From the Headlines, Oct 3 – 7

Climate ambitions: Environmental groups say Michigan needs to stop building gas-fired power plants, electrify home appliances and allow only electric vehicles to be sold by 2030 if it wants to meet state climate goals. These targets include reducing carbon emissions by 52% in 2030 and making the state carbon neutral by 2050. “We thought the climate plan was a great foundation to build off of, and really got us headed in the right direction,” said Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC). “But there were gaps where the climate plan outlined ambition and opportunity but didn’t outline the policies we needed to achieve those ambitions and opportunities.” The report released by MEC, 5 Lakes Energy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the nonprofit RMI says electricity generation will be the most important area for reform as transportation and buildings electrify. It emphasizes that the state should discontinue all coal-fire generation by 2030 and “significantly expand renewable energy, battery storage, transmission capacity and demand response.” (MLive, Detroit News)

Welcome home: As part of ongoing efforts to stem population loss in the city, Detroit just hit a new homeowner with a $5,200 water bill. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) says this resulted from an unpaid bill from the previous owner and that new homeowners are responsible for this under state law. But when Nicole Geissinger bought the home, an unpaid balance wasn’t reflected on the title. In this instance, the previous owner had been paying a flat fee because the meter hadn’t been relaying usage data to the city, although they had been told that a meter inspection was needed. “There will be a lot of late fees, and it will hurt my credit rating. I’m stuck with a more than $5,000 water bill,” Geissinger said. . (MetroTimes)

Paying for PFAS: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is suing the California company FKI Hardware for PFAS contamination at sites owned by the business in West Michigan. The lawsuit says chemicals including trichloroethylene (TCE), heavy metals and PFAS are present in soil and groundwater and that some sites are so contaminated that the air may be affected. “Companies that do business in Michigan, pull up stakes and leave their communities with contaminated air and water will pay the price,” Nessel said. In 2020, Michigan sued 17 companies for PFAS pollution, with the state estimating that just identifying the contamination was costing $25 million a year while actually cleaning it up would cost far more. (MLive)

EJ focus at the EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, combining the work of several existing departments under one platform. Marianne Engelman-Lado with the EPA’s Office of General Counsel said the office will focus on cumulative impacts of pollution in communities, including long-standing environmental justice issues in Michigan. The office’s first move will be to distribute funds authorized as part of the federal Inflation Reduction Act. The EPA also made a mapping tool available this week that allows users to search for facilities in their area with current or past violations. (MI Radio)

Who pays? Agricultural runoff continues to drive toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie like the one that shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply in 2014. Treating this water costs the average family of five in the city an additional $100 a year, even though residents did little to create the problem. “I believe that the key moment here will be when the politicians in Columbus begin to see this as an economic issue and not just an environmental or health issue,” said Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. “They’ve pretty clearly shown that they just don’t care about the environmental and health implications.” Community organizer Alicia Smith says Toledo residents are effectively being penalized through their water bills and yet there are no penalties for farmers. Climate change could make this problem even worse, with heavier rains causing more runoff and algal blooms, creating even higher treatment costs while also hurting businesses and lowering property values. (Circle of Blue)

Survey says: The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and Metropolitan Affairs Council (MAC) launched a survey to see how residents perceive water infrastructure in their communities, including the systems to treat wastewater and manage stormwater runoff. The results will help inform policy and planning efforts for regional infrastructure. You can fill out the survey here.


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