Will climate change make Michigan the next Sonoma Valley?

CO2 2022/2021 : 418.82 ppm / 418.87 ppm

Dear Michigan Climate News readers,

This week, hope for climate action seemed to slip away as much of the globe and parts of Michigan grapple with a heat wave. In good news? Michigan may become a refuge for wine growers.

This month's policy tracker takes a look at state support for ethanol and natural gas infrastructure, plus the end of coal for Consumers' Energy.

Join us next week for a live conversation as we delve into the implications for climate action in Michigan of the West Virginia vs. EPA SCOTUS decision. REGISTER HERE.

— Nina Ignaczak, Editor of Michigan Climate News + Planet Detroit

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‘Collective suicide’: “Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told ministers from 40 countries meeting to discuss the climate crisis. “We have a choice,” he added. “Collective action or collective suicide.” The comments came as extreme heat and wildfires hit France, Spain and Portugal, leaving at least 238 dead in Portugal due to the heatwave. And parts of Britain are expected to see record-setting temperatures of 106 F in a place where air conditioning is generally lacking and buildings are constructed to retain heat. In the US, very high temperatures are forecasted to continue in Texas and the Central Plains. Tulsa has already experienced its 11th day over 100 F when it typically averages ten a year. And yet, US Senator and coal baron Joe Manchin shot down any immediate hopes of a significant climate bill, leading some to charge that he had strung-along other law-makers, delaying climate action while taking more money from the oil and gas industry than any other member of congress. “I honestly don’t know how he is going to look his own grandchildren in the eyes,” Leah Stokes, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Santa Barbara, California, said of Mr. Manchin. (Guardian, NY Times)

The long game: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is in a strong position going into this fall’s gubernatorial race, which could help other Democrats in down-ballot races and further her work on climate change. The governor’s climate initiatives seem to have flown under the radar, with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issuing decisions on things like a settlement to have Consumers Energy phase out coal power. Consequently, some significant climate actions have likely come across as too wonky to merit much criticism. And two of the three MPSC commissioners have terms that run to at least 2025, meaning some of Whitmer’s priorities could be hard to negate. “Although you might not get the big ‘headline wins,’ you could also argue that it’s a very smart way to build the policy in the institutions that actually have the longevity to carry out the work,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the water advocacy nonprofit FLOW. (E&E)

Where the batteries come from: Electric vehicle production has put a spotlight on the Eagle Mine near Marquette, Michigan, the nation’s only producer of nickel, an essential ingredient in lithium-ion batteries. The Biden administration is seeking to boost domestic mineral production in the interest of national security, but the Eagle Mine may only have a few more years of productivity left. However, the mine’s ability to operate mostly without incident near a river home to the rare coaster brook trout could make it a case study for responsible, domestic mining. Among other safeguards, the nonprofit Superior Watershed Partnership works with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Community Foundation of Marquette County to do their own water testing and check plants in the surrounding area to look out for contamination, posting this data online. “(Y)ou have to acknowledge that somewhere those minerals need to be mined,” said Robert Johnston, a research scholar at the Columbia University Center for Global Energy Policy. “And is it better to do it in Michigan with a world-class operation and transparency, or in Congo or Indonesia where the mine is being run for economic reasons with little regard for environmental standards?” (MLive)

Solar updates: Officials in Manchester, Michigan shot down a proposed 159-acre solar project, citing concerns from residents about protecting property values and township goals for “rural and agricultural preservation.” Meanwhile, Grand Rapids’ Christian and frankly homophobic Calvin University is pursuing a “solar-as-a-service” model to meet its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2057. Under this model, an outside entity builds out solar infrastructure at no cost to the school, taking advantage of energy tax credits that the university can’t access as a nonprofit. (MLive, HuffPo)

A wine refuge? Michigan’s vintners may benefit from an extended growing season for the grapes that fuel Michigan’s wine industry, but volatile and unpredictable weather and a higher frequency of destructive storms may negate that benefit. Water security and relatively cooler (to the West) climate may mean Michigan will support cool-weather species like Pinot Noir that a warming California may find more challenging to grow; the state may even serve as a sort of climate refuge for vintners. “If you’re a smart winemaker, you can find a way to adjust and find the varieties that work for the area. Michigan may be a standout soon,” said Liz Martinez of Backbone Hospitality Group. (Hour Detroit)


Lowering carbon emissions in Michigan post – WV v. EPA Supreme Court Decision

Fri, July 29, 2022, 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM EDT

Join Planet Detroit as we talk with experts on the implications of the West Virginia v. EPA Supreme Court decision on Michigan’s path to mitigating climate change and lowering carbon emissions. We’ll delve into the major state-level political opportunities and obstacles for making progress in the wake of this SCOTUS decision.


Margarethe Kearney, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law and Policy Center

Oday Salim, National Wildlife Federation Staff Attorney and Director of the University of Michigan Environmental Law & Sustainability Clinic

Mike Berkowitz, Michigan Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign

Moderated by Nina Ignaczak, Editor, Planet Detroit and Michigan Climate News



Policy Tracker: Michigan taxpayer-funded methane infrastructure & tax credits for ethanol sales?

This edition of our monthly policy tracker explores bills to promote ethanol and a funding measure to promote methane gas infrastructure. These updates follow the European Parliament's designation of natural gas as a "green fuel" for investment purposes and beg the question: Is gas green?

Our aim is to help keep you up-to-date on the latest state and federal government policies that impact climate and the environment in Michigan.


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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