From the Headlines

Big $ for Belle Isle: With $4.6 million for the new Piet Oudolf perennial garden, $2.5 million for the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservancy, and $4.9 million for the Dossin Great Lakes Museum,  Detroit’s Belle Isle State Park is seeing some serious investment these days. “Belle Isle has more projects going on than any other state park in Michigan,” said Karis Floyd, manager of Belle Isle Park for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Money has also gone into natural areas on the east end of the island, including $3.7 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to restore the hydrology of the island’s frequently waterlogged Flatwoods. And yet, the Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix may still cut into the pleasure offered by some of these improvements. It has a 59-day set-up and tear-down time and is now slated to cover two weekends in June. (Detour, Planet Detroit)

Ooze: With groundwater no longer showing excessive levels of hexavalent chromium, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will be transferring control of the so-called “green ooze” site in Madison Heights back to Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). The EPA spent $3.1 million over the last year or so digging an interceptor trench to catch the contaminated groundwater emanating from the former Electro-Plating Services and pumping out more than 350,000 gallons of liquid that it shipped away for disposal. Although the source of the contamination still remains under the buildings at the site, the EPA installed “permeable reactive barriers” underground that use treatment agents to clean up contaminated water as it flows through. As a result, the level of hexavalent chromium in the groundwater has dropped from 31,000 micrograms per liter to 11 micrograms per liter. (Freep)

Pay me DTE: Livingston County resident Alice Andrews lives in a neighborhood that depends on well water delivered by electric pumps, making her especially vulnerable to blackouts. “Power outages are so common that if there’s a threat of a windy or stormy day, I fill up containers of drinking water and fill up my bathtub to assist with flushing my toilet,” she told WDET. The group Work for Me DTE is trying to help people like Andrews and those that have been forced to throw away frozen or refrigerated foods during power outages. DTE has a program to reimburse customers for food after outages, but Highland Park resident Michelle Jones said she was denied a $25 credit by the utility after she lost a refrigerator full of groceries. She says she would like the state to “require DTE to automatically issue a minimum credit of $2 per hour when there is an outage… and commit to supporting community-based clean energy as a reliable measure.” (WDET)

Court date: DTE Energy is headed back to court, after the Sierra Club won part of an appeal over an air permit approved by EGLE. The environmental group argued that the utility failed to provide adequate information on the ozone impact from a future gas-fired power plant in East China Township. “Our organizations have long been arguing that DTE and state regulators should be paying close attention to how this massive fracked gas plant’s pollution will affect air quality in the St. Clair area, especially because the county is already failing health standards for both sulfur dioxide and ozone,” Elena Saxonhouse, senior attorney for the Sierra Club, said in a written statement. The Court of Appeals said in their opinion that a trial court “may also need to reconsider its determination concerning whether the EGLE should have granted the permit.” (Times Herald)

Flint con’t.: “People are dead,” Flint resident E. Yvonne Lewissaid of the fallout from her city’s water crisis. “Children are ill. We still don’t know the long-term implications of the exposure.” While a historic class-action settlement for the case is moving forward and a number of high-level state officials—including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder—are being charged with crimes, many of the underlying circumstances that helped create the crisis remain, including Michigan’s emergency manager law and chronic disinvestment that drove up prices for water, even as it became contaminated with lead. And for Flint residents, the reality of their own exposure to a potent neurotoxin means that the water crisis will live on for years to come.  “In the back of my mind,” Lewis said, “there’s always one question—the impact of that exposure.” (ProPublica)

Where’s the ice? The Detroit area is starting to see some snow and normal, frosty winter temperatures, but the Great Lakes are remarkably ice-free compared to what is usual for this point in the year. The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory reports that total ice coverage for the lakes stands at 7.2%. While the percentage of ice cover is increasing, it’s still well below the average high of 53%. (CNN, GLERL) 

GM sets emissions goals: General Motors announced targets to have full-size pickups, trucks, and SUVs be zero-emission by 2035, and for its global products and manufacturing facilities to be “carbon neutral” by 2040. The company also looks to make heavy-duty pickups zero-emission by 2040. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, applauded the mover, calling it a “breakthrough moment” in a statement.  But Andrew Hoffman, professor of sustainable enterprise at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business said the step was necessary to stay competitive with companies like Tesla and Ford. “GM has to be in this to be viable going forward,” he said. (Freep) 

Energy, eh? Former Michigan governor and current nominee to head the U.S. Department of Energy Jennifer Granholm delivered a quotable performance to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. Granholm, who was born in Canada, said that as governor she followed Wayne Gretzky’s advice to, “Skate to where the puck is going.” In this case, the puck is “headed toward cleaner solutions” and Granholm said she believes we will get there by creating jobs in renewable energy.  Yet, Granholm also said, “If we’re going to get to net carbon zero emissions by 2050, we cannot do it without coal, oil, and gas being part of the mix.” And while her point may have been that these sources are still necessary to meet current energy needs, it’s unclear to Planet Detroit how things that actually produce carbon help get us to “zero emissions”? Eh, well. (Michigan Advance, Freep)

Climate moves: Wednesday was climate day at the White House. President Biden signed several executive orders to pause new federal oil leases, set aside 30% of federal land and water for conservation, and make climate policy central to national security, among other things. But Biden also pressed the message that transitioning to renewable energy sources would create jobs, saying that a government switch to zero-emission vehicles would help create “one million new jobs in the American automobile industry.” Significantly, Biden also mentioned the need for a “just transition”, which means helping those relying on jobs in fossil fuel production move into a new economic reality as well as addressing the disproportionate environmental burdens placed on communities of color. The White House says that environmental justice will be on the agenda of every agency and the “Justice 40 Initiative” has been created with the goal of directing 40% of climate-related spending to “disadvantaged communities”. (NY Times, Grist, White House)


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