From the Headlines

A stop to shutoffs: Detroit’s moratorium on water shutoffs will extend through the end of 2022, with the ultimate goal of ending them in perpetuity. The city will “work on a permanent water affordability solution at the state and federal levels,” said Gary Brown, director of the city’s water and sewerage department said Tuesday. But Brown noted moratoriums do not amount to amnesty and that water customers will continue to accrue charges for unpaid bills. Water activists remain skeptical. “The devil will be in the details, in terms of a real commitment to a timeline and a budget line,” Monica Lewis-Patrick of We the People Detroit, a grassroots advocacy group that has fought for water affordability, told the Detroit Free Press. Brown said the city would use the next two years to “work on a permanent water affordability solution at the state and federal level.” Meanwhile, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 241, a bill sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Chang to codify a moratorium on water shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday. The statewide moratorium would extend through March 2021. The bill goes to the House next. (Detroit Free Press, WDET, Nushrat Rahman via Twitter)

State of the air: A Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) 2019 annual air quality report shows continuing improvement statewide. However, all of metro Detroit is in a nonattainment area for ozone–meaning the level of this pollutant exceeds the National Ambient Air Quality Standards–and portions of Wayne County and St. Clair County are in nonattainment for sulfur dioxide. (EGLE)

A lot of bacon: Meanwhile, Justin Onwenu, an organizer for the Sierra Club in Detroit, and Nick Leonard, executive director for the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, are calling for a change in the way pollution is measured to account for the combined effect of different pollutants. “Imagine if dietary guidelines, which currently recommend 2,000 calories per day, allowed you to eat 1,999 calories worth of ice cream, 1,999 calories worth of apples, and 1,999 calories worth of bacon all in one day,” they write. “That is the current state of National Air Quality Standards.” (The Hill)

Flint weighs in: As the details of the $641 million Flint settlement are ironed out, residents have thoughts on what the city needs to recover from the crisis caused by lead-tainted drinking water. Dr. Kent Key believes that a free college education could help children impacted by lead poisoning. “It’s scientifically documented that the youth are impacted by this through behavior issues, and then we also see a lack of academic performance,” he said. “We need a buffer…so those kids who may become challenged still have support to go through the academic process.” Others would like to see cash payments for individuals to help the city recover. But the settlement will likely only amount to $600 per person, an amount that Nic Custer from the University of Michigan Flint’s Center for Economic Development called “paltry.” (WaPo, Great Lakes Now) 

Dirty trucks: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that roughly a half-million diesel trucks are creating as much pollution as 9 million on account of owners using “defeat devices” to tamper with their emissions systems. Illegal defeat devices are advertised as a way to improve gas mileage and reduce wear on truck engines. Some also do this to “roll coal” or emit large black exhaust clouds, which practitioners deem to be very cool. Michigan is one of 18 states that doesn’t have an emissions testing program. (Detroit News)

High water: Michigan’s House Natural Resources Committee advanced a bill to simplify permitting for erosion controls on Michigan beaches. Expedited permitting would go into effect for beachfront property owners if the water level on any of the Great Lakes (excluding Lake Ontario) or Lake St. Clair rises more than a foot above the ordinary high water mark. Applications for shoreline protection more than tripled in the past year when water levels rose to historic highs. However, rock protections and seawalls are imperfect defenses, often diverting erosion to other parts of the shoreline. (MLive, Michigan Radio)

New Lock: Work has begun on a $1 billion project to build a new lock in Sault St. Marie. Currently, only the Poe Lock can handle ships that are 1,000 feet long, leading the Department of Homeland Security to report that the structure is “the Achilles’ heel of the North American industrial economy.” Crucially, the Poe Lock allows for the passage of almost all the taconite iron ore that feeds Great Lakes steel mills and the auto industry. “It’s estimated a shutdown during the shipping season for six months could lead to 11 million unemployed across the country,” Jim Weakley, president of the Lakes Carriers Association in Cleveland, said. (DNews)

Line 5 latest: Enbridge Energy’s plan for a new Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac hit another snag this week. The Michigan Public Service Commission says Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s revocation of the company’s 1953 pipeline easement necessitates a rehearing on whether or not specific considerations, including how the new line will impact climate change, must be considered. (MLive)

Sabotage: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have to start workshopping a new name after its latest move, which seems designed to make regulating pollution more difficult. Changes to how the EPA must calculate costs and benefits of air pollution seem to account for the expenses of curbing pollution while ignoring positive impacts on public health. John Walke, clean air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, argues the move is designed to delay reforms by an incoming Biden administration, calling it “sheer sabotage.” (WaPo)


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