From the headlines— April 25 – 29

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‘Step in the right direction’: Michigan would reduce its emissions by 52% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 if it meets the recently released MI Healthy Climate Plan goals. The state’s interim target roughly aligns with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) goal of a 45% reduction in emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, although the state uses 2005 as its baseline. To get there, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan calls for increasing renewable power generation to 60% by 2030, building out electric vehicle infrastructure, reducing emissions from homes and businesses, and spending at least 40% of state money directed at fighting climate change in disadvantaged communities. The Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (MAC-EJ) issued a statement calling the plan “a step in the right direction,” praising its emphasis on retiring coal-fired power plants by 2030 and reducing the amount low-income households spend on energy. However, the statement says Michigan needs to do more to mitigate climate change impacts like heat and flooding that disproportionately impact low-income areas and communities of color. MAC-EJ also called for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure in the state and resources to develop community-owned distributed power generation like community solar. (Bridge)

Suburban gem: Hotter temperatures and more intense storms that send warm runoff from parking lots and other surfaces into waterways threaten cold water streams like the Paint Creek in suburban Detroit. Paint Creek is largely shaded and fed by groundwater, allowing it to support species like brown trout that are usually found farther north. “When it comes to climate change, it’s those cool waters we suspect will be the most vulnerable because they are sort of at the edge for supporting the fish that they do currently,” said Dana Infante, a Michigan State University Fisheries and Wildlife professor. Protecting land around the creek and using green infrastructure to send water into the ground to cool before going into the creek could help protect the species living there. “We’re past the tipping point, so we’re at the adaptive management phase. As the climate changes, we want to make the habitat the best it can be,” said Eric Diesing, an ecologist with the Clinton River Watershed Council. (Detroit News)

Thru-hiker: Zwena Gray, a 20-year-old college student from Detroit, will be hiking the 559-mile Bruce Trail, running from the Niagara River to the tip of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula. “Being from Detroit, I wanted to bring that connection to nature to my community,” Gray said. “It’s not only important for Black people to be present in these natural environments, but it’s also important for us to showcase just the freedom and liberation and just ease of existing in these spaces.” Gray will be sharing her experiences from the hike on social media. She also plans to connect with historians and learn more about the experiences of Black people who escaped enslavement by the Underground Railroad and settled along the trail. Follow her here. (WDET)

Breaking trail: State officials cut the ribbon on the first section of the Ralph Wilson Gateway and Trail on Belle Isle, which will serve as the southern trailhead for 2,000 mile Iron Belle Trail, terminating in Ironwood in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The trail will provide a pathway for walkers and cyclists running for six miles around the island. And the ceremony marked the groundbreaking for the Eugene and Elaine C. Driker Trail, running from the Ralph Wilson Trail to the Livingston Memorial Lighthouse and Blue Heron Lagoon. (Press release)

Toxic backlog: The weakening of Michigan’s short-lived “Polluter Pay” law in the 1990s, which held current and former property owners responsible for pollution, likely contributed to Michigan’s backlog of 24,000 contaminated site cleanups. Around 11,000 of these are “orphaned sites,” with no one responsible for their cleanup. The business community was not a fan of the polluter pay law, and some also feared it could inhibit the redevelopment of industrial sites in Michigan cities. Yet, since 1990 the state has remediated just 3,125 contaminated sites, and Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) can only work on 472 orphaned sites with its current $163 remediation budget. Some are calling to revive the polluter pay law. According to Sean McBrearty, Clean Water Action’s Michigan legislative and policy director,it enjoys broad support statewide and could be altered to address some economic development concerns. “Having such a strong polluter pay law created a strong incentive to not pollute, and that incentive is gone now,” he said. (Detroit News) 

Garbage money: Lawmakers from both major parties support several bills in the Michigan Legislature to increase recycling and composting. But the legislation has stalled in a Senate committee chaired by State Sen. Aric Nesbitt, who received $30,000 from landfill owners just days after the bills cleared the house. Nesbitt said that he disagreed with “fees and mandates” in the bills. The legislation looks to increase Michigan’s recycling rate, which stands at 19%, while the national average is 34%. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Chemistry Council support the bills. (MLive)

SPACE!: Sure space is cool, but have you ever been to Lake Superior? The lake’s clear water, national and provincial parks, and natural-gotdam-wonders make the area increasingly popular with tourists. And yet the New Yorker reports Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association or “MAMA” is looking to build the Midwest’s first “spaceport” to launch satellites and other space stuff into orbit from a site a few miles north of Marquette. Some locals welcome the jobs that the project is promising, while others worry about environmental risks and other disruptions. The “debris dispersion radius” is a particular concern for residents of Powell Township, who fear rocket debris could fall on their homes. A report from the nonprofit I.Q.M. Research Institute on the MAMA project said it was “high-risk and low-return,” adding that if they did one rocket launch a week, the spaceport would bring in about as much revenue as two fast-food restaurants. (New Yorker, WaPo)


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