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Hunger strike: Kalamazoo high school teacher Josh Gottlieb went on a hunger strike last week to pressure political leaders to act on the climate crisis, which will have a significant impact on the lives of his students. “I need to follow their lead… of the young people, and show support and solidarity from not only teachers, but adults in general. We’re not pulling our weight yet,” he said. Gottlieb says he wants to see greenhouse gas reduction measures restored to President Biden’s infrastructure bill, which are opposed by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has made millions from the coal industry. (MLive)

Community solar: The future of community solar–or off-site solar arrays that benefit multiple homeowners–is under debate in Michigan,. with DTE Energy and Consumers Energy engaging in a “public education and lobbying campaign” to prevent out-of-state companies from developing community solar farms in Michigan. "Consumers and DTE want to educate you that they agree with the concept of community solar as long as they own it," said Jim Murray, Midwest policy director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access. Murray is pushing for legislation that would allow residents to invest in community solar arrays that produce less than five megawatts of energy and allow them to receive a monthly credit on their power bill. Consumer and DTE are partnering on their own “MI Community Solar” program, where customers pay extra to get some of their power from renewable sources. Critics have described such initiatives as a deviation from true community solar because utilities own the solar installations, denying residents the opportunity to build wealth in a shared asset and under crediting customers for electricity generated. A Michigan State study found that the installation and maintenance of community solar projects could add $1.5 billion to the state’s economy over 30 years. (Crain’s, Detroit News, Midwest Energy News, WXYZ)


Big power: Meanwhile, large companies would be able to move their business away from DTE and Consumers altogether under a new law introduced by State Sen. Roger Victory. The bill would force the utilities to compete against other power suppliers to provide service for companies that have a peak electrical load of 2,000 kilowatts or more. Victory said the legislation was inspired by Ford’s recent decision to build a new battery plant in Tennessee, where there are lower electricity rates. However, the areas in Kentucky and Tennessee where Ford will be putting its plants don’t just have lower rates, they also have cooperatively-owned utilities that typically charge less for power. (Michigan Radio, Outlier)

Winter outlook: Michigan will see warmer temperatures this winter and above-average precipitation, according to the forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. La Niña–a pattern of cold water across the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean–could be a major factor in this winter’s forecast. This pattern tends to produce wetter winters across the upper Midwest and NOAA’s forecast predicts most of Michigan will see 40 to 50 percent more precipitation than normal. Even with warmer weather, much of this precipitation could come as snow. (MLive)

Living with water: In 2020, high water on Lake Michigan caused flooding in Chicago and prevented the overflowing Chicago River from sending water into the lake. In the future, low lake levels could threaten shipping, costing the city millions or billions of dollars. In response to these threats, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed concrete barriers along the lakeshore near downtown and is working with the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate future threats from climate change. “I would argue that the economy of the Midwest depends entirely on water,” said Drew Gronewold, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. “We really need to be paying more attention to the future of this area and, in particular, how we’re going to improve the infrastructure to handle these changes.” It’s estimated that the Great Lakes region will spend $2 billion over the next five years dealing with coastal damage that has been made worse by climate change. (CNBC, Wisconsin Watch)


Nurdles: Plastic manufacturing may soon produce more greenhouse gases than coal plants, according to a new report from Bennington College’s Beyond Plastics project. Plastics manufacturing has been increasing significantly, with the industry reporting a 10 million ton increase in its emissions last year. Sean Hammond, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, said pressuring manufacturers is the best way to reduce plastic production and plastic waste. “Nurdles” or the tiny plastic pellets that make larger items are a particular concern. These have been found on beaches across the Great Lakes having never been used by consumers, coming directly from industry. Along with greenhouse emissions, plastics manufacturers also release large amounts of toxic pollutants. About 90% of these nurdle manufacturers are in 18 communities–mainly along the Texas and Louisiana coast–where residents are 67 percent more likely to be people of color. (MLive)

Car parts: California regulators certified a new catalytic converter made in Charlevoix, Michigan that could reduce air pollution, cut costs for consumers and improve gas mileage. The stainless steel “ACAT Global” device has a herringbone design that’s better able to break up and filter pollutants and it could be a valuable retrofit for old cars as well as new vehicles. Michigan Climate News has also been informed that the device puts less “back pressure on the engine”, words which we’ll make sure to drop the next time we go into AutoZone. The upshot of all this is a purported one to three-gallon improvement in gas mileage. ACATs are also often cheaper than standard catalytic converters, something that could prove useful because the devices are frequently stolen. (Freep)


What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at nina@planetdetroit.org. 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!

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