From the Headlines – June 14-18, 2021

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Who will green the environment?: DTE Energy received the go-ahead from the Michigan Public Service Commission to create community solar projects in Detroit, River Rouge, and Highland Park, which would give low-income subscribers a monthly deduction on their energy bills. Why are they doing this? Is it because they’re serious about projects that are “greening up the environment,” as Brian Calka, director of renewable solutions at DTE, suggested? Or is it because they’re legally obligated to do so under the terms of a settlement? Either way, DTE doesn’t want to pay to green the environment all by themselves, and they’re currently seeking third-party investors. The company reported $1.4 billion in operating earnings in 2020. (MLive, PV Magazine) 

Energy justice: New research shows that homes in low-income areas use 25 to 60 percent more energy per square foot than those in wealthier neighborhoods. And in all income groups, except the most affluent, non-white neighborhoods use more energy per square foot than whiter areas. Among those collecting data on the issue are Tony Reames, assistant professor and director of the Urban Energy Justice Lab at the University of Michigan (and as of late a new Biden-Harris appointee in the Department of Energy), who said this research could help “policy-makers better target communities for efficiency improvements and investment.” Reames’ lab is working to measure how equitably energy efficiency and clean energy programs are distributed, allowing decision-makers and communities to advocate for more investment in the most affected areas. (NPR)

Grave concerns: After blocking filibuster reform and a voting rights bill, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said he has “grave concerns about our country going to the EV.” Specifically, he is worried the switch to electric vehicles could make the country’s automakers too dependent on foreign supply chains. Currently, 80 percent of the raw materials for batteries come from Chinese companies. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm says that President Biden is focused on setting up domestic supply chains for these materials through the American Jobs Plan. It’s not clear if Manchin has any concerns about what happens if we don’t go to the EV or reduce our dependence on personal vehicles altogether. (Detroit News, NY Times, MSN)

Park life: The Oakland County parks system is the state’s third-largest, and it’s seen booming attendance and increased accessibility in recent years, with things like kayak launches designed for those using wheelchairs. Recently retired Oakland County Parks and Recreation Executive Director Dan Stencil says the way people interact with parks and natural areas has changed dramatically in recent decades. “In the ’70s and ’80s when I started, we had a real-estate mentality. We’d buy a property, put in roads and electricity, and that was it. We didn’t manage the natural resources,” he said. “Now, across our system, we have 16 lakes and big populations of fish and wildlife. We’ve planted a lot of trees.” His tenure has also improved parks like Normandy Oaks and Catalpa Oaks in Oakland County’s densely populated southeast quadrant. (Freep)

Please tread on me: The party of local control looks to take away Michigan municipalities’ ability to ban natural gas in their communities. State Rep. Michele Hoitenga of Manton is sponsoring a bill that would prevent ordinances like those in Berkeley, California, and Seattle, Washington, which block new gas infrastructure. Emissions from natural gas have been identified as a significant contributor to global heating. Hoitenga co-owned an oil and gas industry consulting business with her husband and has received campaign donations from the Michigan Oil & Gas PAC and DTE Energy. (Bridge)

Cooler on the water: Fast Company informs us that Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo are the kinds of places where the nation can “get the most value from climate investments,” pointing out that the Great Lakes region’s access to abundant fresh water and relatively cooler weather could make it a destination for climate migrants. The authors suggest investing federal aid in these places to bolster local sustainability initiatives and preserve future affordability. (Fast Company)

Make it rain: Last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced she would be investing $250 million of the federal stimulus money the state is receiving in state parks and trails. This could take a big bite out of the estimated $264 million backlog of funding requests for park maintenance. It’s estimated 35 million people visited Michigan state parks last year, up 32 percent from the year before. (Freep)

Cruel summer: It’s hard to avoid the news of extreme temperatures, worsening drought, and wildfires that are pummeling areas of California, Nevada, Arizona, and other western states. “We’re still a long way out from the peak of the wildfire season and the peak of the dry season,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.” Falling water levels on lakes could produce water shortages in Nevada and Arizona while also impacting California’s ability to generate power from hydroelectric dams. That state’s farm industry could also take a major hit. California grows a third of the nation’s fruit and two-thirds of its vegetables. (NY Times)


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