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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

$300M for Great Lakes Program Passes Hurdle in Senate

(Frank McNamara / Flickr)

A key federal program responsible for protecting the Great Lakes is one step closer to being fully funded after it was targeted for massive cuts earlier this year in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

Indiana Agency Hasn’t Turned Over Records on Toxic Spill, Chicago Says

U.S. Steel's Gary Works plant (Ken Lund / Flickr)

Records related to an April spill of a toxic metal into a Lake Michigan tributary have not been given to Chicago. The city is now threatening to sue U.S. Steel.

New UChicago Course Examines Legacy of Nuclear Age

(Walter Albertin / Wikimedia Commons)

The days when Americans fretted over an imminent U.S.-Soviet nuclear showdown might be over, but the consequences of a new nuclear age are still reverberating today.

Nearly $1M in Grants Awarded to Improve Chicago-Calumet Waterways

Calumet River (Courtesy Friends of the Chicago River)

A new $960,000 grant will improve 2.5 miles of streams for nearly 20 species of fish and create 10 acres of neighborhood green space in the Chicago-Calumet region. 

Brookfield Zoo Wolf Released into Wild Found Healthy in New Mexico

(Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team / Chicago Zoological Society)

A Mexican wolf pup born this spring at Brookfield Zoo and released into the wild as part of a species recovery program was tracked down in New Mexico and is healthy, the zoo announced this week.

Global Warming’s Impact on Lake Effect Snow: Fewer Flurries, More Rain

Streaks of snow stretching across the Great Lakes captured by a NASA satellite on Dec. 9, 2006. (NASA)

Lake Michigan is getting warmer, and eventually it will mean winters with less snow in Chicago. But don’t plan yet for winters free of the white stuff.

61 EPA Staff Have Left Chicago Office in 2017, And They’re Missed

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks April 19 after meeting with residents of East Chicago’s lead-contaminated neighborhoods. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, dozens of employees have left the EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago. Current and former employees say the loss of staff is already putting a strain on operations. 

Illinois Lawmakers Pass Bill to Protect Monarch Butterfly Habitat

Monarch butterfly populations have dropped by more than 80 percent over the past two decades. A bill approved this week aims to boost the monarch’s recovery by protecting milkweed, a plant that serves as the butterfly’s only source of food. 

Source of Bubbly Creek Oil Spill Likely to Remain a Mystery

Workers from the Environmental Protection Agency respond to an oil spill Oct. 26 at a fork of the Chicago River known as Bubbly Creek. (EPA)

The EPA likely won’t be able to determine the source of a late October oil spill in the Chicago River because the agency was notified about the spill two days after it occurred, the EPA said Tuesday. 

Lincoln Park Zoo Welcomes Newborn Goeldi’s Monkey

(Julia Fuller / Lincoln Park Zoo)

You’ll need to look closely to spot Lincoln Park Zoo’s new baby monkey. The infant, born Oct. 15 to first-time parents, is barely visible as it clings to its mother’s neck.

Regulations Unclear on Air Pollution Limits for Chicago Storage Company

An overhead view of Watco’s storage terminal in Chicago at 2926 E. 126th St. (Google)

Environmental advocates say a Southeast Side storage company violated city standards for air pollution earlier this year. But the company disagrees, asserting that the state’s more lenient law applies. 

Brookfield Zoo Mourns Death of Matriarchal Giraffe, Mithra, 27

(Courtesy Brookfield Zoo)

One of the oldest giraffes in a North American zoo died last week. At 27, she had surpassed the median life expectancy for giraffes, which is about 17-20 years.

Chicago Professor Leads NASA Balloon Mission to Study ‘Ghost Particles’

A team led by University of Chicago professor Angela Olinto will use a NASA super pressure balloon to study mysterious cosmic rays coming from beyond our own galaxy. (Angela Olinto / University of Chicago)

A team led by University of Chicago professor Angela Olinto will use a NASA super pressure balloon to study mysterious cosmic rays that could offer groundbreaking new insights about the universe. 

Woolsey Withdraws Fracking Permit, Citing ‘Burdensome’ Illinois Law

Two months after becoming the first company approved for fracking in Illinois, Woolsey Operating Company has withdrawn its permit. 

Dead Fish, Turtles Recovered Following Bubbly Creek Oil Spill

Workers from the Environmental Protection Agency respond to an oil spill that was reported Oct. 26 at a fork of the Chicago River known as Bubbly Creek. (EPA)

Officials responding to last week’s oil spill in the South Branch of the Chicago River have recovered dead wildlife from the water, including 43 fish and four turtles. The source of the spill is still unknown, according to the EPA. 

Public Transit Advocates Urge Override of Rauner Veto on Gas Tax Funds

(Courtesy Chicago Transit Authority)

Supporters of a bill vetoed this summer by Gov. Bruce Rauner are calling on legislators to override that action next month in the hopes of expanding the use of gas tax funds to public transportation services and other improvements.

Cleanup Continues After ‘Mystery Oil Spill’ on Bubbly Creek

Workers from the Environmental Protection Agency respond to an oil spill Oct. 26 at a fork of the Chicago River known as Bubbly Creek. (EPA)

The EPA says the source of an Oct. 26 oil spill remains unknown, but cleanup efforts continue this week along the 1.5-mile stretch of the south fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River.

Chicago Storage Company Unknowingly Reports Own Air Violation

An overhead view of Watco's storage terminal at 2926 E. 126th St. in Chicago. (Google)

A Southeast Side company tipped off regulators to its own violation of city air pollution standards, documents submitted to the city show. 

Chicago to Add 10 Environmental Inspectors, Increase Fine Amounts

(Jeremy Atherton / Wikimedia Commons)

In an effort to fill a void created by federal and state agencies that have cut back environmental oversight, Chicago plans to expand its environmental enforcement division.

What is ‘Zombie Preparedness Month’?

(rodolpho reis / Flickr)

Illinois is taking creative steps to prepare residents for all kinds of potential disasters. “If you are prepared for zombies, you are prepared for a natural disaster,” said state Rep. Chris Welch.

Tips for Conserving Water to Prevent Flooding in Chicago

Flooding in Albany Park in April 2013 (Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr)

There are more soggy days ahead. Find out how you can help ease the burden on the Chicago River and reduce the risk of flooding.

Adler Event Explores the Question, ‘Are We Alone in the Universe?’

An artist’s impression of what the surface of the planet Proxima b might look like. (M. Kornmesser / European Southern Observatory)

Viewers on four continents will watch a virtual presentation hosted by Adler Planetarium in early November to learn about the possibility of life on other planets.

Baby Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Debuts at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

One of Brookfield Zoo’s newest tenants recently emerged from her mom’s pouch and can now be seen at the zoo’s Australia House.  

Durbin Co-Sponsors Bill to Bolster Environmental Justice Efforts

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is among a handful of legislators behind a bill that would strengthen legal protections for communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and other environmental threats.

Obama Science Adviser: ‘Do Not Be Intimidated, Speak Truth to Power’

(Bonnie Robinson / Illinois Institute of Technology)

Scientists should respond to a “political climate of opposition to facts” by speaking out about their work, said John P. Holdren during a recent lecture on climate change at the Illinois Institute of Technology.