Michigan's climate future mapped, the definitive PFAS story, and a new day for regional transit

November 22, 2019 | CO2 2019/2018 410.05 / 408.96 ppm <<--www.co2.earth/daily-co2

In this edition:

  • Two new reports shed light on Michigan’s climate picture

  • Short Film: MOTHER highlights the story of a southwest Detroiter raising children in the shadow of pollution

  • Bridge Magazine drops definitive story package on PFAS

  • California hits back at automakers that sided with Trump

  • A step forward on regional transit?

  • Criticism mounts over DTE’s Integrated Resource Plan

  • READ THIS:  Fewer lights, more insects?

  • Solutions & Bright Spots: WDET takes on Sustainability

  • Events: Engage with Detroit’s environment

  • SPONSORED CONTENT: A 2019 Gift Guide from Taste the Local Difference

  • Jobs! We’ve got jobs!

Two new reports shed light on Michigan’s climate picture

Although some may imagine the climate crisis to be primarily a problem for sea-side communities or places like California that are experiencing wildfires, in Michigan rising lake levels, storms, and other threats make it clear that climate change is here. Two new studies shed more light on how that may play out.

(Source: The Mi-Environment Project)

A project from the University of Michigan aims to bring more clarity to Michigan's challenges by mapping present and future threats from global heating. Called the Mi-Environmental Project, researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health aim to help “policymakers and community organizations focus their efforts on strategies that help cushion the blow of the changing climate,” with the project, according to Trish Koman, a research investigator at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

A paper published in the academic journal Health and Place highlights disparities that make urban, low-income, Black communities more vulnerable. Detroit and Downriver communities appear especially vulnerable in the project’s “future exposure index”, as does Kalamazoo and its environs.

This research could be especially useful in mitigating the damage from coming heatwaves:

Heat stress vulnerability is something that we can plan for," Koman said. “ There are actions communities can take in terms of their land use decisions, paving and tree cover, programs for building social cohesion among at-risk populations like the elderly, and a number of those sorts of things."

A second report released this week reveals yet another climate-related threat to Michigan. The United States Government Accountability Office paper shows that around 60% of US Superfund sites are vulnerable to threats from climate change. A number of these heavily-polluted areas are on the coast — where they might be vulnerable to sea-level rise — but Michigan contains many as well.

(Source: Governmental Accountability Office)

Twenty-one of Michigan’s 84 current and past Superfund sites are vulnerable to flooding. Michigan Advance reports that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t seem to be doing much to prepare residents in Michigan or elsewhere from the threats that these sites could pose in the future:

According to GAO, EPA’s strategic plan from 2018 to 2022 “does not include goals and objectives related to climate change or discuss strategies for addressing the impacts of climate change effects.” EPA officials interviewed by GAO said that the agency doesn’t always include climate change when it’s assessing risks at Superfund sites. 

Short Film: Mother

Planet Detroit is thrilled to release our first short film, “Mother”, by Lauren Santucci, which chronicles the story of Thomasenia Weston. Weston lives in a house located a few blocks from I-75, raised her daughter and is now raising her two grandchildren in this house, and all three generations suffer from severe asthma. This film was made with support from the Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL), a program of the Wayne State University.

Read more about the story here.

Bridge Magazine drops definitive story package on PFAS

The story echoes other tales involving mass contamination events in Michigan — from the Flint water crisis to the accidental poisoning of milk and meat with PBB flame retardants in the 1970s — involving state agency officials dragging their heels while professionals and citizens sound the alarm and motivate action.

Bridge reports that Michigan’s PFAS response was sort of chipping away at the edges between 2010-2017, conducting limited sampling and issuing a few fish advisories, until alarmed state geoscientist Robert Delaney took his findings on a conservative radio talk show in October 2017 after receiving no response to a 93-page report on the topic he had submitted to former DEQ director Dan Wyant. Weeks later, the state under former Gov. Rick Snyder launched a coordinated response that involved municipal water system testing, a multi-agency PFAS team, and secured $23 million from the legislature to address the issue, leading up to last week’s announcement of draft rules for PFAS in drinking water .

Learn more about Michigan’s proposed PFAS drinking water rules here and comment on the proposed PFAS rules by contacting EGLE-assist@michigan.gov or calling 800-662-0928.

Bridge found that weak state and federal laws enable the manufacture and dissemination of toxic chemicals before they are proven harmful, that slow government bureaucracy delays action to address problems, that it often requires a responsible citizen or state worker bringing independent research to the media or to courts before action is taken, and that taxpayers often bear the brunt of cleanup costs because state officials wait too long or decline to file suit against polluters. (In Michigan, Bridge reports, former attorney general Bill Schuette did not file suit against PFAS manufacturer 3M as other states have done, and so far, current AG Dana Nessel has not filed yet either.)

California hits back at automakers that sided with Trump

The state of California announced that it will no longer purchase vehicles by auto companies that sided with the Trump administration in an ongoing dispute over auto-emissions. General Motors, Fiat-Chrysler, and Toyota are the primary companies that will be affected by this decision. “Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California’s buying power,” Governor Newsom said on Monday.

The Trump administration has challenged the ability of California and other states to set their own fuel economy standards, which could have either divided the industry or forced companies to conform to California’s stricter regulations. Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen are among the automakers that have sided with California in the dispute.

The New York Times reports:

It was not clear how much impact California’s new buying ban would have. California’s government has about 51,000 vehicles but only purchases 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles a year, according to data provided by the state. Of the vehicles it owns, roughly 14,000 are made by Ford, 10,000 are made by G.M., 4,000 are made by Fiat Chrysler and 1,200 are made by Toyota.

A step forward on regional transit?

Oakland County Executive David Coulter and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans have put forth a plan to revise the Michigan Municipal Partnership Act that would enable governments to use it to create a regional transit plan. In the past, voters have narrowly voted down a regional transit plan with Wayne and Washtenaw counties supporting it and Macomb and Oakland counties rejecting it.

This new approach would:

  • Allow Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties to pass their own regional transit plan after a majority vote in each county.

  • Do away with millage caps for municipal partnerships.

  • Protect tax revenues put aside for certain uses.

The result of all of this could be a new vote on regional transit on the 2020 ballot. Counties like Macomb who are not included in the new system could vote to join at a later date.

Criticism mounts over DTE’s Integrated Resource Plan

We’ve had our hands full at Planet Detroit covering DTE Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for the past few months. This plan — which the utility must submit periodically to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) for approval — has been criticized for, among other things, being much less ambitious in terms of renewable energy than Consumers Energy’s IRP.

This week, Charlotte Jameson from the Michigan Environmental Council summarized some of the criticism leveled against DTE from various quarters in an editorial for The Detroit News. She draws special attention to the modeling the utility used to decide on the power sources it would utilize going forward:

Jameson writes:

Throughout its IRP, DTE manually selected the electricity generation sources it wanted. This method prejudiced the outcome toward the results the company wanted. In its IRP, DTE arbitrarily kept its Belle River and Monroe coal plants online through 2030 and 2040 without a sound analysis of early retirement options or lower-cost alternatives. Both Belle River and Monroe are expensive coal plants to run. Retiring them earlier and replacing them with affordable, renewable energy would mean large cost savings for customers and the elimination of extremely harmful air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Jameson also claims that DTE undervalues energy waste reduction, overstates how much of this it’s currently doing and overstates the cost of renewable energy.

All of these errors result in an energy plan leading to higher costs for residential customers, negative and unnecessary impacts on public health, and missed opportunities to mitigate climate change.

READ THIS: Fewer lights, more insects?

Solutions & Bright Spots

WDET’s Anna Sysling is leading a new series on WDET 101.9 FM that focuses on sustainability solutions. This week, she explores the world of hospitals. For her most recent installment, Sysling spoke with Emily Johnson, a medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School, about her effort to reduce landfill waste and emissions in the hospital setting.

Local environmental jobs & volunteer opps

***Want to post a job or volunteer opportunity? Email us with your details at connect@planetdetroit.org***

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Are you looking for ways to shop local and sustainable as you check off the people on your holiday list? Then you need to check out the first annual 2019 Holiday Gift Guide from Taste the Local Difference. It's chock full of unique gift ideas from Michigan food and beverage businesses, creative holiday giving inspirations, and seasonal recipes.
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Connect: Engage with Detroit’s environment

November 24 | Vegan Harvest Feast | Rivertown >>>

November 30 | Roots Detroit Exhibition of Land and Water Stewardship | NorWest Gallery >>>

December 3 | Oakland Beekeepers Club | Bloomfield Hills >>>

December 4 | Cocoa and Conversation | Joe Louis Greenway >>>

December 7 | Global Fatbike Day in Southeast Michigan | Brighton >>>

January 4 | Detroit Garden Center Annual Meeting | Belle Isle Nature Center >>>

January 18 | Bike the Blizzard | Detroit >>>

January 20 | Martin Luther King Jr. Ride | Detroit >>>

January 28 | Seed Swap | Ypsilanti >>>

February 1 | ¡Ay Cramba It’s Cold Out! | Shelby Township >>>

February 29 | Quiet Adventures Symposium | Lansing >>>

March 13 | Community Treehouse Gala >>>

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