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

Michigan uses more propane by volume for residential purposes than any other state. Propane is about six cents a gallon higher this year than last, averaging about $1.66 per gallon. The question this year is whether the price will rise further.

Weather is the biggest factor in the demand for propane and it’s expected to be a normal Michigan winter.

There are a couple of other factors tougher to predict than the weather. The first is whether more propane will be used because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings had a couple of cocktail coupes on the table and some small whiskey tasting glasses and a bottle of Grand Traverse Distillery’s Small Batch Rye Whiskey. Obviously, this was going to be more than just mixing up a drink.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

About 250 people turned out for a Trump rally led by the President’s son, Eric. Many in the crowd wore red "Make America Great Again" caps and a variety of Trump t-shirts. While they had to wear masks to get into the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, most pulled them down or took them off once inside.

Bentley Historical Library

This documentary orginally aired Oct. 13, 2010. 

Its critics called it "naive idealism."

In the 1950s, the United States' answer to the global spread of Communism had been military strength and monetary aid to prop up nations friendly to the U.S., including dictators and other authoritarian governments.

That changed late one chilly night on the campus of the University of Michigan when Democratic candidate for president, John F. Kennedy, challenged students to help the world.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Deer season started for bow hunters on October 1. The Department of Natural Resources will be testing harvested deer for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Even if a deer looks and acts healthy, it still might be affected by the neurological disorder.

Scio Residents for Safe Water

A plume of the toxic chemical 1,4 dioxane released by the former Gelman Sciences complex has contaminated wells and threatens Ann Arbor’s main source for drinking water. A proposed amendment to a consent judgement would require more groundwater testing and more cleanup of groundwater to remove the chemical.

The proposal would also pump the treated water into the nearby First Sister Lake. However, the treated water will still have trace amounts of dioxane in it.

Courtesy Michigan Campaign Finance Network

The spending on the race for U.S. Senate could reach $100 million. The campaigns of Republican John James and incumbent Democrat Gary Peters together have spent about $35 million on radio and TV alone.

But, the biggest spending is coming from outside Michigan.

Courtesy Macomb County Public Works Office

The Drainage District in Macomb County is getting money from the insurers of three contractors blamed for a huge sinkhole in Fraser. In December of 2016, the sinkhole began to form and ended up as big as a football field. It badly damaged three houses.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A scientific expert says Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy has not submitted enough information to the state for permits to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. The groups Oil and Water Don’t Mix and the National Wildlife Federation included a geological engineer who build tunnels in an online news conference.

Brian O’Mara reviewed the reports in the tunnel proposal submitted to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. O’Mara says Enbridge did not take nearly enough core samples of bedrock along the route of the tunnel, and what they did take showed it’s not solid bedrock all the way across.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy has been eager to show news media its new Enbridge Straits Maritime Operations Center in Mackinaw City. Its purpose is to try to prevent another anchor strike or other damage to Line 5, the dual pipelines carrying oil and natural gas liquids.

REAL ID driver's license
Michigan Secretary of State

The extension given to drivers for license renewals is about to run out.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary of State’s office extended the deadlines for renewal of driver’s licenses and registrations.

That all ends on September 30th.

people holding hands in a courtroom
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

New legislation would give sexual assault survivors much more time to take their abusers to court.

Last session the legislature change the law to give survivors of abuse by a doctor at Michigan State University their day in court. Now legislation is being introduced to give survivors of alleged abuse by a doctor at the University of Michigan their day in court.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit will be spending more than $9 million to deal with lead-based paint in homes. Although lead-paint has been banned since the 1970s, the old paint on walls, floors, and window sills is still toxic and a leading cause of high blood lead levels in children.

The federal grant from Housing and Urban Development had very specific requirements.

Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The state of Michigan is expanding quarantines to try to stop a pest from killing hemlock trees. Michigan’s 170 million hemlock trees are important because they help prevent erosion along streams and keep them cool, which helps fish habitat. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) says hemlocks are also important to the timber and lumber industries, nursery and landscaping industries, the Christmas tree industry and the tourism industry.

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is the insect pest killing hemlocks in five counties along Lake Michigan: Allegan, Muskegon, Oceana, Ottawa, and Mason. It feeds on the starches of the trees.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

With a few limes in a bag from the nearby supermarket, I walked into Tammy Coxen’s kitchen and found she had green tomatoes and basil on the counter. Whatever she planned, it sure seemed like it would probably be green. The name made it a certainty: Garden Gnome.

8 guns laid out on beige carpet
Joshua Shearn / Wikimedia Commons / http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Grand Rapids has seen more homicides so far this year than it did in all of 2019. That’s prompted the Grand Rapids Police Department to propose a gun buy-back program.

There have been 471 gunfire incidents so far this year and 22 homicides compared to 17 for all of last year.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

With the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes we’ve all had to learn to make do with whatever we happen to have at home. That’s what Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings had to do to make a new cocktail recipe she found.

It all started with peaches being in season.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The COVID-19 pandemic could have an effect on local government operations for years to come. That’s the prediction from an online forum on city, township, and county governments held by the Lansing Economic Club.

Representatives of local government associations agreed that the economic downturn caused by the pandemic would not hit local governments this year, but would in following years.

Velsicol Chemical operated on the banks of the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan from 1938 to 1978. It was the site of the infamous PBB mixup. The entire plant was buried in place and now it's leaking.
Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finished the second phase of a new method for chemical pollution cleanup at a Superfund site in St. Louis, Michigan.

This site is 52 acres where the Velsicol Chemical plant once stood. It manufactured DDT, polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), and chlorobenzene among other toxic chemicals. 

Demonstrators unfurled a large "Shut Down Line 5" sign during the flotilla.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

The State of Michigan is holding a number of public meetings online regarding the proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac for Enbridge's Line 5. The first is being held Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office has settled a case dealing with leaky underground fuel tanks. The state will be getting $35 million to clean up the sites now owned by Premcor Refining Group, Inc.

“We entered into this settlement with the group because Premcor is the entity that is liable under state law for the releases at these sites. So, you know, we're just trying to reach a settlement if that's sound and enforceable and it's in the best interest of the public,” said Ryan Jarvi, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office.

International Joint Commission

Another of Michigan’s Areas of Concern has been cleaned up and taken off the list. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the governments of Canada and the U.S. identified 43 pollution hot spots around the Great Lakes and identified them as Areas of Concern.

The Lower Menominee River at the Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula border was one of them. It has now been removed from the Areas of Concern list.

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.

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