Dana Nessel takes on DTE, Trump in the same week

September 27, 2019 | CO2 408.85 ppm <<--www.co2.earth/daily-co2

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel takes on DTE, Trump

Where Michigan’s previous Attorney General Bill Schutte spent upwards of $1.9 million public dollars trying to fight equal protections for LGBTQ people, Dana Nessel is taking things in a very different direction.

She is backing a legal challenge filed by the Sierra Club and Michigan Environmental Council that claims DTE Energy is improperly self-dealing as it looks to build its controversial new natural gas facility which will support a pipeline co-owned by its subsidiary.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Midwest Energy News’ Andy Balaskovitz reports:

In 2012, DTE Gas first identified plans to contract with the then-anticipated Nexus Gas Pipeline, a 255-mile connection to move natural gas from eastern Ohio to southeastern Michigan and Ontario, Canada. The pipeline is co-owned by affiliates of DTE Energy and Enbridge.

In 2017, DTE announced plans for the new natural gas facility in St. Clair county that environmentalists say risks becoming a stranded asset financed by ratepayers. The lawsuit contends that that building the plant amounts to a conflict of interest because it helped ensure federal regulatory approval of the pipeline by establishing it as an “anchor shipper”.

“The commitments … helped to demonstrate that the proposed pipeline would be used, which in turn helped to ensure that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would approve the pipeline to be built,” DTE Gas says in court filings.

And though this may be good for DTE’s assorted investments, it may not be so positive for DTE ratepayers, according to the article:

Over the next five years, DTE Gas customers will pay $76 million over market prices for gas supplied by Nexus, which challengers say is a violation of a state code of conduct. By paying above-market rates now, DTE is effectively subsidizing the pipeline with ratepayer dollars, environmental groups argue.

DTE says the arrangement will save consumers money in the long run. However, Nessel argues that relying on long term projections is a “reckless gamble with ratepayer money” in a changing energy landscape in which fossil fuels are expected to become less competitive.

In a busy week, Nessel also joined attorneys general from more than 20 states looking to stop the Trump administration from curtailing California’s right to set its own emissions standards for cars and trucks. California’s standards were being embraced by a number of automakers and were set to significantly reduce emissions.

Trump’s Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao says, "We will not let political agendas in a single state be forced upon the other 49”. Elaine Chao is currently under investigation for allegedly using her official position to advance the interests of a highly-lucrative, family-owned shipping company, among other things.

Fiat-Chrysler plant to present community benefit projects

Detroiters have been understandably concerned about the air quality impacts of the Fiat-Chrysler plant expansion on the east side, especially after the company announced that it would be reducing emissions from its plant in Warren while raising them at the Detroit facility.

Their explanation for this is that it all balances out regionally and therefore meets federal Clean Air Act requirements. However, FCA is increasing pollution in a primarily African American area that sits at the nexus of some of Detroit’s worst zip codes for asthma, while reducing it in a predominantly white area.

Detroit activist Greg Newsom has referred to this as “textbook environmental racism” and, well, yeah.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)’s air quality permit for the facility requires FCA to present a plan for projects that will benefit the community, although it’s not clear if this will in any way offset the emissions in question. This is in addition to a separate community benefits agreement made specifically with the city of Detroit under its Community Benefits Ordinance.

At a recent meeting, residents proposed things like trees and a vegetative buffer between the plant and the surrounding neighborhood. They also requested air filters for schools and seniors centers and a public health fund, like the one that was introduced when the Koch brothers were stockpiling pet-coke on the Detroit riverfront.

Community solar bill could expand access to renewables

State Representative Michele Hoitenga of Manton, Michigan has introduced a bill to allow groups of citizens to buy shares in solar arrays, sometimes referred to as solar gardens or community solar. These allow people without space or resources for individually owned systems to support clean energy and potentially save money by reducing their electric bills or selling energy back to the grid.

Community solar differs from utility solar programs like DTE’s MIGreenPower program which asks customers to pay a premium to get all or part of their electricity from utility-owned arrays.

Michigan Radio explains how community solar would differ from utility programs:

…those [utility] programs do not typically result in immediate construction of new solar. Rather, more solar arrays are added once the programs have reached a certain level of participation.

We’ve been here before. A similar bill, House Bill 5861 was introduced in 2018 as part of the bipartisan “Energy Freedom Package” but did not make it out of committee.

Michigan’s natural resources bring in the money

Proving that there’s more than one type of green in nature, a new study from the Federal Government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that outdoor recreation contributes $10 billion a year to Michigan’s economy. A report on the findings in Bridge Magazine says that activities like boating, camping, and fishing are responsible for 2% of the state’s economy and 127,000 jobs.

Bridge Magazine@BridgeMichigan
Talk about Pure #Michigan : Outdoor pursuits generate $10 billion
bit.ly/2m5Ntjk #outdoors #PureMichigan #recreation (via @mwilk_Bridge )

This sector seems to be growing faster than the economy as a whole. Michigan ranks 5th nationally for boating and 14th for outdoor activities in general, positioning it well to take advantage of opportunities in this market, the report says. Michigan might also benefit from the growth of specific activities popular in the state:

Nationwide, a number of activities that have big followings in Michigan have seen some of the biggest growth. Though not broken down state-by-state, dollars generated by biking, kayaking, sailing and snowboarding rose more than 20 percent between 2012 and 2017

The report comes in the wake of Governor Gretchen Whiter’s announcement last week that Michigan would join a coalition of states promoting outdoor recreation.

Our oceans are in trouble

A sobering piece in the New York Times lays out the ways rising temperatures and C02 levels are threatening ocean life and creating conditions that imperil those living in coastal areas by fueling sea-level rise and ever-larger storms.

This follows a report on the same topic issued by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) that discusses how in the past oceans had provided a buffer, absorbing carbon dioxide and limiting warming. But the heat and C02 has effected ocean life, causing acidification among other problems. The Times piece says:

Changes deep in the ocean or high in the mountains are not always as noticeable as some of the other hallmarks of global warming, such as heat waves on land, or wildfires and droughts. But the report makes clear that what happens in these remote regions will have ripple effects across the globe.

These changes could disrupt currents and ecosystems that have been the basis of regional maritime economies, threatening to undermine fisheries that supply roughly 17% of the world’s animal protein. The Guardian reports that by 2050 we could be seeing yearly “sea-level events” like extreme hurricanes, tsunamis, and flooding—in the mega-cities and coastal areas where roughly 2 billion people live.

SOLUTIONS / BRIGHT SPOTS

A brighter spot we found in the news this week:

Big ups to Phil Jones, a Detroit chef making a difference: A report in The Free Press brought some overdue attention to a man who has been working for years to create equity and opportunity in the Detroit food system, while also focusing things on issues like health and food waste.

Phil Jones has been a chef at a number of Detroit’s best restaurants, but in recent years has channeled his talents into working with groups like COLORS and Make Food Not Waste to focus on food policy and activism.

Read this: It’s time to talk about ecological grief

Connect: Engage with Detroit’s environment

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

September 26-27 | Michigan Water School | Northville >>>

September 28 | Joe Louis Greenway Bicycle Tour + DGC Fundraiser | Detroit >>>

September 29 | Detroit Abloom’s Annual Dahlia Festival | Jefferson Chalmers >>>

September 30 | Michigan Paddle Stewards | Gibraltar >>>

October 3 | Your Water, Your Voice: Great Waters, Great Economy Summit | Lansing >>>

October 3 | Six Rivers’Regional Land Conservancy Conservation Celebration | Rochester >>>

October 4 | NOHLC Wild Night Out Gala | Pontiac >>>

October 5 | Headwaters Trails Shiawassee River Fall Canoe in Color Paddle Tour | Fenton >>>

October 5 | State of Compost | Detroit >>>'

October 5 | Community Treehouse Center Detroit Solar Tour | Jefferson Chalmers >>>

October 5 | Fall Group Paddle | Rouge River >>>

October 9 | Bees, pollination and beekeeping | Clinton Township >>>

October 20 | Clinton River Trail Ride | Rochester >>>

October 29 | Your Water, Your Voice: Drinking Water Summit | Grand Rapids >>>

November 2 | Fall Birding Hike on the Clinton River Trail | Rochester Hills >>>

November 20 | Michigan Sustainability Conference | Lansing >>>

February 29, 2020 | Quiet Adventures Symposium | Lansing >>>

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