Waiting for flood help, Michigan's leaky gas wells, shrinking beaches

CO2 2022/2021 420.66 ppm / 419.32 ppm


Waiting for help: Thousands of Detroiters are still waiting for financial assistance after last summer’s severe flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent money to 39,000 households but denied claims to 14,163, while another 8,204 continue to wait. And local utilities may do even less. The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) have launched investigations, but DWSD expects to deny most of the roughly 20,000 claims they received because preliminary reports show rainfall caused the flooding, not defects in the sewer system. Some residents have turned to disaster recovery loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to secure money for cleanups and repairs. And the nonprofit Jefferson East Inc. has spent $700,000 in grant money to help Detroiters replace appliances and make repairs. “I think people are feeling pretty lost, pretty abandoned, and upset right now,” said Josh Elling, CEO of Jefferson East Inc., “and we've got to do something to handle this because it's going to start raining again pretty soon. And if we go through this again, I don't know if residents can handle another disaster like this.” (Freep/Outlier)

Worse than CO2: Michigan regulators are looking for $32 million in federal funds grants to seal 444 abandoned oil wells in the Lower Peninsula. Orphaned wells can leak toxic chemicals into surface and groundwater and emit potent greenhouse gasses like methane. The state has invested $1 million in sealing these wells since 1994, but plugging all of them could take around 40 years at the current rate. Last year, methane emissions in the atmosphere reached a record level, with the energy industry accounting for a third of this rise. Although less abundant than carbon dioxide, methane traps much more heat. However, it will drop out of the atmosphere more quickly than CO2, making methane reduction an important avenue for limiting global heating. (MLive, NYTimes)

Time is now: An opinion piece in Bridge says that the closure of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac would result in negligible increases to propane and gasoline prices, while the risks of allowing it to continue to operate are huge. The author, Regina Gasco-Bentley, tribal chairperson of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, argues an anchor strike like the one that damaged the pipeline in 2018 could jeopardize the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry and hurt the commercial and subsistence hunting and fishing that indigenous people depend on. The new pipeline planned for a tunnel underneath the straits could also commit the nation to 50 more years of hydrocarbons when scientists warn we have only a few years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically. “There has never been a better time to shut down the pipeline than right now,” Gasco-Bentley writes. (Bridge, MLive, NYTimes)

Vibe killer: In addition to the climate crisis’ many other awful effects, it looks like it could also kill the beach. Researchers from the University of Guelph predict climate change will produce more rainfall in the Upper Great Lakes, i.e. all the lakes except for Ontario. This will raise water levels and shrink beaches. The findings reverse previous predictions that global heating would drive evaporation and lower water levels. “We have increased certainty in the predictions that we’re getting, so if we know what’s likely to happen, we can then do a better job of producing plans for adapting to those changes,” said Robin Davidson-Arnott, emeritus professor of Geography, Environment and Geomatics at the University of Guelph. (Great Lakes Echo)

A political problem: Journalists, environmental advocates, and others continue to parse the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of the report. A Rolling Stone piece argues that advances in renewable energy have made the transition away from fossil fuels very cheap, and the only thing standing in the way is political will. “Climate change is not a scientific or technical problem — it’s a political problem,” climate scientist Andrew Dessler said. However, the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC) took issue with the report’s inclusion of carbon capture and storage technologies, unproven solutions that they say give industry an excuse to continue polluting. “These techno-fixes will create sacrifice zones in our communities by allowing corporations to pollute under the guise of climate action,” MEJC’s Executive Director Jamesa Johnson-Greer said in a press release. (Rolling Stone)

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 or hit reply!

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