EPA suspends environmental enforcement, City to install temporary dams on Detroit River, Getting water to Detroiters without it during COVID-19

March 20, 2020 | CO2 2020/2019 415.23 / 410.85 ppm <<--www.co2.earth/daily-co2

Dear Planet Detroit readers,

It’s been another trying week for Detroit as communities struggle to respond to a COVID-19 crisis that is hitting the city disproportionately hard.

Please reply to this email and let us know how we can help. What are your questions and information needs? What are the essential stories in your community?

Sincerely,

The Planet Detroit Team (Nina Ignaczak & Brian Allnut)

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EPA suspends enforcement of environmental laws

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a sweeping order to suspend all enforcement of environmental laws on account of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a memo that is not publicly available but has been seen by reporters.

Cynthia Giles, who was in charge of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement under the Obama administration, told The Hill that the statement “tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way 'caused' by the virus pandemic.”

High water ahead: Detroit to install temporary dams on Eastside

The Detroit Water and Sewer Department plans to begin work next week on temporary dams designed to protect Jefferson-Chalmers from an overflowing Detroit River this spring. The dams will cost an estimated $2 million and will be completed by the City of Detroit workers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and subcontractors, according to a release. The work is expected to finish by May 1. The dams are part of an effort to protect sewage infrastructure from being inundated.

"If [infrastructure] were to fail, we potentially would have another public health crisis because the combined sewage would have nowhere else to go but back up into residents' basements," DWSD Gary Brown said in the release.

Flooding in Jefferson Chalmers in 2019 caused the city to issue an emergency order.

Water organizers deliver bottled water to Detroit residents as COVID-19 spreads

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Planet Detroit’s Brian Allnutt penned two pieces this week documenting Detroit’s slow-moving water restoration progress and efforts by activists to supply water to homes that still have not had their water turned back on. He reports that:

  • Service has been restored to hundreds of houses, but there are possibly thousands more that still need reconnection.

  • Activists have created their own sanitation protocols for water delivery and have experienced challenges procuring bottled water at a time when people are clearing grocery store shelves.

  • Some activists are hoping for federal assistance while others are raising concerns that such assistance could interrupt the community response developed over the years and penalize residents.

Read the full pieces here and here.

DTE re-submits its Integrated Resource Plan

After having its previous plan sent back by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), DTE Energy has submitted a revised Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that would create more renewable energy—including solar—and raise its energy-waste reduction goals.

“One of the key elements of our plan is our commitment to increasing our annual energy savings goals to 1.75 percent in 2020 and 2 percent in 2021," DTE said in a statement.

The goals for energy waste reduction bring DTE’s plan more into line with Consumers Energy’s recent IRP, which was praised by organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council. The MPSC had asked the utility to reconsider its plan to keep the Belle River coal-fired power plant open until 2030, which was not changed in the new plan. The company said it is re-examining the timing of this closure.

Michigan DNR waiving entrance fees, suspends charter fishing

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has waived the normal fee of $12 for the Recreation Passport required to enter state parks, including Belle Isle. The agency says this measure is designed to encourage people to get outside as well as reduce interactions between the staff and the public. Park visitors should note that visitor centers, bathrooms and campsites are closed for the time being. The DNR also announced a ban on charter fishing and guide operations until April 13.

WDET’s Solutions: Keep your energy bill low while working at home

Please join our Planet Detroit Book Club (w/ Book Suey)

We’re reading Heatwave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago by Eric Klinenberg, and planning some ways for us to engage virtually. That includes an online Q&A with author Eric Klinenberg (date TBD). The session will be moderated by writer Kiran Misra who recently penned this piece for Belt Magazine comparing the impacts of the 1995 Chicago heatwave disaster on low-income communities to those of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’re partnering with Hamtramck-based Book Suey to distribute books. 

Sign up here to get plugged into the Planet Detroit Book Club and order your copy of Heatwave >>>

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