What you need to know this week – 1/20/23

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Again, the Universal lead testing bill: Sen John Cherry (D-Flint) has reintroduced a bill requiring universal lead testing for all Michigan children into the state legislature Thursday. Cherry introduced a similar bill in 2022 that did not make it out of committee. “We’re thrilled that Senator Cherry has re-introduced the Universal Lead Testing bill, Ellen Vial, the engagement coordinator for the Michigan Environmental Council, told Planet Detroit. “We know there are no safe levels of lead, and under the current requirements, only a fraction of our kids get tested. Universal testing is vital to protecting all kids in Michigan from the dangers of lead exposure.”

Consumers gets a rate hike: Consumers Energy electricity customers will see their monthly bills increase by $2.10, or 2.06%, in a case settled Thursday before the Michigan Public Service Commission. Interveners in the case included the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan and the Michigan Attorney General, among others. The agreement will also require Consumers Energy to improve reliability, promote distributed energy, and improve environmental justice. This settlement will result in a rate increase of 2.4% for residential customers, compared to the 6.8% initially proposed. Consumers Energy must also ensure that ratepayer money is used efficiently to prevent power outages. (Detroit News, CUB Press release)

Paying Stellantis’ tab: A City Council member is appealing to Mayor Mike Duggan to use some of Detroit’s federal COVID-19 relief money to alleviate the “public health emergency” faced by east side inhabitants influenced by odors and air quality issues at the Stellantis manufacturing plant. Councilwoman Angela Whitfield-Calloway noted that locals had written letters and emails to the City Council for help. She declared on Tuesday that she and her team are trying to make an official request for financing for programs to reduce the effects of contamination on nearby neighborhoods. “This is a serious public health emergency,” Whitfield-Calloway said last week during the council’s Internal Operations Committee meeting. “It’s a life-or-death situation.” (BridgeDetroit)

EV’s save money (unless you’re poor):  Research from the University of Michigan shows more than 90% of Michigan households with a vehicle could cut their transportation energy costs by up to half if they switched to electric vehicles, in addition to reducing their carbon footprint. The study also found that over 8.3 million low-income Americans would still have a high transportation energy burden. Over half of the lowest-income households would still spend more than 4% of their income on filling the gas tank or charging an EV. (MLive)

Fixing the damn roads about to get a lot harder: Electric vehicle use in Michigan is increasing, leading to a decrease in road funding due to the lack of gas taxes paid by EV drivers. This could result in a potential loss of up to $500 million by 2030. This could significantly reduce available road funding, as gas and electric vehicles use deteriorating roads. Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Group and an electric vehicle owner, said policy changes are needed to maintain the roads. (Bridge Michigan)

Clean the damn freeways: Every year, spring cleanup events aim to pick up trash as the weather gets warmer. However, litter still blows in the wind and piles up along area freeways, roadsides and vacant lots. Now Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is taking control of cleaning and mowing along Detroit’s freeways and service drives. He recently asked the Michigan Department of Transportation for permission (they said yes). Duggan believes city departments can do this work better than others. As part of a pre-draft city beautification blitz, the mayor wants to beautify the freeways and rid the city of its trash. (Planet Detroit, Detroit News)

More PFAS in our fish: Eating just one -caught freshwater fish a year caught from the Great Lakes or its streams and tributaries can deliver as much PFAS compounds to the blood as drinking contaminated water for a month, according to new research by the Environmental Working Group and Duke University, which found that levels of PFAS in the fish were 280 times higher than those in commercially sold fish. Michigan health officials urge people to limit rainbow-smelt meals from Michigan and Huron lakes due to PFAS contamination. These warnings come on the heels of Wisconsin’s discovery of high levels of PFAS in Lake Superior smelt. (Freep, Bridge)

Sun is king: In 1996, Michigan erected the tallest wind turbine in the US, representing a clean energy future. Last summer, it was replaced with solar panels, signaling a new era of solar energy projects taking over Michigan. Consumers Energy expects solar projects to supply 60% of their power by 2040, and industry experts note that most renewable energy projects in the pipeline are solar. Solar energy is the centerpiece of Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan. (Bridge)

Dumping gas: Heat pumps are more thermodynamically efficient than burning gas and, when powered with renewable energy, can heat and cool buildings without carbon emissions. Heat pumps have long existed but have not been widely adopted due to upfront costs. Ann Arbor’s A2Zero plan to become carbon-neutral by 2030 includes a ban on gas for new buildings and financial incentives to transition to all-electric buildings with renewable energy. But some developers worry it could be too ambitious. Howard Frehsee, a developer with two projects in the city, believes it could make energy costs unaffordable and hurt the city’s growth. (MLive)

Fat checks: Investor-owned electric and gas utilities paid their CEOs a whopping $2.7 billion between 2017 and 2021. The highest-paid CEO in 2021 was PG&E’s Patricia Poppe (former President and CEO of CMS Energy and Consumers Energy). Gerardo Norcia replaced former DTE Energy CEO Gerard Anderson on July 1, 2019. Anderson and Norcia earned $12.1 million and $8.2 million, respectively, in 2019. The following year, Anderson was paid $7.2 million as Executive Chairman, while Norcia earned $10.6 million as CEO. The two men’s compensation amounted to $38 million over the two years. In 2020, the Energy and Policy Institute released a report analyzing the executive compensation policies of 19 of the biggest US electric utilities. The analysis showed that the policies did not prioritize decarbonization, despite demands from Climate Action 100+ and other investor groups. (Energy and Policy Institute)

Where da ice!? Ice formation on the Great Lakes is off to a slow start, with only 6.4% of the surface water covered on Sunday – three times less than the average for this time of year. Lake Superior is registering the lowest ice coverage at 3.28%, Lake Huron at 5.2%, Erie at 10%, and Michigan at 12%. Ice cover varies yearly – in 2021, it was a meager 1.8%, compared to 32.1% in 2018. Historically, ice coverage has averaged nearly 20% this time of year. (Detroit News)


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