From the Headlines

Details, please: Following Detroit’s decision to issue a moratorium on water shutoffs through at least 2022, activists continue to suss out precisely what this means moving forward. “We’ll be looking for metrics and demonstrated codification of this commitment,” said Monica Lewis-Patrick, President and CEO of the water rights group We the People of Detroit. And former Detroit Director of Health Abdul El Sayed said that the city needs to begin immediately looking for ways to fund the moratorium, including federal money, a local tax on bottled water, or a program like Philadelphia’s that ties water rates to income. (Freep, Planet Detroit)

Meanwhile: The Legislature passed a bill Thursday that would halt water shutoffs statewide until March 31, 2021 statewide. The legislation also requires service to be restored to anyone who had their water disconnected for non-payment. “Water affordability is a problem that plagues rural Michigan as well as my hometown of Detroit,” Sylvia Orduño, a spokeswoman for the People’s Water Board Coalition, said. “The Legislature has recognized that residents across the state need water to live and protect public health.” Gov. Whitmer is expected to sign the bill. (Freep)

Sewage control: “People have a lot of pressures to pay bills, and we want to make sure that every dollar that goes toward the wastewater system is spent wisely,” Suzanne Coffey, chief planning officer for the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), said of the agency’s new plan to streamline services and stop the flow of sewage into the Detroit River. GLWA will be using remote sensors to monitor rain and snowmelt that contribute to combined sewer overflows. The authority also wants to expand sewer links to the Detroit River Interceptor – a miles-long tunnel under East Jefferson Avenue – which has additional capacity to help keep the area’s filthy water out of the river. (Freep)

Diagnosing pollution: Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) has received $500,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for community-scale air monitoring, allowing the agency to perform real-time air monitoring of pollutants. Enhanced monitoring could help EGLE identify specific pollution sources in southeast Michigan and control levels of sulfur dioxide and ozone, which have exceeded federal limits for several years in some areas.  In related news, a British girl who suffered a fatal asthma attack in 2013 has become the first person to have air pollution listed as their cause of death. Legal experts believe it could pave the way for lawsuits by victims of air pollution or their families. Traffic emissions were listed as the specific source of her exposure. (WDET, NY Times)  

Work zone: Emergency work has begun on the failed Edenville Dam in Midland County as well as the associated Tobacco River Spillway, which is being lowered to reduce risks to the embankment and restore the natural flow of the river. The Edenville Dam’s failure overwhelmed the Sanford Dam and caused widespread flooding along the Tittabawassee River in May, including in the city of Midland. Dam owner Boyce Hydro Power has declared bankruptcy and continues to blame the state and residents for the failure, saying they insisted on maintaining high water levels. (Detroit News)

No help for monarchs: The number of Eastern monarch butterflies has declined by 75 percent since the 1990s, and Western monarchs are doing even worse. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the black-and-orange critters meet the criteria for listing under the Endangered Species Act, but the agency won’t be listing them because other species are a higher priority. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has also changed the Endangered Species Act to shrink threatened species’ habitats. The change defines “critical habitat” as that which currently sustains a threatened species, not the broader range of habitat that it could occupy in the future. (NY Times, WaPo)

Are you ready for a cabinet meeting? News on the president-elect Biden’s picks for various cabinet positions is coming in fast this week, delivering a few head-scratchers as well as some seemingly suitable choices. Here’s the latest:EPA: Current head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Michael Regan, will lead the Environmental Protection Agency, making him the first African American man to hold the post. In his present job, Regan pursued a multi-billion dollar settlement with Duke Energy over coal ash cleanup, created an environmental justice advisory board, and pressed chemical-manufacturer Chemours to stop PFAS chemicals from seeping into the Cape Fear River. (WaPo)Transportation: Some are asking how former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg is qualified to be secretary of transport, but for Michigan, the most crucial thing might be his opposition to the Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. Buttigieg will have direct input on this since the Department of Transportation oversees the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which regulates pipeline infrastructure. (Slate, Michigan Advance)Energy: Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm has been tapped to lead the Department of Energy, where she would be able to help guide the transition away from fossil fuels. Some believe she is well-placed to pitch green jobs to the auto sector and other industries.  (Politico)‘Climate Czar’: Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Gina McCarthy will take on a new post coordinating climate policy. But the choice has raised eyebrows on account of her role during the Flint water crisis when the EPA knew for months that corrosion controls weren’t being instituted but failed to enforce compliance. Flint activist LeeAnne Walters called the appointment “absolutely appalling.” (Freep)Interior: Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico will be the first Indigenous person to lead the Department of the Interior, which oversees roughly one-fifth of the territory in the United States, including tribal lands. Haaland has previously advocated transitioning the department from developing fossil fuels to promoting renewable energy and mitigating climate change. (WaPo)Russia wins: Russia is having a big week. Along with charges of cyber-espionage that include infiltrating multiple government agencies and hundreds of major corporations, the New York Times reports that they will win the climate crisis. Thawing Siberian permafrost could pave the way for increased agricultural production and give the nation a strategic edge while also attracting immigrants from countries hit by rising temperatures and sea levels. (NY Times)

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