Tracy Samilton | Michigan Radio
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Tracy Samilton

Energy and Transportation Reporter / Producer

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.

She took over the auto beat in January, 2009, just a few months before Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.

Tracy’s reports can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio.

Her coverage of Michigan’s Detroit Three automakers has taken her as far as Germany, and China. Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature.

wikimedia commons

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Tom Leonard have asked Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to issue an opinion on a controversial decision by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

The commission said last month it would consider housing, employment and public accommodation  discrimination claims by LGBTQ people under the state's anti-discrimination law (ELCRA) -- because the category of "sex" in the act should be interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the more traditional understanding of sex.

V2V technology can warn drivers of many dangerous situations
General Motors

Despite being the first automaker to put vehicle to vehicle technology in a car in the U.S.,  it appears General Motors is not yet ready to match Toyota's April announcement that it will voluntarily put the life-saving technology in most of its vehicles by the mid 2020s. 

General Motors

Many people don't know about the life-saving potential of V2V (vehicle to vehicle), a wifi and GPS-based technology that allows cars to communicate with each other and with traffic signals.

Oakland County hopes to change that for its residents – and find out if they'd be willing to pay for it.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is advising people to avoid swallowing the foam that appears on top of the water in the Rogue River near Rockford, Michigan.

The foam is highly contaminated with PFAS, an emerging group of chemicals linked to reproductive, developmental, liver, and kidney problems. 

The agency says PFAS is not easily absorbed through the skin, so contact with the water is OK. But children who might accidentally ingest the foam should be kept from face contact with the water, or swimming.

Levi Hutmacher / Michigan Engineering, Communications and Marketing

The University of Michigan's latest self-driving vehicle research project isn't on its enclosed test campus, Mcity.

Launched on Monday, staff and students on the university's north campus can now catch a ride on a driverless shuttle, which will travel about a one-mile route between two traditional bus stops.  

Gavel
Joe Gratz / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has launched a two-year pilot program to mediate federal civil rights lawsuits filed by Michigan prisoners who represent themselves in litigation.

The project will encourage speedy resolution of legal disputes between prisoners and state corrections officials and lawyers to avoid costly, protracted litigation.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Avoiding comment on his ongoing conflict with President Trump, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions  says one of his main priorities is to uphold freedom of speech, especially for religious groups.

Sessions was the keynote speaker Thursday at the Michigan Chapter of the Federalist Society.

He says freedom of religion includes freedom of expression, which is under attack in the U.S. -- and that's why the justice department is intervening in cases like free speech on college campuses.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The state's energy regulating agency has issued some decisions that should relieve some of the financial burden on large companies that want to become greener.

Eddie Curlin
MDOC

In 2016, 29-year old Eddie Curlin had been charged with receiving and concealing stolen property when he devised a plan to wiggle out of his trouble with the law. 

He thought authorities would drop the charges if he spray painted racist messages on Eastern Michigan University buildings, and then pretended to be an informant who could help police find the vandal. 

The racist messages caused distress and anger among students, and the plan went awry. After police figured out he was the culprit, they also discovered unrelated identity theft crimes he'd committed.  

public domain

Automakers are urging the Trump administration not to freeze fuel efficiency standards after the year 2022. 

The standards were meant to help the United States reduce carbon emissions and meet the terms of the Paris Agreement. In the final days of the Obama administration, federal regulators finalized rigorous fuel economy improvements for 2022 to 2025, reaching a real-world mpg average of about 35 miles per gallon.

Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in Michigan, people can file a complaint if they are discriminated against for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 

The state's Elliott-Larson Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, among other categories. Today the Michigan Civil Rights Commission adopted a regulation stating that "sex" under the Act includes sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Chevy Volt at charging station
Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) / Wikimedia

Consumers Energy is proposing a $7.5 million rebate and education pilot project to encourage electric vehicle adoption.

windmill in field
cwwycoff1 / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Michigan's two largest utilities have struck a deal with the group Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan that will keep a renewable energy initiative off the ballot in November.

The group, backed by California billionaire Tom Steyer, agreed to drop the ballot drive in exchange for a commitment from the utilities to rely on 25 percent renewable energy by the year 2030, and to increase energy efficiency by 25 percent by 2030.

Fred Freeman
Project Innocence

Fred Freeman was 25 when a jury found him guilty of gunning down 20-year-old Scott Macklem in a Port Huron parking lot in 1986.   

He never saw the verdict coming, figuring the unfairness of the trial would be so obvious to the jury it would come back with "not guilty," along with a tongue-lashing for the prosecution. 

As soon as Freeman got over the shock of his conviction, he began filing appeals, first in state courts and then in federal courts.

lake sturgeon
Tennessee Aquarium

The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning the federal government to protect lake sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center's Mark Finc says there used to be 15 million lake sturgeon in the U.S.  There's now just a few thousand.

While Michigan and some other states have taken steps to protect lake sturgeon, Finc says it's not enough.

"What we have found is it's fairly haphazard," says Finc, "and that it really needs to be more consistent across the board,  instead of just a couple spots here and there."

a fuel economy (mpg) sticker
wikimedia

Seven national environmental groups are challenging the EPA's decision to freeze fuel economy standards in the year 2022.

guns in holsters on two people
Lucio Eastman - Free State Project - PorcFest 2009 / CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27373086

A new survey finds only a quarter of Michigan teachers think arming teachers will make students safer from gun violence.

The poll found 95% of teachers and support staff say schools need more funding for mental health services.

Paula Herbart is president of the Michigan Education Association, which commissioned the poll.  

"More counselors and social workers can work with students who are struggling with issues in and outside the classroom, and provide them with the support they need," says Herbart.

Michigan United

Members of a church that gave an immigrant man sanctuary are walking from Detroit to Lansing to raise awareness of his situation.

Supporters say Ded Rranxburgaj, an Albanian man who's lived in the U.S. since 2001, is the sole support for his disabled wife, who has multiple sclerosis, and his 15-year-old son.  

He's been living in Detroit's Central United Methodist Church for four months after the government revoked his humanitarian status.

Michael Dorausch / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

By more than a two-to-one margin, voters on Tuesday approved a nearly $97 million bond proposal for Kalamazoo Public Schools - the largest in its history.  Part of the money will replace a magnet school that was built in 1928. 

Jackson voters approved an $86.74 million bond proposal that will include building a new elementary school building.  The vote was 2,629 to 1,615.  

Roxbury Group

Cities like Flint and Detroit are redeveloping former industrial sites along their waterfronts.

Now it's hopefully Ann Arbor's turn, says a developer working for DTE Energy. David Di Rita is with the Roxbury Group.

He says DTE Energy wants to redevelop the former MichCon coal gasification plant on Broadway, along the Huron River.  The plant was closed in 1938.  

Karen Spranger
Macomb Daily

Federal District Judge George Steeh dismissed a lawsuit filed by former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger Thursday.

Steeh ruled there was no relief under federal law for the complaints alleged in Spranger's lawsuit.

Spranger alleged there was a Democrat-led conspiracy to force her from office, because she is a Republican. 

The lawsuit also claimed it was a violation of her constitutional rights when the county revoked her authority to run the office as she saw fit.   

Michigan absentee voter form
State of Michigan

In the final days leading up to election day two years ago, Tom Barrett, a Republican candidate for the 71st District in Eaton County, was knocking on doors when he met a voter he had a lot in common with.

They got to talking about their shared military experience and after a while, the man said he wished he hadn't already voted for Barrett's opponent.

Starwood Energy Group

General Motors says a new wind farm being constructed in Ohio brings it one step closer to running all its facilities worldwide on 100% renewable energy. 

The 100 megawatt wind farm in northwest Ohio was grandfathered in, before a new law made it almost impossible to build wind farms in that state.

Rob Threlkeld, head of global renewable energy for GM, says the Ohio project, along with one being constructed in Illinois, will offset carbon emissions from seven GM plants in the Midwest.

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

Some state legislators aren't happy with a recent decision by the Michigan Public Service Commission to end net metering.

So they've introduced a set of bills to restore it.

Net metering was a method used to compensate residential utility customers with solar roofs.  The solar panels can often produce more electricity than the customer needs, so it goes onto the grid.

Net metering customers would get a credit for their excess electricity equal to the utilities' own rates.  

wikimedia commons

Stateside's Cynthia Canty recently spoke with David Carroll of the 6th Amendment Center about its new report, which concludes that public defenders in Wayne County are overworked, underpaid, and under-resourced.

He says there are only 16 public defenders for Wayne County when there should be 30.

Their caseloads are 145% of the national average, and they have no secretaries, paralegals or investigators.

They're also grossly underpaid.

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Mott Community College will use a $20,000 grant from Cypress Creek Renewables to help develop a solar energy training program.

The grant will support curriculum development for electric workers and construction workers who specialize in commercial solar installations.

Kevin Borgia is Cypress Creek Renewable's Midwest Policy Director.  He says Mott's new program will reach out in particular to women, minorities, and veterans.

CPB agents in Mexico port of entry
CPB

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says its 2017 annual civil rights report shows a spike in complaints of discrimination against Muslims - especially against federal agencies, like Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The report says incidents in which people were inappropriately targeted and harassed by CPB were the second most frequent type of abuse and constituted 13% of cases.  

"This is the first time that CBP has ranked within the top five," says the report, "and it is possible to attribute this to the unconstitutional Muslim Ban executive order."

Eddie Curlin
MDOC

A black man who spray painted racist graffiti on Eastern Michigan University buildings in 2016 and 2017 has pleaded guilty to three charges of malicious destruction of property, a misdemeanor, and four counts of identity theft -- a felony -- related to the investigation.

The investigation into the vandalism cases showed that Eddie Curlin vandalized the buildings and then acted as an informant to police on the pretense of helping to solve the case in order to have other previous criminal charges dropped and be allowed to return as a student to Eastern Michigan University.

solar panels
David Goehring / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Two solar energy companies say DTE Energy is stonewalling to keep them out of the state.

Kevin Borgia is with Cypress Creek Renewables, which plans up to 700 megawatts of new solar farms in Michigan.

He says the company can't proceed without first getting basic information from DTE, like where's a good place to connect to DTE's grid - and what kind of transmission upgrades will be needed.

He says DTE is violating state law by continually failing to meet deadlines to provide the information. "Over 100 times DTE has failed to meet those deadlines," he says.

Workers install solar panels on a roof
Alex Snyder / Wayne National Forest/Wikimedia Commons

Starting some time next year, electric utilities will be able to submit lower reimbursements to the Michigan Public Service Commission to compensate their solar customers.

Right now, when a customer with a solar roof creates more electricity than needed, it becomes available to the grid.

Utilities pay the customer the same rate that they themselves charge.

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