Detroit’s grid vs. climate change, On the environmental legacy of L. Brooks Patterson, Michigan sues EPA

Aug 16, 2019 | CO2 409.78 ppm <<

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Can Detroit’s grid stand up to climate change?

This week, Planet Detroit’s Brian Allnutt reported on a broad range of perspectives on the dangers facing Detroit’s electrical grid in Midwest Energy News. As climate change produces more powerful heatwaves and storms, demand on Michigan’s aging and unreliable infrastructure is increasing.

Jackson Koeppel from the Highland Park nonprofit Soulardarity proposes community solar and distributed energy as solutions to this problem. Yousef Rabhi, a state legislator from Ann Arbor, has proposed bipartisan legislation that could facilitate distributed power by allowing for micro-grids and changing net-metering rules that limit community and home-scale solar.

DTE spokesperson Randi Berris offers fixes that include “hardening the grid” and spending more money on tree trimming. Berris also says that micro-grids “are unfairly subsidized by customers not using distributed generation.” (Distributed generation represent competition for DTE’s centralized distribution model.)

Meanwhile, nonprofit the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan (CUB) has challenged DTE’s new rate hikes—which are among the highest in the country—and criticized its reliability:

…Michigan customers still spend more time in the dark than customers in most states, suggesting that Michigan utilities are particularly bad at restoring power once there is an outage.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC)’s Statewide Energy Assessment addresses recent outages and includes dozens of recommendations for improving grid reliability and updating interconnection rules for distributed generation.

Read more here>>>

On the environmental legacy of L. Brooks Patterson

Plenty of reminiscing these past two weeks has centered on the life and legacy of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who passed away on August 3. Planet Detroit took some time to delve into how the county executive’s 29-year career has impacted Metro Detroit’s environment.

So what was Brooks’ environmental legacy?

Here’s a rundown>>>

Hantz Woodlands draws praise, but questions remain

The CEO of Hantz Group Inc., John Hantz and his love of cigars were recently highlighted in a DBusiness article praising the large Hantz Woodlands project on Detroit’s East Side for winning over neighborhood residents and improving their quality of life. But the goal of the project remains somewhat blurry.

In the past, Hantz has said he wasn’t looking to sell the land. However, Hantz Woodlands LLC president Mike Score has said, "We have had a lot of inquiries from developers who have told us from their perspective that Hantz Woodlands has become attractive. We are exploring options." So that clears that up.

DBusiness follows the project’s shift from an urban agriculture project to tree nurseries and now into real estate development—part of Hantz’s plan for a “mini-SOHO'“—without giving much detail on the actual business model. However, some people are obviously happy to see investment in the area. One resident, Ray Anthony Anderson says of the neighborhood’s transformation

When the Hantz team came in, there was skepticism and some people thought they would force everyone out. … But Mike (Score) said if we could hang in there, things would get better. And they have gotten much better. I’m glad we stayed.

The article also discusses the work of the related Hantz Foundation with Detroit’s public schools. But it doesn’t mention the original deal where Hantz acquired 140 city-owned acres for $300 per lot, a move that council member JoAnn Watson suggested was illegal because it was below market rate. Hantz also recently acquired 450 new parcels as part of a land swap related to the FCA deal.

Seven years after the deal was struck, it seems John Hantz has won over some of his neighbors, but the ultimate fate of his property and who will benefit is still up in the air. If it clears anything up, Hantz does say that the lyrics to “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber “are our story.”

Pollen problems on the ‘urban prairie’

Do you have an itchy nose or watery eyes? Perhaps you’re allergic to one of the many wind-pollinated plants like ragweed that can gain a foothold in Detroit’s “urban prairies” as vacant homes are demolished. Because allergies can worsen asthma, a disease for which Detroit has an already high burden, pollen can represent a public health hazard. But since the nearest pollen-counting station is in St. Clair Shores, you might not know what the source of your trouble is. A University of Michigan researcher is trying to change that by developing new ways to count pollen across the city.

Across Michigan

Report documents stories of Great Lakes 'revival'

A new report published by the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) adds to a growing body of work and discussion that takes a look at the linkages between revitalizing waterfronts, cleaning up toxic contamination, and economic and cultural benefits. Read more here>>>

Michigan sues the EPA

The State of Michigan has joined over 20 states and several cities including New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s rollback of Obama-era rules that sought to limit air pollution and carbon emissions.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says:

“My colleagues and I are deeply concerned with the blatant disregard the Trump administration has for science and the imminent threat to all presented by climate change. We will not back down from this fight, as our country and the entire world will be negatively affected by Trump’s dirty power rule.”

In addition to compromising future efforts to fight climate change, experts also warn that EPA policies could have serious health impacts.

(Source: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, NYU School of Law)

Michigan farmers continue to feel the squeeze from climate and trade

Michigan’s farms were impacted by the wet spring that delayed planting and in some cases made it impossible. Bridge Magazine identifies Michigan as the eighth hardest hit state in a piece that recaps the effects on agriculture this year, in which Tim Boring, vice president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, says

The U.S. position as a reliable supplier of ag products has been damaged, likely irreparably.

The result could be farm bankruptcies, foreclosures, and the disruption of what is often listed as Michigan’s second-largest industry. Food prices are also likely to rise for ordinary consumers.

The recent IPCC report on Climate Change and Land details how climate change and farming practices are jeopardizing world food supplies. But it also discusses land management practices and dietary changes—like eating less meat—that might help limit the climate crisis. Some practices like cover-cropping and preserving trees could both preserve soil fertility as well as trap carbon.

Climate crisis not taken into account in water infrastructure planning

Michigan already has a problem with combined sewer overflows (CSOs) where sewer systems that process both sewage and storm-water periodically release untreated sewage into waterways during storms. It follows that larger storms produced by a warming climate could cause more overflows, feeding algal blooms and creating other problems in a downward spiral of YUCK.

Michigan Radio addressed the issue with several stories this week, noting that agencies like the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is building culverts and other infrastructure based on present conditions and not future projections for a changing climate.

In another piece, Lester Graham discusses Lansing’s effort to separate their combined system that have reduced CSOs by half. These sorts of infrastructure improvements don’t come cheap; Lansing may spend well over $500 million on the project. But it’s the kind of big-picture thinking that may be necessary to decrease flooding and protect waterways.

Michigan conservationists express dismay at Trump’s endangered species action

The Trump administration significantly weakened the Endangered Species Act this week. Not surprisingly, Michigan conservationists expressed concern, including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, who said:

Over 40 years ago, hunters and fishermen, Democrats and Republicans, understood we were losing species that were critical to maintaining the balance of our wildlife. We need Democrats and Republicans working together to uphold and build on the successes of the Endangered Species Act

Cougar spotted in the U.P.

Connect | Engage with Detroit’s environment

Have an opportunity you’d like to see featured here? Let us know.

August 17 | Butterflies and Young Birders | Davisburg  >>>

August 17 | ECN Mack Avenue & East Warren Sustainability Bike Tour | Detroit >>>

August 21 | The River Runs Wild-Paddle the Clinton River | Sterling Heights >>>

August 23 | Wildtype Nursery Public Sale Days | >>>

August 24 | Joe Louis Greenway Tour & Fundraiser | Detroit >>>

August 24 | Bridge Valley Fen Tour with Michigan Botanical Council | Clarkston >>> Meet at 7150 Dixie Highway in Clarkston at 10 am

August 25 | Live Honey Harvest | Detroit >>>

August 28 | Urban agriculture bike tour | Detroit >>>

September 5 | Healthy Soils and Wise Fertilizing | Mt. Clemens >>>

September 7 | Native Plant Sale, North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy | Clarkston  >>>

September 8 | Make Food Not Waste | Eastern Market >>>

September 8 | Michigan Monarch Festival | Clarkston >>>

September 10 | The 13th Annual Garden Party on Belle Isle | Belle Isle >>>

September 12 | Crafts on the Clinton | Yates Cider Mill >>>

September 14 | Fall Migratory Bird Walk #1 | Davisburg >>>

September 21 | 13th Annual D-Town Farm Harvest Festival | Detroit >>>

October 4 | Wild Night Out | Pontiac >>>

Thanks for reading!