What you need to know this week

Power shift: Lawmakers and environmental groups expect the new Democratic-led Michigan Legislature to reverse Republican-enacted laws and reintroduce Democratic-sponsored bills this year. Water shutoffs and affordability, renewable energy reform, and climate change action could be up for debate. Republican-created laws that could be on the chopping block include a 2016 law banning plastic bag bans, a 2018 law preventing Michigan regulators from adopting rules more stringent than federal standards, and three panels established under Gov. Rick Snyder that gave industry opportunities to intervene in environmental decisions.

Gas stoves & asthma: Approximately 12.7% of current childhood asthma in the United States is attributable to gas stove use, according to a new study. Illinois has the highest attributable fraction at 21.1%. Data for Michigan is not available. Further research is needed to quantify the burden at the local level and the impacts of mitigation strategies. Detroit was ranked the most challenging for asthma by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation last year.

Wind wars: The federal government is pumping a record $370 billion into clean energy and President Biden wants the nation’s electricity to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2035. But the future of the American power grid is being determined in rural community town halls across the country. In Michigan, local officials recently extended a moratorium blocking a solar project in Monroe County after resident advocates and anti-wind activists with ties to Koch Industries went door to door spreading misinformation about the project. On the other hand, Gratiot County is leading on renewable reform, partly by pushing the economic benefits of tax revenue from wind farms on public services like roads and schools.

Clean it up: The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) awarded $5.8 million in brownfield funding to redevelop four contaminated sites in Detroit. Those include the former American Motors Corp. headquarters on the city’s west side, two new mixed-use buildings in southwest Detroit at 5800 and 5840 Michigan Ave., a new American Indian Health and Family Services community health and wellness center at 4559 and 4567 Wesson St. in southwest Detroit and a residential development in Piety Hill in New Center. The state also awarded $2.9 million in brownfield funding to clean up three contaminated sites in metro Detroit, including the former Eloise Psychiatric Hospital in Westland, a new affordable housing apartment complex for LGBTQ+ elders in Ferndale, and a mixed-use space in Northville.

Electric buses: Dearborn Public Schools unveiled its first electric school bus purchase last month with the help of a federal grant. The Blue Bird All American RE electric school bus can carry up to 84 passengers and travel up to 120 miles on a single charge. The zero-emission bus is the first of several the district will purchase to help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money.

Flood warning: President Joe Biden recently signed a bipartisan bill to establish a National Integrated Flood Information Service. It calls for more partnerships between NOAA and colleges and universities to improve water level predictions and assigns hydrologists to each National Weather Service River Forecast Center. The National Flood Association, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Association of Flood Plain Managers supported the bill.

Spill warning: The Keystone Pipeline oil spill in Kansas, which leaked 14,000 barrels into a local creek in December, should serve as a warning to Michiganders if the proposed expansion of the Enbridge Line 5 project is approved, according to environmental watchdog group Oil and Water Don’t Mix. “What the Keystone spill in Kansas shows is, even new pipelines spill,” Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for the advocacy group, said. “There’s no foolproof way to build these. There is no way to respond to a major oil spill effectively, especially in a place like the Straits of Mackinac.”

Winter on hold: Weather models suggest that Michigan will not experience extreme cold temperatures for the next two weeks, with temperatures warmer than normal. Great Lakes Ice cover measured 3.0% on Jan. 4.


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