What you need to know this week – 2/3/23

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Shutoff leader: A watchdog group called DTE Energy one of the country’s “most aggressively anti-consumer utility companies” after it cut off power to more than 128,800 customers in the first ten months of 2022, a 16% increase over the same period in 2021. During the same period, Michigan’s largest utility spent $2.1 billion paying dividends to shareholders, 52 times higher than the amount of money it would have cost to forgive customer debt. (Metro Times)

A loophole so big you could drive a truck through it? In January, Planet Detroit reported that the Biden administration unveiled a first-in-decades crackdown on pollution from heavy-duty trucks. But the measure seems to include an exemption that could negate its aim of reducing emissions. The exemption is designed to relax standards as temperatures drop, but it begins at a temperate 77F, which is warmer than the average temperature across most of the continental U.S. (Planet Detroit. Detroit News via Bloomberg)

Billion-dollar disasters: As global temperatures rise due to human fossil-fuel burning, severe storms have become more frequent and intense in the Great Lakes region. This region has seen a 10% increase in precipitation since 1901 and a 42% increase in the top 1% of rainfall events since the 1950s. These storms have caused over $1 billion in damages since 1980. The top 3 billion-dollar disasters since 1980 include a statewide drought in 1988 that cost $51.4 billion, two storms in June and August 2021 that cost $2.8 billion and a severe rainstorm in August 2014 that cost $1.3 billion. (Freep)

Taking action in A2: With money set to start rolling in on July 1, Ann Arbor is figuring out how to spend revenue from its recently approved Community Climate Action millage. The budget includes programs like air quality monitoring, reusable take-out containers, emergency preparedness kits, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, an educational app for tree care, labeling locally sourced food, and an energy concierge service. Meanwhile, DTE Energy CEO Jerry Norcia said the company is committed to helping Ann Arbor meet its 100% renewable energy goal by 2030, despite opposing the city’s proposed ban on gas for new buildings. DTE officials did not respond to a request for comment on how Norcia’s remarks square with their opposition to the ban. (Concentrate, MLive)

PFAS settlement: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced a settlement with Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc. (APNA), requiring the company to investigate and clean up PFAS pollution at its Brighton facility. APNA will be responsible for the investigation and clean-up costs, and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy will approve work plans. (Detroit News)

Credit clashes: U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow blocked a bill authored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, to speed the implementation of new federal EV tax credits restrictions that would significantly limit the number of vehicles currently eligible. Stabenow called the credits “confusing” and “not well vetted” and said they don’t create a path for success for American automobile workers, companies, suppliers, or consumers. The Treasury Department missed a Dec. 31 deadline to release proposed rules implementing the law, giving car companies until March to qualify for credits without meeting the new requirements.

New focus for Great Lakes dollars? The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is looking for ways to help people in disadvantaged communities affected by climate change, pollution, or damage to the Great Lakes and tributaries. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is advocating a focus on public health, economic impact, and impacted communities. The GLRI will spend approximately $400 million annually on these initiatives. (Michigan Radio)

Salty story: Salt to keep Michigan roads and sidewalks clear of ice has resulted in extensive damage to ecosystems and infrastructure. The state has issued water quality standards for chloride but has yet to create a plan to limit its presence in eight stream sections that already exceed the limit. This is the first story in a series of reports from the Great Lakes News Collaborative that will explore the consequences of salt used in the state.

Haven habitats: Michigan, Alaska, and California are leading the United States in protecting climate haven habitats for plants and wildlife, according to a new study from Michigan State University scientists. The study showed that at 2 degrees of warming, 51% of refugia areas will still exist, but that number falls to 39% at 3 degrees of warming. These areas are important for biodiversity, as they may be the only places left for wildlife to survive as global temperatures rise. (MLive)

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