From the Headlines

Incinerated: The shuttered Detroit Incinerator could be demolished by this summer, according to Todd Grezch, CEO of Detroit Thermal, which owns the closed facility on Russell Street. And the incinerator’s operator, Detroit Renewable Power, has been ordered to pay $200,000 in fines for odor complaints and air quality violations as part of a consent agreement with Michigan’s Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). The agency said that the agreement ends the operators’ ability to burn trash at the site. But the facility may still have garbage in its future. This property has recently served as a solid waste transfer facility, a function that Grezch says may continue into the future. (Detroit News) 

Rezoned: Changes to zoning in Southwest Detroit could significantly impact residents worried about the intense industry level in their neighborhoods. City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-Lopez is pushing to rezone the 48216 and 48209 zip codes as M1 or limited industrial. These areas include many single-family homes currently zoned as M4 or intensive industrial. “People used to live by factories and walk to work… a lot of the zoning issues we are trying to fix are reflective of those dynamics from back in the day,” Castañeda-Lopez said. Although these neighborhoods have significant issues with trucks driving through residential areas, a zoning change would mostly affect the ability of new industry to move into the area rather than addressing existing problems. (WDET)

Fined: Marathon Petroleum will pay nearly $540,000 in fines and toward community investments as part of a consent order with EGLE. “This is actually one of Marathon’s first agreements with the state that will send direct community benefits to Michigan’s most polluted ZIP code,” saidTheresa Landrum, activist, and resident of the 48217 zip code. The consent order comes after Marathon failed to demonstrate compliance with its operating permit and violated state and federal air quality rules. Marathon will pay $282,000 to install an air filtration system at the Mark Twain School for Scholars in the Boynton neighborhood and set up a website that provides real-time data on air pollution in the area surrounding their southwest Detroit refinery. (Metro Times)

Roadblocked: The Joe Louis Greenway has encountered an obstacle near Dexter Avenue and Oakman Boulevard, where both the city and property owner, Dexter Doris LLC, have laid claim to 1.7 acres needed for the project. The city has sued the property owner and its tenants over the encroachment. Eric Oberg, Midwest director for the nonprofit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which assists communities converting disused railways into biking and walking paths, said that such disputes are common but that these corridors are generally more easily converted into greenways than other types of land. The 27.5-mile trail is set to cut a circular path through the city from the riverfront to Hamtramck, Highland Park, and Dearborn. The first leg of construction is scheduled to begin in May, regardless of the outcome of the Dexter Avenue property dispute. (Crain’s)

Multi-lingual: EGLE has released its first limited English proficiency plan, a move that could have an impact in areas like Hamtramck and Southwest Detroit. Many residents in these areas who do not speak English as their primary language have had difficulty participating in community meetings addressing industry and pollution. “By providing department-wide guidance, this plan provides a broad framework for divisions and programs, which incorporates best practices, as well as elements from public comments,” said Regina Strong, EGLE’s environmental justice public advocate. (EGLE)

Sierra Club-DTE settlement stands: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it wouldn’t challenge a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to uphold a private settlement between the Sierra Club and DTE Energy. This settlement requires DTE to retire several coal-fired power plants, invest $5.5 million to replace school and municipal transit busses with electric ones, and put another $2 million towards future projects to reduce air pollution in affected communities. (EPA, Sierra Club)

Enbridge gets go-ahead: EGLE has granted Enbridge Energy a crucial permit for its proposed tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac, which will house the Line 5 oil pipeline. The tunnel still requires permits from the Michigan Public Service Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before construction can start. In a press release, EGLE said that the pipeline “poses an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes.” However, EGLE spokesperson Hugh McDiarmid noted that the agency’s decision was limited to considering concerns over wetlands and other issues, not the wisdom of putting a pipeline in the straits. (Michigan Radio)

Sacred land: Regardless of EGLE’s permit, many Indigenous people believe that the land and water around the Straits of Mackinac is sacred. The Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians Tribal Council reaffirmed this point with a resolution declaring the area a “Traditional Cultural Property Site.” “Based on our creation story, our way of life, our oral histories are directly tied to the Straits. To put it more simply, it is like our Garden of Eden,” said Whitney Gravelle, in-house counsel for the Bay Mills Indian Community. “Why would you run a tunnel and pipeline through our Garden of Eden?” (Traverse City Record-Eagle)

Sign-ups for Flint settlement: Flint residents have until March 29, 2021, to either register as part of the $641.25 million settlement with the state over the city’s water crisis, object, or opt-out. If residents fail to do one of these things, they will be giving up their ability to file any future legal claims against the defendants in the case. Eligible residents can register here. (Flint Beat)

Who’s got the juice? There are roughly 6 to 7 million cars in Michigan, which could mean problems for the electrical grid if there’s a rapid shift to battery-powered automobiles. It’s estimated that for every 100 miles traveled, an electric vehicle can use as much energy as an average home does each day. Utilities like DTE offer “off-peak” EV rate plans that provide lower-cost charging at night and on the weekends when there is a lower demand on the grid. Although utilities could encounter problems if too many people decide to charge their cars at once, overall electrical capacity appears sufficient. According to the U.S. Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, there is enough excess power generation and transmission capacity across the nation to power more than 150 million electric vehicles. (Detroit News, Washington Post)

Another council: Gov. Whitmer announced the creation of a “Council on Climate Solutions” to develop and implement emissions reduction strategies and find solutions for communities disproportionately impacted by climate change. The council will be composed of 14 residents and representatives from various state agencies. Think you have a climate solution? You can apply to be a member of the council here. Whitmer has also formed an advisory council on environmental justice, among many others. (State)

Where’s the ice? Ice cover is near record lows on the Great Lakes–which may help drive evaporation and lower water levels ahead of spring–but the long-term implications are unclear. A new study from Toronto’s York University said many lakes in the Northern Hemisphere might be permanently ice-free by mid-century. This could impact whitefish and burbot, which deposit their eggs on ice-covered reefs. A lack of ice cover could also create warmer water temperatures in summer, threatening trout and steelhead. (Bridge Michigan)


Our reporting 

runs deep.

Get the latest local enviro news in your inbox with Planet Detroit.

Scroll to Top