From the Headlines- May 16 – 20

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No asphalt plant: The Detroit Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously upheld a previous decision by Detroit’s Buildings, Safety, Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED) to deny a permit to a Pontiac-based asphalt company to establish an asphalt manufacturing and processing facility in Detroit’s northwest side on the Southfield service drive Tuesday. More than a dozen residents attended the meeting to voice concerns about the impact of pollution and noise on quality of life. (Detroit News)

Blackout warning: Experts caution that heat, drought, closed power plants and supply chain shortages could lead to blackouts across much of the country this summer. In Michigan, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO, which manages energy transmission across much of the Midwest, says controlled outages may be necessary, something they have never done before in Michigan. The state’s two largest investor-owned utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, said they would have enough energy to meet demand. Researchers previously warned that a concurrent heatwave and blackout in Detroit could be more deadly than Hurricane Katrina was in New Orleans. (Detroit News, MI Radio, Planet Detroit)

Flood season: After last year’s flooding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid around $107 million in claims. Some residents were denied assistance, and the FEMA money didn’t cover the full extent of damages. Experts say Detroit could have another wet spring and summer ahead of it. Bridge Detroit put together a list of resources to help residents prepare. (BridgeDetroit)

Still stinks: Lawmakers are calling on the city of Detroit to enter into a Host Community Agreement (HCA) with US Ecology South, a hazardous waste storage and treatment facility in Detroit’s Poletown East neighborhood. “The people who live, work and play around US Ecology deserve an environment free of hazardous and toxic substances that pollute their air. Public health and wellbeing of the community should always take precedence,” State Rep. Abraham Aiyash said. In Detroit, HCAs are used to establish rules and regulations to protect communities living near waste processing facilities like US Ecology, which has received multiple odor violations.  “It smells like rotting fish mixed with a permanent marker,” Detroit resident KT Andresky said in 2020. (Detroit News)

Water saga: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) to pause the portion of its wholesale rate increase that is attributable to Highland Park. GLWA is raising water rates by 3.7% and sewer rates by 2.4%, with 1.15% of the sewer rate increase stemming from the $54 million in debt the utility claims the city owes. Highland Park disputes this number and Whitmer says she isn’t taking a side in the matter. “But I share the frustration of communities in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties that GLWA has asked them to bear expenses that remain the subject of ongoing litigation,” she said. Meanwhile, suburban communities are considering other measures to avoid paying for Highland Park’s alleged debts. The Wayne County Commission is considering an amendment to the GLWA’s articles of incorporation to keep communities from being charged for another’s debts. Another proposal would force the state to pay Highland Park’s bills and reimburse other municipalities that have already made payments on it. (Detroit News)

Win for transit: A judge has blocked Auburn Hills’ effort to withdraw from the SMART bus program. The city wanted to compel the Oakland County Public Transportation Authority (OCPTA), which manages the millage for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, to hold a meeting to allow them to withdraw from the program. Auburn Hills wants to discontinue SMART and rely exclusively on its transportation program for senior citizens and disabled adults. Marie Donigan, the chair of OCPTA, praised the ruling for ensuring stability in the system. “There’s a procedure put in place for a reason, so there’s not just random chaos in the system. People have to be able to rely on it. Transit service doesn’t switch on a dime,” she said. (Freep)

Covid continues, but shutoffs resume: Saginaw will resume water shutoffs on July 18 after suspending the practice because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still a problem. The city says their unpaid bills have risen to over $1.5 million. City officials say that residents who have trouble paying their water bills should contact 2-1-1 Northeast Michigan, a service that helps connect people with various forms of assistance. The return of shutoffs in Saginaw is a reminder that Detroit’s moratorium on the practice will end in December. When the moratorium was announced, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Gary Brown said the city would be working on a permanent solution for water affordability. (Michigan Radio, Detroit News)

Rewired: The Kresge Foundation is offering low and moderate-income Detroiters and nonprofits financing to help upgrade electric systems to lower energy bills and reduce climate impacts. The foundation is offering $2.5 million in assistance through Michigan Saves, a non-profit bank that finances clean energy projects. In a 2018 study, Michigan Saves found Detroiters applying for home retrofits and energy efficiency upgrades had their funding denied twice as high as the rest of Wayne County. Michigan Saves says they will be making loans directly to homeowners rather than relying on traditional lenders and placing less emphasis on credit scores to bring more equity to the decision-making process.  (Press release)


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