Greenhouse gas ordinance passes

July 26, 2019 | CO2 411.41 ppm <<

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Detroit City Council passes greenhouse gas ordinance

The Detroit City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Wednesday to cut greenhouse gas emissions from city sources 35% by 2024, 75% by 2034 and 100% by 2050. A citywide target for all sources has been set at 30% by 2024. Reductions are based on measurements from 2012.

This puts the city on track to meet emissions goals laid out by the Paris Climate Agreement for keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Mayor Mike Duggan pledged to uphold the agreement along with hundreds of other US mayors.

Councilman Scott Benson, who drafted the ordinance, says that emissions will be reassessed every four years with yearly reports to city council on progress towards meeting the goals.

“These extremes in weather that we're seeing disproportionately impact people of color and who are poor,” Benson says. “They just don't have the resources typically to fight against it.”

The ordinance covers emissions from city-owned property, which are a small but significant part of the overall carbon pollution in the city. In 2012, city buildings produced 1.18 million tons of carbon-dioxide out of total 10.6 million tons citywide or roughly 11% of total carbon pollution.

Benson feels that this move signals leadership and can be used along with efforts like the Detroit 2030 District—a public-private partnership to reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency—to push the private sector to do more.

Kimberley Hill Knott, President and CEO of Future Insight Consulting, worked on the ordinance as Climate Action Committee Chair for Benson’s Green Task Force and helped develop the Detroit Climate Action Plan, which called for the ordinance. Knott believes that cities can incentivize businesses to do more by demonstrating financial benefits from energy-saving infrastructure as well as attracting business focused on sustainability and green energy.

Benson mentions the need for DTE Energy to do more to allow for community solar, which enables renters and others to own shares in solar farms and to receive credits on their electric bill.

“They haven't been there,” Benson says of DTE. “We're working with our partners to show them why it's so important and how this could be a great tool to… help reduce people’s overall energy burden, reduce their costs and reduce greenhouse gas output.”

Benson says that a high proportion of the city’s residents are “energy-burdened”, meaning they spend more that 10% of their gross income on energy. Detroit had the ninth-highest energy burden in a 2016 study of 48 of the largest cities in the United States, which showed that a quarter of those with 80% of the area median income spent more than 15 percent of their gross annual income on energy bills.

Source: ACEEE

Benson says the new Sustainability Action Agenda outlines many actions necessary to meet emissions targets and that recent developments, like the closing of the incinerator, are already helping. He believes a $307 million investment in fuel-efficient and hybrid city-vehicles and tightening building envelopes for city buildings will also help.

Knott says that the greenhouse gas inventory, first done in 2012 as part of the Climate Action Plan and set to be repeated every four years as part of the overall assessment of emissions, will help give additional insight into where the city can make improvements by showing which sources and activities are producing the most carbon dioxide.

Benson says he wants to make Detroit “the cleanest city city in the country”. On Wednesday, the BBC reported that plans need to be in place by 2020 in order to meet emissions goals, and recent models have suggested that the planet is warming faster than previously thought.

FCA news leads to question of environmental racism

In a report on Monday, WDET’s Laura Herberg detailed plans by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to increase emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced as a part of it's painting process at its expanded Detroit facility, while simultaneously reducing VOC emissions at its Warren facility to create “a ten percent reduction for the Southeast Michigan area” as FCA’s Environmental Health and Safety direct Greg Rose puts it.

But the idea that majority-white Warren is seeing reductions in VOCs while majority-Black Detroit is facing increases is not lost on environmental activists.

“You just enter into this textbook environmental racism equation,” says Gregg Newsom, community activist and founder of Facebook group Fiat Chrysler Impact Area Community News

VOCs can impact people with asthma, and the east side of Detroit—where the plant is located—already deals with high levels of asthma, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The FCA facility has operated in different capacities at this location for decades and sits right at the point where three of Detroit’s worst zip-codes for asthma—48213, 48214 and 48215—meet. Nationwide, it’s reported that air pollution may have killed 30,000 people in a single year.

Source: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

The region surrounding the FCA plant scores in the 88-93rd percentile range statewide for multiple EJ indicators related to air and water quality, and the population is 97% minority and 78% low-income, according to EPA data.

Detroiters will pay for this pollution with more than their health. Tax incentives for the deal could top $400 million. Although the plant is estimated to create 5,000 jobs—making the cost per-job roughly $80,000—there’s no guarantee these jobs will actually go to Detroiters. Laid-off employees from another plant will get the first crack at them.

This news comes at the same time as a recent study by the University of Michigan shows hotspots for environmental injustice across Michigan. The researchers evaluated census tracts on 11 environmental factors and six demographic ones.

Detroit has by far the largest number of environmentally burdened census tracts clustered together, although the report found environmental injustice across the state. Five of the most affected tracts are in Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids.

Across Detroit

ACLU petitions to shut off the water shutoffs | The ACLU of Michigan and Great Lakes Environmental Law Center are petitioning the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to halt water shutoffs they say are a public health emergency. Also this week, Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a $250 billion Water Justice Act that includes $10 billion toward offsetting water bills in low-income communities.

Related: Low-income Flint residents will receive $427 million in credits from the Great Lakes Water Authority to help pay water bills. The money comes from unused 2018 Water Residential Assistance Program dollars from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Greening the presidential debates: Environmental groups are hoping the upcoming Democratic presidential debates in Detroit on July 30 and 31st address water and climate change. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition released a five-point plan including $475 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. And organizers are planning a rally to “Make Detroit the Engine of the Green New Deal” and are asking candidates to visit 48217, Detroit’s most polluted zip code. In the meantime, House Democrats have introduced a kinder, gentler alternative to the Green New Deal they hope will appeal to centrists.

Across Michigan

Foul Balls: Arcadia Bluffs golf course on Lake Michigan near Frankfort was majorly called-out by the Detroit Free Press for using its website to encourage golfers to launch balls into Lake Michigan from the 12th hole. The story has since been taken up by a number of sources, including the Golf Channel.

The course has referred to the reference on its website as outdated. You don’t say? Luckily some Yelpers have chimed in to offer advice:

Own up to your pollution and hire someone to clean up your golf balls! It's a beautiful course, that is also pricey. I'm sure you've made a nice profit! Now pitch in and help clean up the lake!

Even “unreasonably bad golfer” Neal Rubin was impressed by the piece:

Invasive mussel brigade | Zebra and Quagga mussels are causing big problems in the Great Lakes, and now an Invasive Mussel Collaborative has formed to fight them.

Message in a bottle | Unscientific proof that the Great Lakes are connected to the Gulf of Mexico has emerged:

Money for endangered species | A bill proposed by U.S. Rep Debbie Dingell would allocate nearly $1.4 billion to protecting endangered species; Michigan would receive $27 million. Michigan has 18 animals and 8 plants listed as endangered.

Poop in the water | Lake St. Clair is not looking so good in this report. Need we say more?

Make America suck again?

We couldn’t resist.

Insta-photo pick 

Via yes_parksandrec, these camp counselors are getting ready to take on young urban campers with @outdoorsdetroit.

Connect | Engage with Detroit’s environment

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

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Thanks for reading!

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