*You can always find past Michigan Climate News stories and subscribe to new ones on Bulletin, and you can keep up with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! Got an idea for a Michigan climate story? Pitch us here.*
Whose treaty? After the Canadian government invoked a 1977 treaty that protects the unimpeded flow of “hydrocarbons” between nations to save Enbridge’s Line 5 oil and gas pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, Indigenous communities say they also want a seat at the table. “We are prepared to educate individuals about what our treaty rights mean, and it’s important that they hear from the people that a Line 5 spill would have a catastrophic impact,” said Whitney Gravelle, chair of the Bay Mills Indian Community in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Gravelle says a treaty signed in the 1800s protecting the community’s water and fishing rights should take precedence over the 1977 treaty. (Guardian, Michigan Radio)
Forest fakery? Michigan’s first forest carbon offset program has its first customer: DTE Energy. Last year, the Michigan Department of Natural resources announced it would begin selling carbon credits in the state's 100,000-acre Pigeon River State Forest to polluters. The concept is to leverage the capacity of trees to store carbon as an offset to greenhouse gasses released elsewhere. Problem is, according to activists, those trees weren’t likely to be cut down anyway, and the arrangement does nothing to stop the addition of planet-warming compounds into the atmosphere in ‘sacrifice zones’ populated predominantly by low-income people of color. "It's a false illusion. It's a corporate scheme, and we're worried it's going to become the norm," said Juan Jhong Chung, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition policy associate. DNR officials say the program will boost revenue for the department while potentially inspiring other landowners to sell offset credits and preserve forest land. (Detroit News/paywall)
Lake effects: Although climate change could mean warmer temperatures for the Great Lakes, it may also produce more lake effect snow in the short term. The Fourth National Climate Assessment warns that declining ice cover on the lakes leaves more surface area for water to evaporate and get taken up by a warmer atmosphere that holds more water. “A warmer lake with more open water means kind of in a perverse sort of way, warmer climate, maybe more snow in the Snow Belt during January and February and maybe even March,” said Peter Whiting, environmental scientist, professor, and assistant dean at the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Lake Erie may be especially vulnerable in a warming world as the heavy rains associated with climate change send agricultural runoff into the lake, feeding toxic algal blooms like the one that shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply in 2014. (SpectrumNews1)
Risk management: Michigan residents may pay less for flood insurance on account of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers the program that supplies roughly 90% of flood insurance policies through 60 companies. FEMA is changing the way they calculate insurance rates to better reflect risk, taking into account factors like home value and the cost to rebuild, proximity to water, elevation, foundation and construction type, along with a property’s true flood risk, which includes the chance of extreme weather-related to climate change. It’s projected the changes will lower rates for 11,120 policyholders in the state while raising them for 9,361. Nationally, the changes could correct a tendency to subsidize wealthy, coastal landowners at the expense of those property owners who live further inland and are more likely to be low-income or people of color. (Oakland Press, NY Times)
Death by EV: Michigan is trying to go big into electric vehicles. The state is planning a wireless charging road for EVs–whether that’s even a thing or not–and investing in roads around General Motors’ “Factory Zero”, where the electric Hummers will be born. But the 9,000 pound Hummer EV and 6,500 pound Ford F-150 Lightning highlight a problem with the industry’s turn towards electric vehicles: they’re going to kill a lot of people. A Detroit Free Press investigation found that SUVs are nearly twice as likely to kill pedestrians as smaller cars and pedestrian deaths increased 46 percent nationwide between 2009 and 2018. Increasingly, these vehicles are responsible for “frontover collisions” where the height of the hood and front end hides the victim from the driver. Most of these casualties are between one and two years old. The Free Press found that Detroit had the highest pedestrian death rate in fatal car crashes among cities with more than 200,000 people. (Grist, Crain’s, City Lab, Free Press)
Planning for solar: A new report is looking to make up for a lack of guidance in city zoning ordinances about how to incorporate solar energy systems into municipal governance. “In our work with communities, we’ve come to recognize that those without zoning for renewable energy are at a distinct and worsening disadvantage,” said Brad Neumann, senior extension educator at Michigan State University Extension and co-author of the report. “Zoning allows communities to choose proactively the role of renewable energy developments. Without it, communities increasingly find themselves reacting to individual proposals from developers instead of thinking big-picture about the vision for their future.” Experts from MSU Extension, the MSU School of Planning, Design, and Construction, and the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute collaborated on the report, which seeks to help urban, rural, and suburban communities develop zoning ordinances, master plans, and other tools that pave the way for solar projects. In 2020, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the MI Healthy Climate Plan, setting a goal of making the state “carbon neutral” by 2050. (U of M)
What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at email@example.com. NOTE: Please don't reply to this email, it will go into a digital netherworld, never to be seen again. We hope that changes soon!