From the Headlines

HAZMAT for Covid relief: A COVID-19 relief bill that passed the Michigan Legislature contains a controversial provision to allow hazardous materials to pass over the Ambassador Bridge, including: “flammable gases,” “poisonous gases,” “spontaneously combustible materials,” “dangerous when wet materials,” “poisonous materials” and “corrosive materials”. State Sen. Stephanie Chang penned an editorial against the measure, noting that the bridge is surrounded by a densely populated neighborhood where 40% of the residents are children. “Allowing these types of hazardous material to be transported across the Ambassador Bridge — a bridge that is over 90 years old, not up to the same level of inspections, traffic safety features, spill containment, or fire suppression systems needed to protect my residents’ safety — is downright dangerous,” she wrote. (Metro Times, Freep)

Marathon buying homes: Marathon Petroleum announced an initiative to spend $5 million to buy homes near its southwest Detroit refinery, focusing on the area east of I-75 and north of Schaefer Highway. The company will also work with the Detroit Land Bank authority to buy 38 abandoned homes and 140 vacant lots, creating a buffer between the refinery and nearby residents. “If you want to stay there, that is your right,” said Emma Lockridge, a resident of the neighborhood and environmental justice organizer with Michigan United. “What we are pushing for are the homeowners who are saying ‘I don’t want to endure this any longer.'” (Freep)

$ for the Great Lakes: A bill to renew the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and increase its funding by 25% to $375 million passed both chambers of Congress and will head to the president’s desk. “In Michigan, this program has helped clean up contamination, restore wetlands and fight invasive species, but there is much more to be done,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who co-authored the original bill that created the program in 2010. The GLRI has been positioned as an important economic driver for the region —  a 2018 study by the Great Lakes Commission found that every dollar spent through the program generated an additional $3.35 in economic activity through 2036. (D News, MLive)

Can we trust Duggan?: Detroit water rights activists Linda Campbell, Rev. Roslyn Bouier, Beulah Walker and Nicole Small weighed in on Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s recent announcement suspending water shutoffs through at least 2022. With an election coming up, can we trust the mayor to keep his word on creating a permanent moratorium on disconnections? Not according to the authors, who point out that during the last election, Duggan suspended collection of the sometimes onerous drainage fees for Detroit churches, only to quietly reinstate them later. “If Detroiters have learned anything in the recent past it’s that we cannot count on politicians to save us,” they write. “We must organize, build power and put forth our own solutions.” (Deadline Detroit)

Dirty money: DTE executives and dark money non-profits have been working to influence caucus leadership races in the Michigan Legislature, according to an article in Midwest Energy News. Progressive lawmaker Yousef Rabhi — an industry critic who has backed legislation supporting solar energy — was targeted in an effort to keep him from becoming the House Democratic caucus leader. Rabhi’s opponent Rep. Donna Lasinksi received $41,000 from the utility industry during the last legislative session. Similarly, industry donors backed Rep. Joe Tate from Detroit when he challenged Rabhi for the position of floor leader. On account of this influence, another utility critic, former Michigan Rep. Gary Glenn said in 2018, “there will be no meaningful reforms through the legislative process for the next decade”. (Midwest Energy News)
New lead rule: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated a rule regulating lead in drinking water for the first time in three decades. But while certain provisions like testing for lead in school drinking water may be an improvement, clean water advocates say the policy is moving backwards in other ways. Elin Betanzo, founder of the consulting firm Safe Water Engineering and previously an environmental engineer with the EPA, told Planet Detroit that the new federal rules won’t help much to get rid of lead service lines–which are often the source of lead in drinking water. The new rules will require replacement only if the water system exceeds the lead action level of 15 part per billion. Previously, systems had to replace lead service lines at the rate of 7% a year, That has been cut more than in half to 3%, meaning it could take more than 33 years to get all the lead service lines out  — and then only if a system is in exceedance. Michigan’s state lead and copper rule is much more protective than the national standard, requiring replacement of all lead service lines within 20 years, whether or not they exceed the 15 ppb level. But Betanzo is concerned that the mismatch between Michigan’s rule and the federal one could create a weakening of state guidelines, depending on how Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) chooses to respond. (WaPo, Planet Detroit)


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