From the Headlines – October 4-8, 2021

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Bailout for who? DTE Energy cut power to thousands of Michiganders during the pandemic, despite receiving $220 million in tax relief through the CARES Act. They weren’t alone — the country’s largest electric providers collectively received $1.25 billion in federal bailout money while cutting power to almost a million customers. “It brings the focus on the question of ‘why are our basic human rights being delivered by corporations that are meeting shareholder dividend goals instead of serving their purpose of delivering electricity?’” said Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program. Instead of keeping the lights on for customers, DTE increased investor payouts from $740 million to almost $800 million over two years, and its CEO received a pay increase of $2.3 million in 2020. (Guardian)

Tomorrow’s flood: It’s going to require between $5 and $20 billion to fix the region’s water infrastructure and prevent storms from flooding basements, according to Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Interim CEO Suzanne Coffey. She stresses that Metro Detroit needs to prepare for heavier downpours associated with climate change. However, preparation may have its limits. “I don’t know how we design a system large enough and technically feasible for a 1,000-year event,” Coffey said, referring to the six or more inches of rain that fell in Metro Detroit on June 25 and 26. (Detroit News)

Blue and green: Community leaders are securing wider recognition for the Great Lakes Way, a network of greenways and blueways or water trails that runs from Port Huron to Toledo. Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, believes that gaining federal recognition for the trail network could raise its visibility and draw tourism to the state. “You can’t get this anywhere else in the world, and it’s worthy of national designation,” she said. John Hartig, who is helping lead the Great Lakes Way initiative, says that the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, which leveraged more than $1 billion in investments to open up 5.5 miles of shoreline for public use, is a model for the project. “If you could expand that to the north to Port Huron and to the south to Toledo, that’s what we’re looking for,” he said. (Crain’s)

Black farmers: A group in Washtenaw County is raising money to help Black farmers pay down debt, improve farm infrastructure, cover operations and buy land and equipment. The Washtenaw County Black Farmer Fund has raised over $40,000, intending to secure $50,000 by October 8. This money could help farmers in Washtenaw County who suffered crop losses due to flooding this year. It might also serve as a corrective to federal COVID relief for farmers, only 0.1% of which went to Black farmers in 2020. More information on the program is available here. (Concentrate)

Slapshot: Canada has officially entered the ongoing dispute between the state of Michigan and Enbridge over the company’s Line 5 oil and gas pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. The Canadian government invoked a 1977 treaty which states that “no public authority” in either Canada or the U.S. can “institute any measures…which would have the effect of, impeding, diverting, redirecting or interfering with in any way the transmission of hydrocarbon in transit.” The Canadians picked a heck of a week to make their move as a spill in southern California has sent at least 126,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has previously said that Line 5 is a “ticking time bomb.” By invoking the treaty, Canada hopes to trigger its settlement provision via a three-party arbitration process. In a statement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that the treaty provides “no legal basis for delaying consideration” of the state’s lawsuit against Enbridge. (Guardian, NY Times, WaPo, Bridge)

Lead pipes: On Wednesday, Michigan health department director Elizabeth Hertel advised residents of Benton Harbor to use bottled water for cooking and drinking, which the state is supplying. Federal regulators are currently evaluating how well filters can remove lead contamination from the city’s water. Meanwhile — spurred by the city’s three years of lead action-level exceedances —  the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) are recruiting drinking water experts for a panel to evaluate how to reduce levels statewide. EGLE Director Liesl Clark stressed the importance of corrosion control for preventing lead from service lines from leaching into drinking water, especially for older systems that often serve low-income communities and people of color. Elin Betanzo — a water engineer who worked with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha during the Flint water crisis – called the panel a “distraction,” saying that the focus needs to be on delivering safe water and removing lead service lines. (Freep, Detroit News, Great Lakes Notebook)

Climate costs: The Biden administration will restore climate protections to the National Environmental Policy Act, which President Trump had weakened to expedite projects like mines and pipelines. The federal government will need to evaluate climate change impacts when issuing permits for major projects with the change. “The basic community safeguards we are proposing to restore would help ensure that American infrastructure gets built right the first time, and delivers real benefits, not harms, to people who live nearby,” said Brenda Mallory, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. (NY Times)

Danny DeVito and the Devil’s piss: For his show covering the dangers of toxic chemicals known as PFAS–which are rife in MichiganJohn Oliver enlisted national treasure Danny Devito to play a DuPont scientist who sings the curses of his creations, saying that Teflon “is not one thing; it’s disease, sickness, and it’s (bleep)ing everywhere.” Indeed, PFAS has been connected to several health problems, including cancer, thyroid problems, and reproductive issues. “And when this stuff gets into water,” DeVito adds, “Whoa…that’s the real bippity boppity magic.” In his inimitable way, DeVito correctly identifies these substances’ unique ability to travel through the environment and into human bodies. Oliver also reminds us of when former DuPont researcher Glenn Evers referred to one form of PFAS as “Devil’s piss” during congressional testimony. (AV Club, Freep)

Our header photo this week was taken at Detroit’s Palmer Park, located at 910 Merrill Plaisance St.


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