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Planet Detroit

Planet Detroit helps you get smarter about the environment in Detroit and Michigan. Planet Detroit’s stories and weekly newsletter focus on explanatory, solutions-based and investigative reporting, and a deep commitment to community engagement around local environmental issues. Planet Detroit’s mission is to raise awareness about Metro Detroit’s environmental and public health issues, hold powerful entities accountable and help our audience connect with their local environment and take action to protect the health of their communities.

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When Michigan’s utility shutoff protections expired June 12th, over 225,000 families in DTE Energy’s service territory became vulnerable to losing their lights, the contents of their refrigerators, and the ability to charge their cell phones because of past-due bills. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), who ordered utilities to establish temporary shutoff protections, have insisted struggling customers should “be proactive, seek help.” However, the state funds and federal tax dollars that subsidize DTE’s bloated prices through programs like the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) are not enough to meet families’ needs.  Case in point -- The Heat and Warmth Fund
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gas storage, state of michigan map
Energy has been on the mind of Metro Detroiters recently. COVID-19 has made energy costs even more unaffordable for many, and DTE Energy plans to close down its coal plants by 2022. Beyond that, the future of renewable energy development in Michigan appears less certain after the state lost 30,150 clean energy jobs in the month of April and March.  Amid these changes, we wanted to take a look at how much electricity Michigan requires and how it fuels that energy. Here's what we found. How much electricity does Michigan generate?  Electric capacity is the total amount of electricity that
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blue flame from kitchen stove top
DTE Energy's natural gas business will achieve 'net-zero' carbon emissions by 2050 through reducing emissions across its operations, the company announced today. “We’ve decided to take a bolder step,” Vice President of Gas Sales and Supply Dan Brudzynski  told Planet Detroit. Brudzynski said the plan is “holistic” and addresses all three parts of the gas chain: production, distribution, and consumption.  "A lot of our peers in the industry take a look at the part of the value chain that they're responsible for. What we've decided with this commitment is to not focus on what we can directly control, but what
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For the first 13 years of shane bernardo's life, his Filipino immigrant parents ran a grocery store on the west side of Detroit that attracted Southeast Asian, West African, and Afro-Caribbean Detroiters. The family grew a garden each year, with plants like bitter melon, yardlong beans, and Chinese eggplant. The garden and store were ways for bernardo's family to stay connected to their culture while living in an unfamiliar place where they often faced othering and discrimination due to their racial background.    Those early immigrant experiences, bernardo says, were the foundation for the food justice path he now finds himself
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We are thrilled to announce that the Detroit Equity Action Lab Race and Justice Media Collaboration at Wayne State University is partnering with Planet Detroit to support freelance journalists from marginalized communities.  We seek pitches from Black, indigenous, or people of color (BiPOC) journalists for reporting centered around environmental health issues facing Detroit’s communities of color. We're looking for stories that go beyond the surface and disrupt common narratives about Detroit's marginalized communities. We're especially interested in human stories that help us understand how environment and health challenges impact Detroiters' lives, now and over generations, and how community knowledge can
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field of yellow flowers with a monarch butterfly on on of the flowers
When invasive species and development overtake prairies, forests, and marshlands in the Detroit area, biodiversity is threatened. But conservation groups are fighting, project by project, to restore some of the region’s natural biodiversity. It’s an effort that requires constant vigilance and takes decades. “Without these projects, we are losing that habitat where these creatures exist,” says Ava Landgraf, research coordinator for Detroit Audubon. “And without that habitat, they're going to slowly disappear if we don't do something about it.” Sally Petrella, president of the Friends of Rouge Park, says Rouge Park has some of the best biodiversity in Detroit. At
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white clouds in bright blue sky
After several virtual hearings and public information sessions beginning in May, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Air Quality Division (AQD) approved General Motors’ air permit application for the replacement of its current automotive assembly line with a new one on the border of Detroit and Hamtramck.  The permit was approved with several changes in response to public comments and the AQD’s advice, including increased frequency of control equipment testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a change in the date that the existing assembly line needs to be shut down, and an additional emission control unit that
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drone shot of revere site
A restoration plan proposed by Revere Dock LLC, the company responsible for the dock collapse on the Detroit River in November 2019, was the subject of an online hearing held Tuesday by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).   The project is expected to take six months and consists of three parts: construction of a new sea wall to replace the timber-pile supported dock,  removal and disposal of material on the river bank, and the reconstruction of the Great Lakes Water Authority outfall that discharges water into the Detroit River. The cost of the project was not
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two inhalers side-by-side
Thirteen-year-old Jeremiah Cannon was home alone two years ago in 2018 when he suffered an asthma attack. "I was watching TV and all of a sudden I couldn't breathe," Cannon, who lives in the Old Redford neighborhood, recalls. This was just one of many times Cannon has had to seek emergency services due to the severity of his asthma. He has lived with the disease his whole life, and each year it causes him to miss school. This year, before the COVID-19 pandemic, he had already missed 16 days.  “I wake up and my throat hurts,” he said.  Cannon was
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Empty roads, canals and bridges are among Melissa McLeod’s favorite spots to look for birds. From the slow-moving canals of Belle Isle to a pop-up bird bath formed by a pothole, she travels in search of the habitats that offer her windows into Detroit’s urban/natural world and its inhabitants.
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Empty roads, canals and bridges are among Melissa McLeod’s favorite spots to look for birds. From the slow-moving canals of Belle Isle to a pop-up bird bath formed by a pothole, she travels in search of the habitats that offer her windows into Detroit's urban/natural world and its inhabitants. These are the spots where she often takes pictures for her popular Instagram page, Feral Detroit which she has operated somewhat anonymously for the past several years. Besides documenting the profound diversity of wildlife in the city and the porous interface between “nature” and the built environment, she also ventures into
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rainbow in dark sky over green field
A church garden in Detroit might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of biodiversity, but each individual plant, bird and insect that inhabits the space is doing its part. “I think one of the perceptions has been that wildlife and biodiversity can only exist in these national parks, preserved wilderness, or in places that we probably need access through a ticket to explore and enjoy,” but that’s not the case, said Tiffany Carey, habitat and education coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. She leads the Sacred Grounds program in Detroit,
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