From the Headlines – April 26 – 30, 2021

East side climate focus: Times are changing on the east side of Detroit where the 37-year-old Eastside Community Network (ECN) and other organizations are increasingly focused on sustainability initiatives to create economic opportunity, improve quality of life and deal with stormwater problems made worse by climate change. “Every time there’s a heavy rain, and the rains are heavier now, there are sewer backups in the communities, flooding in the streets and the combined sewage system ends up releasing untreated sewage into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers,” said Donna Givens Davidson, ECN’s chief executive officer. “So the more rainwater we can keep out of the combined sewer system, the less often that has to happen, both at the neighborhood level and the treatment center level.” The group is installing rain gardens and other methods to more effectively infiltrate stormwater on vacant land, and pushing to reduce emissions at the expanded Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis) assembly plant. They’re also building a resilience hub where residents can gather during extreme heat events or power outages. (Model D)

Bottle bucks: Michigan Environmental Council policy director Sean Hammond recently called for expanding the state’s bottle return program to include more types of containers and additional sites for taking deposits, and a bill just passed by the Michigan House looks to compensate businesses for updating their recycling equipment to help boost returns. But these moves would shunt some money away from the state’s Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund, which currently receives 75 percent of the money from unredeemed bottle returns and funds environmental cleanup efforts in the state. “This legislation effectively is another attack on critical funds for contaminated site cleanup that come from unreturned bottle deposits,” saidNick Occhipinti, government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “We need more money to fight contamination in our drinking water, rivers, streams, lakes, and land, and we urge lawmakers in the House to oppose this misguided legislation.” (Crain’s Detroit Business, Associated Press)

We’ve got the power: Amid an avalanche of earth day announcements last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that state buildings will run entirely on renewable energy by 2025. The state will partner with DTE, Consumers Energy, and the Lansing Board of Water & Light to purchase this power, which will involve expanding these utilities’ renewable generation, not just purchasing existing renewable energy. While state buildings make up a small fraction of Michigan’s overall energy footprint, activists praised the move. “By doing this, the state accomplishes three things at once: It puts the state on course to meet its carbon goals, in part, through solar generation, it helps the utilities meet their renewable energy commitments, and it serves the people of Michigan by catalyzing our public and private sectors to decarbonize our future,” saidJohn A. Kinch, executive director of Michigan Energy Options. (Bridge, Metro Times)

Rising waters: East China Township resident Michelle Ivey and her family were forced to abandon their rental home in February after an ice jam on the St. Clair River flooded the property. Meanwhile, Upper Peninsula resident Mike Bach spent $8,000 to install drainage and stone defenses to protect his home from rising waters on Lake Michigan. These stories demonstrate the unequal way flooding will affect Michiganders as the climate changes, saddling homeowners with huge costs that only the well-off may be able to afford. New data from the First Street Foundation could help somewhat by giving homeowners a more accurate picture of flooding risk in their area. (Great Lakes Now)

Tensions on the border: As U.S. and Canadian officials try to reset cross-border relations following the Trump administration’s tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, pipelines are shaping up to be a major point of contention. Whitmer ordered pipeline owner Enbridge to shut down operations by May 12, and the Biden administration canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, angering officials in Alberta. “The Canadians are likely to make this their big issue,” said Christopher Sands, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center, a D.C. think tank. “This is one where I don’t think (Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) can afford to back down.” U.S. pipeline safety falls under the Department of Transportation and the head of that department, Pete Buttigieg, endorsed a shutdown of Line 5 when he was running for president. However, a spokesperson for the department said that it wasn’t involved in the dispute between Enbridge and the State of Michigan. (AP)

Fire break: The Brittle Fire that burned roughly 5,000 acres in Iosco County is now 80 percent contained. The fire began as a prescribed burn intended to improve wildlife habitat and create a fuel break, which would impede future fires. Wind caused the fire to escape from its containment area, forcing the evacuation of 65 residents. However, no one was injured and no structures were burned. (Freep)

Pollution burden: Research published this week shows that African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinx people bear a much heavier burden of fine particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5) than white Americans. Black people are exposed to 21 percent more fine particle pollution than the average American, according to the five-university study published in the online journal Science Advances, from a variety of sources, including industry, construction, light-duty vehicles, and diesel trucks. “The deck is stacked against people of color, for almost every emission source,” said Joshua Apte, an engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley “The recipe we’ve had for improving air quality for the last 50 years, which has worked well for the country overall, is not a good recipe for solving environmental inequality.” (WaPo)


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