ago and nothing has happened. One report suggests the White House might be holding up those recommendations.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan Republican Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-7) has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Walberg – who was recently re-elected – took to Facebook to inform the public he tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

 Updated 2:38 p.m. to include statement from Enbridge Energy. 

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer plans to revoke the easement the state granted in 1953 that allows Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 to cross the Straits of Mackinac.

The announcement came as the Department of Natural Resources released a review of Enbridge’s record over the 67 years the Line 5 dual pipelines have sat on the bottom of the Straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The DNR cited the Canadian pipeline company’s “historic failures and current non-compliance” as reasons to revoke the easement.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lester Graham: Uhm, Tammy, (of Tammy's Tastings) you know, I'm not a big fan of egg drinks. You get all that white egg white frothy stuff at the top (YUCK!). You've got a whole egg there. You're going to do one of those?

Tammy Coxen: I am not going to do an egg white drink, Lester. I'm going to do a whole egg drink.

LG: A whole egg? 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Across the state, more than 1,200 people in Michigan prisons are infected right now. Almost all of them are in four prisons: Marquette, Newberry, and two facilities in Ionia.

Chris Gautz is the spokesperson for the Department of Corrections. He says only a handful have had to be hospitalized.

Updated November 4 at 9:34 a.m.: Michigan voters have approved Proposal 2, which amends the Michigan Constitution to protect electronic data and communications in the same way the law protects your home and papers from unsreasonable search and seizure. 

graphic showing that proposal 1 passed
Lester Graham, Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Updated 9:25 a.m. at November 4, 2020: Proposal 1 has passed. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Some voters are concerned about harassment or intimidation when they go to vote. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights says it that happens to you, it could be a violation of your civil rights.

“They should immediately report the actual poll worker just immediately," said James White, the executive director of the department.

"Beyond that, if there's any possibility that they feel that they were harassed or, you know, they just really didn't feel good about the interaction, then they could reach out to us and we can open an investigation."

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

One chemical in the PFAS family is showing up more often and in greater concentrations in fish.

The PFAS chemical is PFOS.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s hard to keep up with all the new distilleries in Michigan. There are so many around the state. But, that’s not the half of it. These inventive distillers keep coming out with new spins on spirits and different kinds of things to mix with them.

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings was about to spring a new one on me. She had a bottle from Mammoth Distilling from the small town of Central Lake. The label said “cherry bounce.”

Never heard of it.

This Enbridge boat is one of several on standby in the event of an oil spill.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The oil pipeline company Enbridge pushed to limit what a state regulator could consider regarding relocating the Line 5 twin pipelines across the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge did not want the Michigan Public Service Commission to consider a proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac which would house a new section of Line 5.

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

An industry group says some solar panel installers are thinking about leaving Michigan. That’s because they believe sales will drop dramatically because of a cap on how much residential and commercial solar a utility must allow.

A 2016 law sets a cap on some outside renewable energy sources  based on one percent from of a utility’s average peak demand. Consumers Energy is close to hitting that peak.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

At least two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for COVID-19. This comes just days after the Vice President spoke to a Michigan crowd in Waterford Township, touting the Trump administration’s work to end the pandemic.

“President Trump’s actions suspending all travel from China saved untold American lives and bought us invaluable time to stand up the largest national mobilization since World War II,” Pence said.

Common tern holding a fish
Phylis Cooper / USFWS

Research shows chemicals banned years and even decades ago are showing up in some Great Lakes shorebirds. Scientists found P-C-Bs used as a coolant in electrical transformers, fire retardants called P-B-D-Es and derivatives of the insecticide D-D-T in terns. The pollutants were at levels high enough to potentially harm the health of the birds. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

About 800 people trudged across a muddy field to get to the airport in Waterford Township where Vice President Mike Pence was to speak. Speakers blared country music and 70s rock songs while a crowd of about 800 waited for Pence, half of them not wearing masks.

He said he and President Donald Trump created the greatest economy in the history of the world, made the military strong again, and saved lives in how they handled the coronavirus pandemic. More than 210,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. Pence promised a vaccine is coming soon.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Some environmental groups are criticizing the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for a planned carbon offset program.

The DNR is planning a pilot program that would account for the carbon taken up by the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The forest absorbs carbon dioxide. That has value on a voluntary carbon market. Polluters can buy that carbon value as a way of offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A new report found Michigan’s energy use changed dramatically during the first few months of the pandemic.

In the second quarter electricity use dropped by 32% in the industrial sector compared to the same time period last year. That's the biggest drop in the country.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Local election officials say you likely won't see complete election results on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3. They say if everything runs perfectly, you might see results on Wednesday. If things don't go quite as well, they say you should expect a delay of as much as several days.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Shiawassee County Prosecutor is dropping charges against an Owosso barber who defied orders to close during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This summer, Karl Manke kept cutting hair in violation of the emergency orders by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The State Supreme Court recently ruled the governor’s orders were not valid after April 30th.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There’s an experiment underway on one of the islands in Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes. This story involves a Russian exile, a rare seed… and booze.

On a National Park Service boat headed out into Lake Michigan the deck is filled with hand tools for gardening and a bunch of guys who make whiskey for a living. We’re traveling to South Manitou Island.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We need to go back a couple of years.

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