Michigan

Crain’s: Time to Step Up to Protect Thunder Bay Sanctuary

April 1, 2018
Time to Step Up to Protect Thunder Bay Sanctuary
By Howard Learner

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron is the nation’s only freshwater marine sanctuary. It’s popular — attracting tourists and school children interested in Great Lakes maritime history and learning more about “Shipwreck Alley” where more than 100 ships met their tragic fate. It has spurred economic growth in Alpena which hosts the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

Boat tours running from Alpena and up the shoreline to Mackinac City enable visitors to see preserved shipwrecks and the scenic bays and islands. Adventurous scuba divers can explore many wrecks.

Last year, the Trump Administration’s Department of Commerce announced a “review” directed to cut down the size of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary by 90 percent and potentially open up these Great Lakes waters to oil drilling. This proposal was a bad idea from the start. What are they thinking?

There was no controversy or problem waiting to be solved. Because both federal law and state law prohibit offshore oil drilling in the Great Lakes, that supposed justification for the Commerce Department’s review is puzzling. There’s broad Michigan support and pride for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. People visit and like it.

There is a clear and direct solution in this case: the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (16 U.S.C. 1434 (b)) provides that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder can certify to the secretary of commerce that any proposed changes to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary are “unacceptable.”

It’s time for Snyder to publicly step up and inform Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that his federal agency’s misguided review to reduce the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary by 90 percent and potentially open it to oil drilling is “unacceptable.” It’s time to bring this bad idea to its well-deserved end.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and 14 Great Lakes groups filed joint comments with the U.S. Department of Commerce urging that it not cut the size of this popular National Marine Sanctuary. Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and bipartisan Representatives Jack Bergman, Debbie Dingell, Daniel Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, Dave Trott and Fred Upton sent a joint letter to Ross stating:

“We write to express our strong opposition to reducing the boundaries of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary … The expansion of this sanctuary in Lake Huron in 2014, which was the result of a rigorous approval process with extensive public input, is critical to Michigan’s economy and heritage.”

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has helped revitalize local economies in our state. The tourism and recreational opportunities supported by the sanctuary have generated over 1,700 jobs, $100 million in sales, and $39.1 million in personal income to residents, according to a 2005 study.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects a treasure trove of 100 significant shipwrecks that sunk in the treacherous waters and are preserved by the cold fresh water. This National Marine Sanctuary draws visitors to explore “Shipwreck Alley” and offers a window into Great Lakes maritime history.

In 2014, following participatory processes with input from a broad range of stakeholders, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary was expanded from 448 square miles to include 4,300 square miles. That wasn’t controversial.

Protecting the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is good for jobs, good for economic growth and good for the environment as the Michigan Congressional delegation letter explains. The National Marine Sanctuary status helps preserve and protect this historical maritime commerce site for visitors today and for future generations.

Gov. Snyder should end the uncertainty about the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary by publicly informing the Commerce Department that its review and proposed changes are “unacceptable.” Let’s protect the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary for all.

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Michigan Radio, NPR: What Will Replace Coal?

Michigan Radio, NPR
What Will Replace Coal?
By Tracy Samilton

The President of the United States says coal is coming back, but in reality coal is going away.

The fight is over what will replace it.

Even utilities are dumping coal. In Michigan, DTE Energy wants to shut down three coal-burning power plants and replace them with a billion dollar natural gas plant.

But environmentalists think there’s a better way.

First of all, there’s no such thing as clean coal.

Even brand new coal plants dump a lot of carbon into the air. Carbon emissions are very bad for the planet, and it’s a fact that renewable energy sources like solar and wind emit zero carbon.

DTE Energy’s Irene Dimitry doesn’t disagree.

“We support renewables and want to make sure that people understand that we do,” Dimitry says. “We just need to do it in a paced, thoughtful, plan-ful way.”

Dimitry says DTE is closing three of its coal-burning plants in five years, but she says it’s not feasible for renewables to take their place. That’s where a plan for a new 1,100 megawatt natural gas plant comes in.

“Because the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine, and because storage is not yet commercial viable at a large scale, we really need a plant that can operate 24-7 and insure reliability for our customers,” Dimitry says.

Right now, natural gas is cheap and plentiful, and it produces about 60% fewer carbon emissions than coal. Still, DTE can’t just build the plant; it needs permission from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

To do that, it has to analyze the alternatives and show the plant is the best choice. So, a fancy computer program ran 50 different simulations. Dimitry says all concluded the plant is necessary.

Not so fast, says Margrethe Kearney of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Kearney says if a fancy computer program is told to maximize renewables, and maximize programs that reduce demand for electricity, the two combined beat out the natural gas plant.

“Everything that our experts ran shows that, yes, it’s feasible, absolutely, it’s cost effective,” Kearney says.

Kearney thinks DTE is stuck in an old mind set, one that viewed natural gas as a necessary bridge to replace coal until renewables are ready for prime time.

“Renewables are a legitimate available resource, and by not recognizing that, we’re keeping Michigan in the dark ages,” says Kearney.

She adds that, at the very least, DTE could build a smaller plant or defer building one to give alternatives time to develop.

But she thinks there’s a disincentive for DTE Energy to do that, because the utility doesn’t pay for the plant; rather, its customers do.

“It’s not just that the customers pay for it,” Kearney says. “Part of what the customers are paying is a return on that investment, so DTE is going to make around 10% in profit on that investment, DTE shareholders.”

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Michigan Utility to Independent Generators: We Don’t Need You Right Now

 

Michigan Utility to Independent Generators: We Don’t Need You Right Now

By Andy Balaskovitz

A major Michigan utility says it doesn’t need new generation from renewable energy developers, and it shouldn’t be forced to pay for it.

Michigan has become the latest battleground over a decades-old federal law known as the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA.

The law essentially requires utilities to buy power from small, independent producers when doing so will save money for ratepayers.

In multiple states recently, that’s opened the gates for a flood of utility-scale solar projects, which can now routinely sell power at utilities’ avoided cost rate — defined as the incremental cost a utility pays for not generating the electricity itself. Utilities have begun to push back, lobbying for state and federal reforms.

Michigan regulators spent months reviewing how much independent producers should be paid and in November settled on a new, lower rate. One of its largest utilities, though, argues even that number is too high.

Consumers Energy told regulators in December that it doesn’t project a need for new generation capacity in the next decade, and that as a result it should be allowed to sign PURPA contracts at an even lower rate. Developers say they couldn’t build projects with such low compensation.

Solar and clean energy advocates have also scoffed at Consumers’ projection, which assumes the company will continue to operate four coal-fired units through 2030. Critics also note that Consumers plans to build 625 MW of its own wind and solar, even though the Michigan Public Service Commission hasn’t formally approved those plans. Meanwhile, the utility projected growing capacity need as recently as September 2016.

In November, the MPSC approved new avoided cost rates for Consumers, which has 33 PURPA contracts in place across its service territory. The rates hadn’t been updated for about two decades. It also ruled that if the utility’s capacity needs are met for the next decade it could enter PURPA contracts at a far lower “planning resource auction” rate.

The commission suspended its ruling on Dec. 20 based on formal opposition from hydroelectric and biomass owners. The same day, Consumers filed a motion asking that its PURPA rate be reset to the lower figure, and since then at least three developers have objected, saying those lower rates would jeopardize upwards of 800 MW worth of solar projects. Michigan had roughly 100 MW of solar capacity installed statewide at the start of the year.

“These issues need to be resolved quickly. There is a market for renewable energy that’s being paralyzed here,” said Margrethe Kearney, staff attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “That is going to damage the market and disadvantage ratepayers who want more renewable energy.”

California-based Cypress Creek Renewables says Consumers is stalling 700 MW and $3 billion in investments in Michigan “over the next few years.” And Geronimo Energy filed testimony stating 70 MW worth of plans are on hold.

Six other utilities have pending cases before regulators to set PURPA avoided cost rates, including DTE Energy, which is also seeking permission to build a nearly $1 billion natural gas plant to make up for generation lost by retiring coal units. Critics of that plan say new PURPA contracts could help make up for the capacity shortage.

“It means people want to come to Michigan and build solar at a cost that is lower than (the price) DTE and Consumers could do it,” Kearney said, even though not all of that capacity is likely to be built. “That’s a good sign of a healthy market.”

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Detroit Free Press OpEd: Hey Michigan, use VW Settlement Money to Buy EV Buses for Schoolchildren

 

Hey Michigan, Use VW Settlement Money to Buy EV Buses for Schoolchildren

OpEd

By Toby C. Lewis and Janet McCabe

In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder and state officials have an opportunity to help kids get a healthier start to their school day by purchasing clean electric school buses to replace dirty, diesel-powered school buses that cause asthma attacks. The state is about to get access to $65 million from a Volkswagen settlement that can only be spent on a few items to reduce air pollution, including electric school buses to replace the aging, dirty diesel fleet.

Over the course of nearly seven years, Volkswagen sold close to 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. with engines programmed to trick emissions standards, contributing many tons of pollution to the environment. As part of a national settlement, the company is providing nearly $3 billion to states to support pollution-reducing projects.

A lot of Michigan kids can benefit from riding cleaner school buses. An estimated 660,000 children in communities across Michigan are climbing onto about 17,000 diesel-powered school buses every day.

There are three reasons why electric school buses make sense:

Healthier children: Children’s lungs are still developing and they breathe more rapidly than adults, making kids particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of exposure to diesel pollution. About 10% of Michigan children currently suffer from asthma, a disease that leaves lungs sensitive to irritation from the complex mix of fine particles, nitrogen oxides and other air pollutants in diesel fumes. These fumes seep into the cabins of school buses. Researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Washington have found that diesel school buses are responsible for millions of missed school days in the U.S. each year.

Healthier communities: A diesel bus driving around our cities and towns emits a chemical cocktail at ground level, near our schools, playgrounds and homes. The average school bus makes 85 stops per day. With an electric school bus, there’s no danger from running or idling engines, because no emissions come out of the tailpipe. In fact, there isn’t a tailpipe at all.

A healthier economy: States understand that a strong economy depends more and more on a healthy environment, which includes shifting to renewable energy resources. Because school buses operate according to school schedules, they can recharge their batteries overnight, when demand for energy is low. Electric school buses can also serve as local battery packs to provide extra juice back to the grid when it’s needed most. That reduces the demand on all energy sources providing power to the grid and creates a more sustainable power system with more clean energy as the source.

Electric school buses are not science fiction. There are already more than 100 on the road in North America, and American companies known for their diesel technology, like Cummins and Blue Bird, have announced investments in electric technologies for school buses.

Funds from the Volkswagen settlement are expected to be released once state agencies submit spending proposals. Governors putting VW money towards electric school buses would drive the market forward and costs down. School buses represent the largest category of mass transportation in our country, larger than transit and rail combined. We urge Michigan to help move this market to zero emissions and demonstrate leadership for health, the environment, our energy future, and most importantly, our children.

Toby C. Lewis is associate professor of pediatric pulmonology and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan and attending physician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

Janet McCabe served as the U.S. EPA’s acting assistant administrator for Office of Air and Radiation during the Obama administration and is currently a senior law fellow at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

READ OpEd HERE

News Release: Michigan Public Service Commission Sets Rates for Clean Energy

For Immediate Release

Michigan Public Service Commission Sets Rates for Clean Energy

Rate Certainty Sets Stage for New Private Investments, Solar Energy Development

LANSING, MI – An order setting rates for renewable energy developers from Consumers Energy will create the certainty necessary to spur private investments and new growth in solar energy while ensuring utility customers’ electricity rates don’t increase.

“The Commission adopted a strong methodology that reflects the value solar provides to Michigan during peak periods,” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. “This decision makes Michigan more attractive for renewable energy development at no additional cost to ratepayers.”

The Commission adopted new avoided cost rates that Consumers Energy must pay to renewable energy facilities in Michigan for the power those facilities supply to the grid.  This completes Michigan’s first update in 25 years of the approach utilities must take under federal law to compensate the owners of qualified clean energy facilities.

Solar industry officials hailed Wednesday’s announcement saying it can help make Michigan a leader in Midwest solar.

“The Commission correctly recognized the significant long-term value of solar to Michigan, and the need to update old rules to capture that value,” said Rick Umoff, director of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Solar companies can now ratchet up investment in Michigan’s economy, creating well-paying jobs and providing clean reliable energy to the state.”

Advocates also celebrated the news.

“The Commission’s decision to enable a level playing field for clean energy will launch a new wave of solar development in Michigan,” said Becky Stanfield, senior director of western states at Vote Solar. “Michigan’s leadership demonstrates to regulators and lawmakers across the country how to attract private investments, build a clean energy economy, and create local jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) was enacted in 1978 to encourage renewable energy development, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and promote energy independence. It requires utilities to purchase energy from small qualified cogeneration and renewable energy providers and establishes what are known as “avoided costs” and “must-buy prices” that utilities pay to small renewable energy providers. Since its inception, PURPA has spurred more than 16 GW of cumulative capacity across the country.

In June, the Commission established avoided cost calculations based on the costs of energy and capacity from new natural gas facilities, creating an even playing field for independent developers of qualified clean energy projects. The order also simplifies the development and financing process for small projects by establishing 20-year contracts at a standard rate for projects up to 2 megawatts in size. Previously only projects up to 100 kilowatts were eligible.

Read the Commission’s order.

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MLive Michigan: Nearly 4k Miles of Lake Huron May Lose Protection Under Trump Order

Nearly 4k Miles of Lake Huron May Lose Protection Under Trump Order

by Garret Ellison

ALPENA, MI — A 3,850 square-mile expansion of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron could be rolled back under President Donald Trump’s order to reconsider protections for offshore waters that could be opened to oil and gas drilling.

The 30-day public comment window began June 26 on the Department of Commerce review of 11 national marine sanctuaries and monuments following Trump’s April 28 executive order, called “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.”

The order targets any marine sanctuaries or monument established or expanded since April 2007 and halted the government from naming any more. It includes designations made under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

The order aims to expand offshore drilling, but questions remain about how that might pertain to the Great Lakes, which have been off-limits to oil & gas drilling since 2005. Michigan banned drilling in its Great Lakes waters in 2002.

The Thunder Bay sanctuary and preserve in Lake Huron was designated in 2000 and expanded from 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles in 2014. The sanctuary is a destination which draws shipwreck divers and tourists to Alpena. It’s the only National Marine Sanctuary in the Great Lakes or fresh water.

The boundary, which extends from Cheboygan to Alcona counties and east to the mid-lake border, protects from disturbance several hundred known and suspected shipwrecks in Lake Huron. The Alpena headquarters features a shipwreck museum and provides a staging area for scientists and researchers studying ecology, natural resources and maritime archaeology.

Thunder Bay researchers are busy this summer conducting an extensive review of the expanded area for undiscovered shipwrecks.

Environmental groups called the federal review a continuation of Trump’s “war on the Great Lakes.”

Trump’s White House has taken several actions seen as hostile to the ecology and economy of Great Lakes states, most notably eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative cleanup program in the administration’s 2018 budget proposal and blocking the release of a plan to stop Asian carp in the Illinois Waterway.

“The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron had broad Michigan public stakeholder and bipartisan support when it was expanded in 2014,” said Howard Learner, director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago. “Scaling back the Thunder Bay Sanctuary is misguided and counterproductive.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Midwest Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cuts & Line 5 Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          Contact: Judith Nemes

July 6, 2017                                                                      

 

Midwest Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cuts & Line 5 Issues

ELPC & Groundwork Gathering in Traverse City Urge Attendees to Fight Back Against Trump Administration’s War on the Great Lakes 

TRAVERSE CITY, MI. – Michiganders gathered in Traverse City today to hear two Midwest environmental leaders present strategies to push back on threats to the progress of restoring the Great Lakes and safe clean drinking water. They focused on countering the Trump Administration’s proposed complete elimination of $300 million in funding for the bipartisan-supported Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the FY 2018 budget, which has provided $2.2 billion for about 3,000 projects since its inception, and persuading Michigan policymakers to decide on an alternative to the dangerous Line 5 pipeline.

“President Trump won his election in the pivotal Great Lakes states, but his misguided policies and practices amount to a War on the Great Lakes,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Midwest-based Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Trump Administration is eliminating funding for the sensible and successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, rolling back Clean Water standards and reconsidering the additions to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. The Trump Administration doesn’t seem to understand how much Michiganders care about protecting the Great Lakes where we live, work and play, and which provides safe clean drinking water for 42 million people.”

Hans Voss, Executive Director of Traverse City’s Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and a leader in the campaign to protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill from the Line 5 pipeline, urged attendees to comment this month on safer alternatives proposed by the State Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

“The time for state decision-makers to study and debate what to do about the Line 5 pipeline is over,” said Voss. “Now is the time for citizens to speak up and push for lawmakers to shut down the pipeline once and for all.”

The gathering took place at the Bluewater Event Center in Traverse City.

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PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Pushing Back Against Trump Administration’s Executive Order “Review” of Marine Sanctuary Expansions in Lake Huron & Elsewhere

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 30, 2017

Environmental Law & Policy Center Pushing Back Against Trump Administration’s Executive Order “Review” of Marine Sanctuary Expansions in Lake Huron and Elsewhere 

 “Efforts to Scale Back Only Fresh Water Marine Sanctuary is Misguided”

 STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said in response to the Trump Administration’s America-First Offshore Energy Strategy Executive Order that directs the U.S. Commerce Department to “review” the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and other designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries:

“The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron had broad Michigan public stakeholder and bipartisan support when it was expanded in 2014,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Scaling back the Thunder Bay Sanctuary is misguided and counterproductive.

“Shrinking the protected area of the Thunder Bay Sanctuary is yet another Trump Administration attack in its War on the Great Lakes and should be stopped in its tracks.

“ELPC will work with bipartisan partners across the region to oppose the White House’s War on the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes is a national treasure that provides fresh drinking water to 42 million people and represents 21% of the world’s fresh water supply.“

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC Working with Michigan to Consider Tapping VW Settlement Funds for EV School Buses

Michigan School Districts Eye VW Settlement Money for Electric Buses

By Andy Balaskovitz

Michigan school districts looking to lower the emissions of their transportation fleets are eyeing millions of dollars from the Volkswagen settlement to be used for electric buses.

As part of a consent decree following the German automaker’s scandal involving its diesel vehicles, Michigan is in line to receive $60.3 million for an “environmental mitigation trust,” which is meant to offset the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from vehicles involved with the case.

Advocacy groups have been working with school districts in the region, including in Michigan, about potentially using some of that funding to purchase electric buses.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has released a draft plan for spending the money over 10 years by replacing a variety of vehicle types, zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and staff. About half of the proposed spending — $32.3 million — would be for replacing 323 government-owned school buses over the 10-year period.

“We think that’s a really positive thing for a number of reasons,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center. The ELPC has been informing Midwest school districts about the settlement fund opportunities, and has identified at least 17 Michigan districts interested in electric buses for their schools.

Mudd pointed to the roughly 700,000 Michigan K-12 students who ride in buses every day and who have greater risk to exposure from diesel exhaust.

“Diesel school buses historically have all sorts of emissions,” Mudd said, adding that NOx and other particulate emissions from diesel vehicles are a precursor for ozone and exacerbate asthma, particularly among children. “It would not be accurate to say school buses are the cause, but they are a contributor to the direct exposure kids are having.”

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Learner Says Volkswagen Settlement Funds Will Help Transition to Cleaner Transportation, Reduce Impact of Climate Change

Advocates Hoped for More Volkswagen Funds for EVs to be Directed to Midwest

By
Andy Balaskovitz and Kari Lydersen

Advocates pushing to expand electric vehicle adoption across the Midwest are “a little disappointed” in the selection of U.S. cities to receive funding for EV infrastructure under last year’s Volkswagen settlement.

Chicago was among 11 major U.S. metropolitan areas — and the only one in the Midwest — selected to receive money under a federal consent decree as a result of Volkswagen’s cheating on emissions tests and deceiving consumers about its diesel engines. The plan will be overseen by Electrify America, a Volkswagen subsidiary established to oversee the $1.2 billion that will be spent over the next 10 years on zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and education.

While they applauded Chicago’s selection, clean energy groups are underscoring the importance of the Midwest in a national transition to electric vehicles, and the importance of collaboration between utilities and other investors in this transition.

The $1.2 billion will be spent in $300 million increments over four 30-month cycles, and it’s possible more Midwest cities will receive attention in the coming years.

Major highway corridors in the region — including interstates 80, 75, 94 and 90 — were also selected to receive EV charging stations under the first funding cycle, though details about where those will be located are not yet available.

“We made the case that a number of cities in the Midwest — the Detroit area, Columbus (Ohio), Minneapolis/St. Paul and arguably some others — have been doing significant work around promoting electric vehicles and would have been other good places for Volkswagen to invest,” said Charles Griffith of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Ecology Center.

‘More than just Chicago’

The Ecology Center and other nonprofits recently formed Charge Up Midwest to promote and seek funding for EV adoption in the region. One of Charge Up Midwest’s first projects was obtaining funding from the Volkswagen settlement.

“We would have liked to see more than just Chicago selected as one of the communities,” Griffith said.

Other critics have said the settlement agreement gives Volkswagen a leg-up in the electric vehicle market and that the company will be able to control where infrastructure is located to improve its bottom line.

The other cities selected in this first cycle — New York City, Washington D.C., Portland, Oregon, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Denver, Houston, Miami and Raleigh, North Carolina — were chosen largely based on anticipated EV demand.

Michigan and the Detroit region in particular seemed like a good candidate based on the number of EV registrations there and of major U.S. automakers’ interest in breaking into the sector, Griffith said. The state of Michigan also made a separate pitch to Volkswagen for EV funding.

Also, Columbus — which was selected last year for a $50 million Smart City grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation — has been making strides in the clean transportation sector, he said.

“There’s no explanation (in the announcement) about why that wasn’t convincing enough,” Griffith said of the two cities.

According to the plan, Chicago was chosen because of its existing leadership on EVs, including a $14 million city EV program and the electrification of city buses, and because of its relatively dense population, commuting patterns and consumer interest in EVs. The city was chosen despite past troubles with its EV program, including the indictment for fraud of the owners of the provider the city hired, 350green.

“Electrify America notes that it was not able to select every metropolitan area that submitted a strong proposal, but it intends to expand its Community Charging investments into metro areas with supportive government policies and strong utility integration in future investment cycles,” the announcement says.

A new front

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, described electric vehicles and transportation more generally as the most important new front in the battle against climate change, since so many coal plants including two in Chicago have shut down in recent years.

“Because of the transition of the electricity sector with coal plants shutting down and more wind power, solar power and energy efficiency coming into the market as well as lower-priced natural gas, transportation is now the largest sector in terms of carbon pollution in the U.S.,” Learner said.

“It’s time for those of us who are interested in accelerating carbon pollution reduction to focus more attention and get more serious about the opportunities for progress in the transportation sector,” he added. “The advent of hybrid vehicles and electric cars is potentially as transformative to the transportation sector as wireless technologies have been to telecommunications and as solar and wind plus storage have been to the electricity sector.”

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