WBEZ | regulation http://www.wbez.org/tags/regulation Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Do new FDA actions endanger your favorite cheese? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/do-new-fda-actions-endanger-your-favorite-cheese-110802 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rush-creek.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago cheese lovers looking for some traditional French cheeses may be out of luck this year.</p><p>&ldquo;There are certain cheeses we simply aren&#39;t seeing at all at the moment, like Morbier,&rdquo; says Greg O&rsquo;Neil co-owner of Pastoral Cheese Bread &amp; Wine in Lakeview and the Loop. &ldquo;This is unfortunate, because it is a classic and a mover.&rdquo;</p><p>Newly enforced federal guidelines have <a href="http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/CMS_IA/importalert_9.html">stopped many types of imported </a>raw milk cheeses--including Morbier and Roquefort-- at the border in the last six months due to levels of non-toxigenic E. coli.</p><p>So what&rsquo;s wrong with non-toxigenic E. coli?</p><p>WBEZ asked the Food and Drug Administration and a representative sent this:</p><p>&ldquo;While these bacteria don&rsquo;t cause illness, their presence suggests that the cheese was produced in unsanitary conditions.&rdquo;</p><p>This statement runs contrary to 2009 draft guidance by the FDA stating:</p><p>&ldquo;Because of the close association of raw milk with the animal environment, low levels of <em>Escherichia coli </em>may be present in raw milk or products made from raw milk, even when properly produced using GMPs. However, the presence of <em>Escherichia coli </em>in a cheese and cheese product made from raw milk at a level greater than 100 MPN/g (Most Probable Number per gram) indicates insanitary conditions&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>And so if, according to this 2009 FDA draft, &nbsp;non toxigenic E. coli numbers under 100 MPN can occur in raw milk cheeses under GMP (good manufacturing practices), why did the FDA move in 2010 to lower that number by 90 percent for all dairy? &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That&rsquo;s a question the American Cheese Society posed to the FDA last week.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to know if there is research data, linkages to foodborne illnesses or a public health risk,&rdquo; said ACS executive director Nora Weiser. &ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s important for us to know if that exists and if that is why they have lowered this standard.&rdquo;</p><p>But, as of press time, the agency said it was still working on an explanation for its 2010 guideline.</p><p>The American Cheese Society is not the only entity cheesed off by the recent enforcement of the guidelines. Chicagoist writer Erika Kubick detailed her concern <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2014/09/11/the_war_on_raw_cheese_continues.php">here.</a>&nbsp;And the Cheese Importers Association of America is gearing up to confront the FDA soon.</p><p>&ldquo;The CIAA would like to reinforce our concern that the FDA is taking regulatory action without recognizing the historic safety of imported cheeses like Roquefort,&quot; the organization said in a statement. &quot;We completely agree that food safety is at the forefront of this decision. However, as was have done with the <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ConstituentUpdates/ucm400808.htm">wood board aging issue</a>, the FDA is promoting regulation without taking all factors into consideration. This action was discussed at the recent CIAA board meeting, and our concerns will be communicated to the FDA shortly.&rdquo;</p><p>If the presence of non-toxigenic E. coli in raw milk cheese posed a threat to American health, certainly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would know about it, right? Well, not really.</p><p>The CDC had nothing on its website about the bacteria so WBEZ contacted CDC press officer Christine Pearson. She said she would try to get some information on non-toxigenic E. coli but didn&rsquo;t have an easy time of it.</p><p>She wrote back saying: &ldquo;I heard back from one of my experts that nontoxigenic is not a term that we use.&rdquo; Follow up questions last Friday remained unanswered.</p><p>This lack of clarity and explanation isn&rsquo;t just affecting cheese imports. It also prompted award-winning Uplands Wisconsin cheesemaker Andy Hatch to skip making his famous Rush Creek Reserve raw milk cheese this fall.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m intimidated by the lack of consensus or clarity,&rdquo; Hatch told WBEZ&rsquo;s Chewing the Fat food podcast. &ldquo;I think most cheesemakers are saying the same thing. We&rsquo;re not exactly sure how they&rsquo;re approaching these cheeses...And it&rsquo;s also so perishable so that if anything should hold up shipment, the window for sale is really tight, and so one little hiccup and you&rsquo;ve spoiled months of work.&rdquo;</p><p>International cheesemakers whose products have been &ldquo;Red Listed&rdquo; by the non-toxigenic E. coli guidelines have already been hurt by this hiccup. The questions remains, why?</p><p>Consumers who want to comment on the FDA rules can still do so <a href="http://http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2009-D-0466-0008.">here</a>.</p><p><em>WBEZ will stay on this story and update it when the FDA responds to the American Cheese Society on the problems posed by exceeding 10 MPN per gram of non-toxigenic E. coli in raw milk cheese.</em></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/do-new-fda-actions-endanger-your-favorite-cheese-110802 Illinois regulators put squeeze on raw milk rules http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/illinois-regulators-put-squeeze-raw-milk-rules-110769 <p><p>On a warm summer night on Chicago&rsquo;s northwest side, the dusk brings out a chorus of loud cicadas. &nbsp;</p><p>It also brings out out a flock of enthusiastic raw milk drinkers. One by one, they pull up to a large corner house. They schlep their coolers on to the wooden porch and pack them with the ice cold jars of snow white liquid.</p><p>Based on national percentages, an estimated 400,000 Illinoisians--and I count myself among them --pay up to $18 a gallon for this stuff. Many drive more than a hour to get it from farms and pick up points like this one. And most believe it strengthens their immune system and improves their health.</p><p>But some public health officials believe just the opposite. Nationally, raw milk (or raw milk products) have been linked to more than 100 foodborne illness outbreaks over the last 17 years. And so this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health proposed new rules that could greatly restrict the distribution of unpasteurized milk produced in the state.</p><p>Raw milk supporters, however, object to proposed regulations that would require farmers to invest in costly new equipment, hand over customer lists to the government upon request and abide by the same rules whether they had one cow or 1,000.</p><p>This doesn&rsquo;t make sense to one dad who was picking up several jars of milk for his family. He says that his children&rsquo;s ear infections disappeared when his family started drinking the milk a few years ago. And he&rsquo;s opposed to any new measures to restrict his access.</p><p>&ldquo;Raw milk is a food that&rsquo;s vital for many people,&rdquo; said the customer who chose not to give his name. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s also healthy and it&rsquo;s our right to choose what we want to eat.&rdquo;</p><p>But others are not so sure that buying raw milk should be a right in Illinois. Dr. Terry Mason is Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health. That group&rsquo;s initial position, he says was &ldquo;not to have the sale of raw milk at all.&rdquo;</p><p>To that end, the department enlisted Illinois Representative Dan Burke (D-23) to sponsor a bill to ban raw milk sales in Illinois earlier this year.</p><p>&ldquo;I was convinced they had a legitimate issue,&quot; Burke recalls. &quot;[So]I presented the bill and then the floodgates opened.&quot;</p><p>Those floodgates were thousands of phone calls to Burke and his colleagues from raw milk supporters all over the state.</p><p>&ldquo;They insisted that there are very significant health benefits from the consumption of raw milk,&rdquo; he remembers. &ldquo;I mean individuals who have children with epilepsy, with Down Syndrome, you name it, there was someone who called to insist that their child, family member, friend whoever benefitted from the consumption of raw milk.&rdquo;</p><p>Burke said that in two-plus decades of politics he&rsquo;d never seen an issue galvanize the public like this. And so last April, even after the bill had survived committee, he did a 180 and dropped support for his own legislation.</p><p>This sudden change of heart didn&rsquo;t thrill Mason and his colleagues at the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium, which Mason leads.</p><p>&ldquo;We were obviously taken aback by that position, that reposition,&rdquo; Mason recalls. &ldquo;But we understand and respect the Representative&rsquo;s right to do that sort of thing. And want to be consistent with what the Centers for Disease Control have already published and they do not support the sale of raw milk.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, federal health authorities and the American Academy of Pediatrics &nbsp;largely oppose the sale and distribution of raw milk--a drink that can harbor many bacteria that would be killed through pasteurization.</p><p>But proponents of the drink argue that no food is risk-free and that many of bacteria in raw milk can be beneficial.</p><p>In response, public health officials like Mason point to outbreaks.</p><p>&ldquo;There have been 104 between 1998 to 2011 that we&rsquo;ve been able to keep track of and 82 percent of those have involved people under 20 years old,&rdquo; he notes.</p><p>These figures are accurate on a national level. But those who oppose the regulations point out that there hasn&rsquo;t been a single illness outbreak connected to Illinois-produced raw milk--the milk affected by these new rules--since 1998.</p><p>And for this reason, Wes King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance calls the proposed regulations, &ldquo;A solution in search of a problem. We see no recent history of foodborne illness related to raw milk here in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>This lack of illness leads some to question why a cash-strapped state like Illinois would spend so much time and money on a product that is boosting the local small farm economy and hasn&rsquo;t caused a problem for more than 15 years.</p><p>Mason&rsquo;s department says that it&rsquo;s a preventive measure to avoid potential future outbreaks.</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to make sure that those rules did as much as they could do to adequately control the sale of raw milk and make it easier for us to identify where there may be breaches and or diseases related to the sale of raw milk,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RAW MILK COW.jpg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Most of the raw milk sold in the Midwest comes from cows that graze on pasture. Milk from pastured cows has been linked to better metabolic outcomes in animal studies. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" />But Illinois raw milk farmer Donna O&#39;Shaughnessy believes that the agency is acting on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which paid for some of the rulemaking process. She also believes big industrial dairy is worried by the growing popularity of raw milk as its own product sales decline.</p><p>&ldquo;The sales of pasteurized milk have gone down by 25 percent,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So rather than improving their own product it becomes easier to disparage farmers who produce raw milk.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Raw milk is currently legal for retail sale in 11 states but illegal in 17 others. The rest fall in between with policies that limit its distribution.</p><p>Similar battles are erupting across the country as authorities threaten to clamp down on foods ranging from raw dairy and wild boar to cheese aged on wooden boards. Journalist and author David Gumpert chronicled these trends in his recent book &ldquo;Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat.&rdquo;</p><p>Upon reading the proposed legislation Gumpert wrote to WBEZ in an email:</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s an exaggeration for IDPH to suggest, as it does in IL Register that, without some kind of law of this kind, raw milk sales are illegal under federal law. Raw milk sales/distribution are regulated by the states (and interstate sale/shipment is prohibited under federal law). Some states that allow raw milk sales do it via laws, others (like Michigan) do it via policy understandings.&rdquo;</p><p>So who are these hundreds of thousands of raw milk drinkers in Illinois?</p><p>O&#39;Shaugnessy says her customers are young mothers, body builders and Europeans who enjoy easy access to raw milk (even in vending machines) in their own country. Finally, she says, she gets a lot of business from seniors who &ldquo;remember how great they felt when they drank it as a child. And the one thing that unites all of them is that they drink it for health.&rdquo;</p><p>So what do officials say to Illinois&#39; thousands of drinkers who claim it has improved their health and chronic conditions?</p><p>&quot;Anecdote is not something we follow,&quot; says Dr Mason of the Cook County Department of Public Health. &quot;We like to look at the science and the science is overwhelmingly in favor of the fact that patsteurized milk is something that saves lives.&quot;</p><p>While many health claims for raw milk do remain anecdotal, at least <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21875744">one 2011 study</a> of 8,334 rural children in Austria, Germany and Switzerland links raw milk consumption to lower levels of asthma and allergies. The children in the same environment who drank boiled versions of the same milk did not enjoy the protective effects.</p><p>O&#39;Shaugnessy agrees that raw milk comes with risks. But the Central Illinois farmer says that she doesn&rsquo;t know of any customers who make the long drive to her farm or pay the exorbitant prices ($7-$18 a gallon) without reading up on what they are buying.</p><p>She served as a member of the Illinois Dairy Working Group that helped draft the proposed rules last year. But she says the input of small farmers like her were largely ignored in the final process.</p><p>The proposed rules don&#39;t ban or criminalize raw milk in the state, but O&#39;Shaugnessy says, &ldquo;They are very clearly trying to make raw milk sales and consumption in Illinois impossible.&rdquo;</p><p>O&#39;Shaughnessy and King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance say that they know many farmers who say that they simply won&rsquo;t comply with the rules if they are passed.</p><p>&ldquo;Then it will just go underground and people won&rsquo;t be any safer,&rdquo; she predicts. &ldquo;People are not going to stop. And then what are they going to do? Are they going to start posting people at the end of the driveway? &nbsp;Are they going to start video taping our customers as they come up the drive? Are they going to start checking people&rsquo;s trunks as they leave our farm? The public is not going to stand for this.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, Burke says that he expects the same flood of raw milk supporters who deluged him last spring to oppose these new regulations. But this time, he may be among them.</p><p>&ldquo;After that number of calls,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m convinced that the product is beneficial to this community and should be available...In fact, I drank some myself and it was pretty good.&rdquo;</p><p>Back on the porch in Chicago, another customer is picking up his bottles of raw milk. I ask him what he&rsquo;ll do if the new rules effectively dry up supplies to the city. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t drink milk anymore,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the simplest answer I can say. &nbsp;I just wouldn&rsquo;t drink the other stuff.&rdquo;</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health will take <a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/rulesregs/proposedrules.htm#FirstNotice">comments on the proposed rules </a>for the next 45 days. After that, the fate of Illinois&rsquo; raw milk will pour into the hands of Joint Committee on Administrative Rulemaking which will also take 45 days of comments.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/illinois-regulators-put-squeeze-raw-milk-rules-110769 Great Lakes brace for more toxic algae http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112 <p><p><em>Update, August 4, 2014, 11:30a.m.: Officials are scrambling to address a growing algae bloom in Lake Erie that threatens the water supply of hundreds of thousands of people in parts of Michigan and Ohio. After tests at a water treatment plant showed dangerous levels of contamination, Toledo, Ohio officials&nbsp;warned residents not to use city water early Saturday. The water ban was lifted Monday, but the algae bloom isn&#39;t expected to peak until September, potentially continuing to pollute the lake that supplies drinking water for 11 million people.&nbsp;</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s spring, and the heavy snowmelt and rain is good news for farmers and scientists who have been worried about drought the last few years. But all that water has other consequences for the Great Lakes, including runoff: rainstorms carry fertilizer from farms and lawns into streams and rivers.</p><p>Much of it eventually ends up in the lakes, and when too much accumulates it can feed huge blooms of toxic algae. The problem is especially dire in Lake Erie around Toledo, Ohio, where algal blooms in 2011 and 2013 were some of the worst on record.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen the lake go from where you weren&rsquo;t even supposed to go swimming in it to what it&rsquo;s like today, and the change has been phenomenal,&rdquo; says Tim Robinette, a Toledo-area resident and longtime fisherman. &ldquo;There were places that used to literally dump their waste in the river, and it used to float on down the river back in the &lsquo;50s and &lsquo;60s. And that don&rsquo;t happen anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Lake Erie became infamous for its contamination after the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cleveland.com%2Fscience%2Findex.ssf%2F2009%2F06%2Fcuyahoga_river_fire_40_years_a.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFrwLjBkRSrEfOZxS0CiBu_HPNmSQ">Cuyahoga River caught on fire in 1969</a>; the lake&rsquo;s notoriety is credited with inspiring the passage of the federal Clean Water Act as well as the creation of Earth Day. And Lake Erie&rsquo;s comeback has been equally legendary: point source pollution from factories and sewage systems was cleaned up to a great extent by the 1990s.</p><p>In the 2000s, though, algal blooms began to reappear in the lake, bringing with them dead zones, bad smells and water that was once again risky to consume even in small amounts. In 2011, following a spring of particularly extreme rains, the algae blooms in Lake Erie grew to more than 5,000 square kilometers&mdash;three times the previous record. That got the attention of the International Joint Commission, the U.S. and Canadian body that has monitored the lakes for more than a century. They worked on <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ijc.org%2Ffiles%2Fpublications%2F2014%2520IJC%2520LEEP%2520REPORT.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL7GD6q-OXSzaquvJC8_DaPA47IQ">a major report</a> released this spring urging states and provinces to take immediate action to curb runoff.</p><p><strong>The green goblin</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Well, it looks kind of like green goo, you know, like thick, like pea soup-type green,&rdquo; says Carol Stepien, a biologist at the University of Toledo&rsquo;s Lake Erie Center, which overlooks the Maumee Bay.</p><p>The gooey muck she&rsquo;s talking about is blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, which, when it&rsquo;s overfed by fertilizers in the water, can grow into blooms that are dangerous to drink or even touch. In recent years cyanobacteria has poisoned multiple pets who drank from the lake, and last summer it <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.toledoblade.com%2Flocal%2F2013%2F09%2F15%2FCarroll-Township-s-scare-with-toxin-a-wake-up-call.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFoUOuLh5_aFgTbMxEWSmrMHbEGTA">shut down a water treatment system in a township near Toledo</a>.</p><p>When the algae decomposes there&rsquo;s another problem: it eats up oxygen, and that creates dead zones in the lake where no fish or plants can live, an effect called hypoxia.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Copy%20of%20DSCN1768.JPG" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: right;" title="The Maumee River runs from the west through Toledo and into Lake Erie, carrying fertilizer runoff from rural and urban sources with it." /></div><p>Stepien explains that the Maumee River, a large river that runs through the middle of Toledo and into the bay, carries fertilizer runoff from up to 150 miles away. The Maumee Bay is a particularly warm, shallow part of the lake, and as runoff gathers, the algae becomes a well-fed monster.</p><p>But this isn&rsquo;t some mysterious green goblin. Stepien says the problem can be traced primarily to phosphorus, an ingredient in commercial fertilizers that&rsquo;s also found in manure, and sewer overflows from municipal water systems. The trouble is identifying and stemming the sources of the phosphorus.</p><p>&ldquo;This is water that&rsquo;s coming in from many many places, it can&rsquo;t be pinpointed to a single pipe or certain pipes,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><strong>Golf greens can&rsquo;t be brown</strong></p><p>Sources can&rsquo;t be pinpointed individually, but the potential sources are widely known. Among them are lawns and golf courses that use commercial fertilizers. Just a couple miles away from the lake, there&rsquo;s a golf course right along the river.</p><p>&ldquo;Golf courses get a bad rap for the leaching issue,&rdquo; says Tim Glorioso, the golf course manager at the Toledo Country Club. He admits people who come here don&rsquo;t want their greens to be brown, and a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eifg.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F07%2Fgolf-course-environmental-profile-nutrient-report.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEgmkTGFSZ4oHA9FXxlx8sHFw-UGg">2009 survey of golf course managers</a> found the average golf course puts down 65 pounds of phosphorus per acre each year, and even more pounds of nitrogen.</p><p>Glorioso, though, says he uses a lot less.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Copy of DSCN1661.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Tim Glorioso is the director of golf course operations at the Toledo Country Club." />&ldquo;With the way budgets are right now, why would you go out and put more phosphorus down and more nitrogen than you need to? It doesn&rsquo;t make sense, economically,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Glorioso monitors the phosphorus in the soil constantly, and says he only puts on the amount the grass can absorb. Timing matters too &mdash; simple stuff like not putting down nutrients on frozen ground, or right before a storm. He attends continuing education classes during the winter months and thinks responsible management practices can lessen golf courses&rsquo; contribution to the algae problem. But he admits that not everyone is quite so diligent.</p><p>&ldquo;We have some people that probably don&rsquo;t do what they&rsquo;re supposed to do,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><strong>Some farmers resist regulation</strong></p><p>Most of the area that drains into the Maumee River isn&rsquo;t golf courses or suburban lawns: it&rsquo;s farms. There are miles and miles of them &mdash; mainly corn, wheat and soybeans &mdash; from Toledo all the way up the Maumee River and its tributaries, which extend into Indiana and Michigan.</p><p>&ldquo;We could argue back and forth about is it urban, is it yards, is it agriculture, is it municipal water systems,&rdquo; says Tadd Nicholson with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. &ldquo;I prefer to say it&rsquo;s all of those things.&rdquo;</p><p>Corn has been booming recently due to ethanol production, so farmers are planting to the very edges of fields, and at least some of them are laying the fertilizer down thick. But Nicholson says the corn industry is producing more corn per acre while also using less fertilizer than it did a few decades ago. In other words, corn can&rsquo;t be solely to blame for the resurgence of algal blooms. And, like Glorioso, he says education and voluntary programs to reduce runoff are as beneficial for the industry as they are for the lake.</p><p>&ldquo;If we can show farmers how to minimize phosphorus runoff, it&rsquo;s not a hard sell, it&rsquo;s something that we are very motivated to do,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that over-applying fertilizer isn&rsquo;t against any laws in Ohio, and agriculture in particular has long been <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.epa.gov%2Fsites%2Fproduction%2Ffiles%2F2014-03%2Fdocuments%2Fcwa_ag_exclusions_exemptions.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFYv09n7PPIYQ7Xb7QphYUC8zJFTA">exempted from aspects of the Clean Water Act</a>; the industry has also pushed back against water quality regulations for runoff. There&rsquo;s a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Faglaw.osu.edu%2Fblog%2Ffri-01242014-1326%2Fohio-senate-approves-agricultural-nutrient-management-bill&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGZUgzhOTYx7EZmczbUTnJ4dMfOqg">bill pending in the Ohio legislature</a> that would require agricultural users of fertilizer to apply for a permit. It has the support of the Ohio Farm Bureau, but not the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. And even that law is not really a set of rules but a required educational program. In Illinois, a 2010 law restricting the use of phosphorus in fertilizer exempts farms and golf courses.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Copy%20of%20DSCN1775.JPG" title="Runoff into the Maumee River comes from diffuse sources: urban stormwater and sewer overflows, agricultural runoff, and private lawns and golf courses." /></div><p><strong>&lsquo;When you look at Lake Erie, it breaks your heart&rsquo;</strong></p><p>Cities like Chicago and Toledo are under federal order to reduce sewer runoff&nbsp; through extensive infrastructure upgrades, and manure runoff, which is also a contributor, is more tightly regulated than farms. The IJC report finds the need for more research and monitoring to establish clear best practices for reducing runoff from all sources, and the agriculture industry in particular has posited the need for more research as a reason to hold off stringent regulation.</p><p>&ldquo;We would never allow a dump truck full of manure to back up and dump into the lakes,&rdquo; says Lana Pollack, the U.S. chair for the IJC. She refutes the idea that there&rsquo;s not enough research to take action on the issue. &ldquo;The science is there, we understand the cause, we understand the effect, and we understand that no one should have a choice whether or not to harm Lake Erie or any of the other lakes.&rdquo;</p><p>Lake Erie is far from the only body of water that&rsquo;s been affected: smaller lakes throughout the region have seen algae blooms in recent years. Last year, the bay of Green Bay Wisconsin was literally green. And there may not be an algae bloom off Chicago&rsquo;s Navy Pier yet, but that&rsquo;s because <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fillinois.sierraclub.org%2Fconservation%2Fwater%2Fnutrients.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNH9Lknjq4XxrRhehMxjWLvrrn85Lw">most of Illinois&rsquo; runoff drains to the Gulf of Mexico</a>. In the past, that&rsquo;s helped create a dead zone there larger than the state of New Jersey. Smaller lakes and ponds throughout the midwest are susceptible to algal blooms during the summer months.</p><p>Climate change is also intensifying the algal blooms. Algae prefer warmer temperatures, and more intense rainstorms mean more intense runoff.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ijc.org%2Ffiles%2Fpublications%2F2014%2520IJC%2520LEEP%2520REPORT.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL7GD6q-OXSzaquvJC8_DaPA47IQ">IJC report</a> recommends that Ontario, Canada and the states in the Lake Erie basin set new targets for reducing phosphorus runoff in Lake Erie. That could lead to more regulation on farms as well as septic system owners and urban water treatment systems.</p><p>&ldquo;One community shouldn&rsquo;t be able to decimate the resources that are so important to everyone,&rdquo; Pollack says. &ldquo;If you look at Lake Erie, it breaks your heart.&rdquo;</p><p>She also says there&rsquo;s no silver bullet, no single solution or single cause. There was <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.discovery.com%2Fearth%2Fweather-extreme-events%2Fsnowfall-setting-records-in-major-cities-140405.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGXFiLMKp6e_QuEL1trGFNCQURulg">a record amount of snow and ice this year around Toledo</a>, and it&rsquo;s all been melting, running off and bringing phosphorus with it.</p><p>Back down on the Maumee river bank, cold, clear water rushes out of a broken drainage pipe and into the river. In a couple hours, it&rsquo;ll be in Lake Erie.</p><p><em><a href="http://wyso.org/people/lewis-wallace">Lewis Wallace is a reporter for WYSO</a>, the public radio station for Dayton, Springfield and Yellow Springs, Ohio.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by the Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 15:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112 Shadowy lobbyists influence rideshare debate http://www.wbez.org/news/shadowy-lobbyists-influence-rideshare-debate-109770 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rideshare lawsuit_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The fight over the future of ridesharing in Chicago is increasingly being waged through shadowy lobbyists. This has some aldermen concerned about how that could influence the current regulatory debate.</p><p>At a hearing at City Council&rsquo;s Joint Committee on Transportation and Finance on Monday, some noted that the lobbying activity on the issue appeared different from the usual at City Hall. They said they were disturbed by the apparent emergence of advocates for ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, who have not identified their interests upfront.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m concerned with the amount of lobbyists on this that we won&rsquo;t hear from today,&rdquo; said Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), after noting that he had been handed an unmarked packet of information on his way into the hearing, with no information about its source. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to see all the lobbyists come up and forward on who we&rsquo;re dealing with and what&rsquo;s happening in this controversy here.&rdquo;</p><p>Ridesharing services offer smartphone apps to connect people with cars to people who need rides. Drivers do not have public chauffeur licenses, and they use their personal vehicles. Lately, several cities in the country, including Chicago, have been considering whether, and how, to regulate these services to ensure public safety.</p><p>Earlier this month, city officials offered <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-moves-regulate-rideshare-companies-109639" target="_blank">competing proposals</a> on rules for ridesharing. Almost immediately, media outlets (including WBEZ) began receiving phone calls and emails about the issue from a public relations firm that did not immediately identify its ties to the ridesharing industry.</p><p>A Chicago-based communications firm called Resolute Consulting has offered to connect reporters with community-based organizations in neighborhoods such as Little Village, Belmont-Cragin and Pilsen, who support ridesharing services. It did not initially disclose that its client is Uber, one of the technology companies behind a ridesharing app.</p><p>The consulting firm similarly publicized a press conference led by Alderman Joe Moreno (1st) just minutes before Monday&rsquo;s committee hearing on ridesharing rules. Moreno was joined by drivers and passengers of ridesharing services to voice support of &ldquo;reasonable regulations&rdquo; for the technologies.</p><p>&ldquo;Today is, I think, the difference between the Flintstones and the Jetsons,&rdquo; said Moreno. &ldquo;And we&rsquo;re here today to support the Jetsons.&rdquo;</p><p>Moreno said regulating ridesharing services under taxi rules, as proposed in a resolution by Aldermen Anthony Beale (9th) and Ed Burke (14th), would stifle innovation in Chicago. Other supporters at the press conference said they feel safe using ridesharing services, and that driving for these services helps them supplement low incomes.</p><p>They denied that a company had lobbied them to be at the press conference, with Moreno adding that riders, drivers and the industry are organizing on their own around the issue. But reporters were handed unlabeled, white folders containing reports about Uber, copies of letters written to the city on behalf of Uber, and other information highlighting troubles within the city&rsquo;s taxi industry. Resolute Consulting&rsquo;s name is nowhere cited in the packet, though a listed contact&rsquo;s name and number are associated with the company.</p><p>Additionally, all the riders and drivers present at the press conference disclosed, upon being asked, that they were only affiliated with Uber, rather than other ridesharing companies. Afterward, a consultant for Resolute told WBEZ that Uber had put out a request to its members to organize on behalf of limiting city regulations. Alderman Moreno admitted that he had met with an Uber lobbyist, whose name, he said, he could not recall. But he maintained that his advocacy on the issue was motivated by concerns he had heard from constituents who use the service.</p><p>&ldquo;There are lobbyists on both sides of this issue,&rdquo; Moreno offered at the committee hearing, in response to Fioretti&rsquo;s suggestion that ridesharing companies have been surreptitious in their lobbying effort. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just lobbyists that are on the rideshare side,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;There&rsquo;s lobbyists that we all know that are on the taxi side of this, as well.&rdquo;</p><p>Interests aligned with the taxi industry have also mounted their own public campaign. In recent weeks, public relations firm Edelman has reached out to the media on behalf of client Taxi Magic, which produces an alternative transportation app. Taxi Magic partners with nine metro area cab companies, including Yellow Cab and Checker. Yellow is among several plaintiffs who recently filed a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cab-livery-companies-sue-city-over-rideshare-companies-109655" target="_blank">federal lawsuit</a> against the City of Chicago, demanding that the city regulate ridesharing apps as it does their industry.</p><p>The coalition of companies behind the lawsuit have also hired former Daley administration lawyer, and City Hall insider, Mara Georges to represent their interests to aldermen in this debate. At Monday&rsquo;s committee hearing, Georges started off testimony by offering evidence to bolster Aldermen Burke and Beale&rsquo;s resolution to treat ridesharing companies the same as taxis.</p><p>In 2014, city data show the industry has four registered lobbyists at City Hall. Among ridesharing companies, Uber has three and Lyft has one. A single lobbyist represents taxi drivers&rsquo; interests.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 17:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/shadowy-lobbyists-influence-rideshare-debate-109770 Senate rejects GOP bid to overturn Internet rules http://www.wbez.org/story/senate-rejects-gop-bid-overturn-internet-rules-93937 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-10/RS3415_capitol debt(AP PhotoCarolyn Kaster)-lpr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Senate Democrats have turned back a Republican effort to repeal federal rules designed to prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against those who send content and other services over their networks.</p><p>Republicans argued that "net neutrality" rules announced by the Federal Communications Commission last December were another example of federal regulatory overreach that would stifle Internet investment and innovation.</p><p>But Democrats said repealing the FCC rules would imperil openness and freedom on the Internet. The White House had issued a veto threat against the GOP-backed legislation.</p><p>The rules, slated to go into effect on Nov. 20, prevent the phone and cable companies that control the Internet's pipelines from restricting what their customers do online or from blocking competing services.</p></p> Thu, 10 Nov 2011 17:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/senate-rejects-gop-bid-overturn-internet-rules-93937 Shared kitchen wins battle against Chicago red tape http://www.wbez.org/story/bakers/shared-kitchen-wins-battle-against-chicago-red-tape <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Zina_Murray.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A small-business incubator has won a round in a long fight against Chicago red tape.</p><p>Over the last six years, at least three shared kitchens have opened in Chicago. They&rsquo;re for caterers, bakers, confectioners and others who can&rsquo;t afford their own facilities.<br /><br />The City of Chicago still does not recognize the kitchens' business model. That has lead to more health inspections and licensing hassles.<br /><br />&ldquo;When you get these extra regulatory burdens, it&rsquo;s almost like people are throwing a refrigerator on your back and asking you to keep running,&rdquo; says Zina Murray, who opened Logan Square Kitchen in a vacant storefront last year.<br /><br />The city wanted to classify Murray&rsquo;s business as a banquet hall, a designation that would have required her to provide parking.<br /><br />So Murray brought the classification to the city&rsquo;s Zoning Board of Appeals. The board told us this week that it&rsquo;s siding with her.<br /><br />Murray&rsquo;s next struggle is to open, and properly license, an event space to go with the shared kitchen. &ldquo;We need businesses like this to help our economy recover,&rdquo; she says.<br /><br />Chicago zoning officials did not immediately return our calls for comment about the ruling.</p></p> Fri, 26 Nov 2010 02:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/bakers/shared-kitchen-wins-battle-against-chicago-red-tape