CO2 2022/2021 417.84 ppm / 418.05 ppm
Is Michigan’s climate plan in danger? A potential Supreme Court ruling to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants could threaten Michigan’s climate plan, which seeks to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The court recently heard a case concerning the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan that looked to limit power plant emissions, but which was never implemented. It’s unclear whether a ruling to constrain the EPA would affect state climate policy. Nick Leonard, executive director for the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, says that Michigan’s plan sets a goal that may be difficult to meet if there isn’t a federal mandate to limit power plant emissions. This problem could extend to other states as well, especially those like Michigan where political power is divided between Democrats and Republicans. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is set to sign off on the climate plan on Earth Day after the state reviewed comments from hundreds of residents. Environmental advocates say the plan is a good start, but urge the state to decarbonize more rapidly. “(I)f we don’t curb our fossil fuel burning, we will have to endure more temperatures that are in the high values over 100 degrees. And with the humidity we have in Michigan that’s pretty devastating. And indeed, people can get sick and die in those kinds of temperatures,” said University of Michigan Professor Jonathan Overpeck. (Detroit News, MLive)
Crossroads: An opinion piece in Crain’s makes the case for rapid decarbonization, citing the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warns drily, "The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments (high confidence)." Ashley Soltysiak, climate and environment program director for the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, says the Michigan Public Service Commission's upcoming decision on whether to allow a new Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac and the finalization of Gov. Whitmer’s climate plan illustrate the historic crossroads the state finds itself at. She suggests that the Line 5 project could lock in pollution for years, while an aggressive climate plan might help limit the damage that has already been done. The state is warming faster than anywhere else in the Lower 48, but Soltysiak argues that falling prices for renewable energy offer the opportunity to quickly transition away from the fossil fuels that are driving the climate crisis. (Crain’s)
Toxic legacy: 29 Michigan sites that use hazardous chemicals could get hit by climate change-driven flooding, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Additionally, the state itself tracks 24,000 contaminated sites, including 8,000 leaking underground storage tanks, that might also be impacted by flooding. Events like the dam break that flooded the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers near Midland in 2020 have the potential to impact areas with a history of heavy industry. “There are landfills and abandoned industrial sites along (the Saginaw River and tributaries),” said Michelle Hurd Riddick, a member of the Lone Tree Council environmental group. “Look at General Motors — they have major facilities that are closed down along the river. You've got foundries on the river. So you know, everything is in this floodplain.” The impact from such events could fall hardest on the poor and people of color, who are more likely to live near facilities that deal with hazardous chemicals. (Bridge, Detroit News)
Something to sneeze at: Global heating is making allergy season start weeks earlier and end later, according to new research from University of Michigan climate scientists. Pollen season had previously started around St. Patrick’s Day, but allergists say it now begins closer to Valentine’s Day. The study also found that more pollen is being produced and that under the worst warming scenario, pollen season could start 40 days earlier than it has in the last few decades. 40% of American children already have pollen allergies and a worse pollen season could be especially harmful to the 25 million Americans with asthma. (AP)
Climate blackmail? Consumers Energy previously announced plans to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2025. But now, the utility says it may not go forward with closures unless state regulators allow it to pass on to its customers the estimated $1.5 billion in costs to transition from coal to methane gas. It's fair to say the utility isn’t hurting for profits. In 2019, Consumers’ parent company CMS Energy had a net income of $680 million, following nine years where the company never earned less than $324 million annually. "I think that we need to be really careful where we have a regulated utility kind of throwing down the gauntlet and saying, 'it's our way or the highway,'" said Margrethe Kearney, an attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Maybe these gas plants are not objectively the best deal for customers." (MI Radio, MLive)
Reliable power: Michigan will likely need a way to increase its energy storage capacity as the state transitions to using more renewable power. Large batteries, compressed air energy storage, and hydroelectric storage are some of the technologies being considered for the 2,500 megawatts of storage Michigan is expected to need by 2030. Laura Sherman, President of the Institute for Energy Innovation, is working on the plan for the state’s energy storage needs. She says that in addition to accommodating the intermittent production of wind and solar, these means of storage could also add reliability to the grid. "Making sure we have reliable power has been really heightened lately," Sherman said. "We've seen over the last year some really terrible storms, some really terrible outages." Energy storage could also lower the cost of power by storing excess energy rather than wasting it. (MI Radio)
What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit reply!