From the Headlines – April 19-23, 2021

Emissions matter: Environmental activists and Enbridge Energy expressed approval for aspects of a decision by the Michigan Public Service Commission concerning the company’s plans to relocate a portion of its Line 5 pipeline into a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. The MPSC will not consider whether or not there is a need for the project, but they will look at arguments concerning greenhouse gas emissions created by the pipeline. The MPSC must grant final approval for the project to go forward. “Should the tunnel become a reality, Michigan is handcuffed to a century of continued use of fossil fuels,” said Jennifer McKay, policy director for Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. “This will result in an increase in droughts, severe storms, and flooding events that can amplify the risk of erosion, sewage overflow, and flood damage.” Enbridge said it was “pleased” with the MPSC’s decision. (Detroit News)

Rooted: “I want people to know — mainly Black people — that growing food is a revolutionary act that we must do so that we can connect with our ancestors … it’s a healing process,” said Dazmonique Carr, founder of Deeply Rooted Produce, a mobile grocery business that grows food in Detroit. Carr is trying to cultivate a sustainable business by paying herself and her employees a living wage, addressing the fact that many farmers experience food insecurity themselves. “You’re providing this great service, but… you don’t realize that you’re a part of that system that needs to start internally,” she said. (WDET)

Spring cleaning the ‘wipey-dipes’: Trash cleanups have gotten a whole lot more interesting this year with a flood of discarded personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, and what Canton resident Phyliss Macuga Baker refers to as “wipey-dipes” or sanitary wipes. The group Keep America Beautiful released a report estimating that in late 2020 there were 200 million pieces of plastic gloves and masks along the country’s roads and waterways– still less than one percent of all the litter identified by the group. “I just wish that more people would realize that without one person making a difference, no one will ever make a difference,” said Macuga-Baker, who organizes neighborhood cleanups. (WDET)

More food access: A pair of recent decisions by the United States Department of Agriculture could significantly impact food access in the state. The agency has said it will extend its universal free school lunch program for K-12 students through 2022, a program it implemented early in the pandemic to help children experiencing food insecurity. However, the USDA will discontinue its Farmers to Families food box initiative, which distributed $115 million to food distributors in the state to purchase produce from local growers for distribution to those in need. The agency cited several problems with the program, including pricing and food waste. A Reuters investigation found that deliveries to food banks were sometimes late or didn’t arrive at all. USDA head Tom Vilsack said the agency would focus on other initiatives to increase food access, including expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (Business Insider, Detroit News, Reuters)

‘Shark Tank for trash’: A new program from Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and state business leaders offers money for projects that “upcycle” waste materials. For example: turning plastic bottles into t-shirts and jackets.  The effort — which our colleagues at Bridge have labeled “Shark Tank for trash” — is part of a broader effort called NextCycle Michigan that aims to boost Michigan’s low recycling rate. Michigan currently recycles about 18.5 percent of its waste, while the national average is 32.1 percent. (Bridge)

Drop in the bucket: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is fining Boyce Hydro $15 million for safety violations after several of the company’s dams failed, resulting in the flooding of Midland and other downstream areas last May and an estimated $200 million in damage to more than 2,500 buildings. Boyce Hydro has declared bankruptcy and the federal agency is only the latest entity trying to collect money from the company. Some area residents feel that FERC shares blame for the event. A lawsuit filed by attorney Michael Pitt argues that the agency showed  “gross incompetence and deliberate indifference” by failing to regulate Boyce’s activities. (Bridge)

‘Least wanted’: The Detroit Free Press provides a list of some of the state’s less desirable flora and fauna, including knotweed, European frogbit, sea lamprey, and a relative newcomer, red swamp crayfish. The report lists several actions the public can do to keep these invasive species from spreading, like cleaning off boats and trailers that can transport aquatic plants or exotic bivalves. (Freep)

Biden’s 2030 pledge: Calling climate change “the existential crisis of our time,” President Joe Biden has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels. He made the statements to an Earth Day gathering of 40 world leaders. “Particularly those of us that represent the world’s largest economies, we have to step up,” Biden said, adding that a shift to clean energy would create “millions of good-paying union jobs.” However, some have criticized the goal as not bold enough, while others note that the plan will require a dramatic re-ordering of energy, transportation, and land-use practices. “It’s not an easy task,” said Nathan Hultman, director of the University of Maryland’s Center on Global Sustainability. “We won’t be able to sit back and hope that market forces alone will do the job.” (Guardian, NY Times)


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