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.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

General Motors CEO Mary Barra says the automaker will build a new electric vehicle at its Orion Assembly Plant - where it already builds the all-electric Bolt. She says details about the vehicle will come later.

Barra, who's been head of General Motors since 2014, says GM will invest $300 million in the plant and add 400 jobs.

"EVs are going to help us drive our vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion," says Barra. "And allow us to deliver cleaner air and a healthier planet."

Picture of Lake Superior
Isabella Isaacs-Thomas / Michigan Radio

A new report commissioned by the Environmental Law and Policy Center urges Great Lakes states to mitigate and prepare for the "profound" effects of climate change.

The report, authored by more than a dozen Midwest and Canadian researchers, says Great Lakes states will see more very hot days, increases in heavy rainfall and flooding, declines in crop yields, and threats to drinking water.  

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke packed the Hometown Heroes coffeehouse in Centerline on Monday. 

O'Rourke was the first Democratic presidential hopeful to make a campaign stop in Michigan.

Some of those in the crowd had already decided that O'Rourke was their favorite candidate, like Barb Sudomier.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Several hundred Ann Arbor high school and university students walked out of class Friday to urge swifter action on climate change.

University of Michigan student Logan Vear is an organizer. 

She points to a new report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warns that humans must completely eliminate their carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. That would give the world a fighting chance of limiting global warming.

But many companies - including Michigan's two largest utilities - only promise to reduce their CO2 emissions by 80% by then.

"And I think there are a lot of existing deadlines like that, not only in Michigan but across the nation, that obviously are not good enough," says Vear.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Nestled among the Starbucks and CVS pharmacies on Greenfield Road and Ten Mile in Southfield and Oak Park are clusters of Orthodox synagogues, and Hebrew schools. 

There are delis and other other Jewish-owned businesses.

So it sure seems like the Israeli citizen, who was visiting after catching measles in New York, did his best to visit a lot of them, including a kosher grocery store, a yeshiva, and Congregation Yagdil Torah, where I meet David Shapero.

Tracy Samilton

Delegates to the United Auto Workers' Special Convention on Wednesday completed voting on resolutions for the next four-year contract with automakers and other UAW-represented companies.

The resolutions will guide union negotiators as they hammer out the terms of the deal. One resolution seeks to place more limits on automakers' use of temporary workers.

UAW retirees protesting
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

United Auto Workers delegates from across the country are meeting in Detroit this week.  

The convention will set the terms for talks on the next four year contract with Detroit automakers and other UAW represented companies.

Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood of Michigan

Michigan became one of 21 states joining a lawsuit against the federal government's new Title X rule, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Tuesday. Title X funds family planning services and other health care for low-income Americans.

Prison bars
powelli / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Nearly a dozen survivors of tainted steroid injections sat silently in a Howell district courtroom Monday, as first Glenn Chin, and then Barry Cadden, were brought before a judge, in restraints, and wearing orange prison uniforms.

Cadden owned the Massachusetts compounding facility that shipped tainted steroids to Michigan and other states in 2012, causing a fungal meningitis outbreak. That outbreak killed 23 people in Michigan, according to the state attorney general's office.

Chin was the facility's supervising pharmacist.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The Judicial Tenure Commission held a hearing Monday in a case seeking to remove Livingston County District Court Judge Theresa Brennan from office.

Among Brennan's alleged misconduct: violating campaign finance laws; verbally abusing staff, attorneys, and litigants; having a secret affair with the police officer in a murder trial; destroying evidence in her own divorce case; and lying to hide the misconduct.

Brennan's attorney, Dennis Kolenda, told commissioners that the allegations were either unproven, or blown out of proportion. 

Cobb power plant in Muskegon, which shut down in April 2016
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

A new report says the groundwater at some of Michigan's coal ash storage sites is contaminated with toxic chemicals, especially arsenic.

The report compiled data that's required by a new federal rule, which mandates testing, disclosure, and cleanups if necessary.

The report notes Consumers Energy disclosed arsenic levels 48 times the federal safety standard at the D.E. Karn Power Plant, and DTE Energy disclosed arsenic levels 38 times the federal safety standard at its Trenton Power Plant.

Charlotte Jameson of the Michigan Environmental Council calls those levels "alarming.

Kia

Hyundai and Kia are recalling more than half a million vehicles because of defects that can cause fires.  The new recalls are part of a more than three year string of recalls for engine failures and fires. 

Katie Bordner / Flickr

An Ohio farm in the Lake Erie watershed is suing to stop people from using the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, fewer than 12 hours after Toledo voters approved it.  

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights amends Toledo's charter to try to give residents a legal basis to intervene in the lake's interests. 

The big concern for many is phosphorus-containing fertilizers from farms. The phosphorus encourages toxic cyanobacterial blooms.  

Wind turbine
Ken Whytock / Flickr

General Motors says it is buying enough wind energy from DTE Energy to power its Warren Tech Center and most of its headquarters in Detroit. 

Stefania and Mirek Czech
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Toledo voters have approved a charter amendment giving Lake Erie legal rights by a large margin, 9,867 to 6,211. 

Turnout in the special election, which also included a referendum on whether to keep the city's jail downtown, was 8.9% of registered voters.

The charter amendment purports to allow any city resident to sue to protect the lake.  

Fiat Chrysler

Detroit got some very good news on Tuesday.

Fiat Chrysler says it plans to build a new assembly plant in Detroit, invest in five other Michigan plants, and hire 6,500 additional workers.

Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Autotrader. 

"Detroit hasn't seen a new assembly plant in a long time, decades," says Krebs, "so this is absolutely fabulous news for Detroit, for Michigan and for Fiat Chrysler and Jeep."

Fiat Chrysler says the nearly $4.5 billion expansion will help it meet growing demand for Jeep SUVs and RAM trucks. 

Jeffrey Sauger / Chevrolet

The United Auto Workers union is suing General Motors over its decision late last year to "unallocate" three plants in the U.S., one of them the Warren Transmission Plant in Michigan.

"Unallocate" means, according to GM, ending production of the plants' current products while not assigning new ones.

The union says it's a code word for closing, which is prohibited under the current four year contract.

Harley Shaiken is a labor expert at the University of California Berkeley.

DTE Energy

The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved changes to DTE Energy's MI Green Power plan, which lets customers subsidize renewable energy.  

The MI Green Power plan lets customers pay extra for the utility's renewable energy projects that go further than the state's 15% mandate. 

NOAA, GLERL

Toledo voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide the fate of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights referendum.

The referendum would amend Toledo's city charter to give the lake rights, including the right to exist and flourish, and allow any Toledo resident to legally advocate on its behalf.

Ford

Ford Motor Company says it has hired an outside firm to investigate an issue raised by employees about the company's analytical modeling that is part of the process for establishing fuel economy and emissions compliance.

The issue is highly technical. The company says it is investigating the employee concern regarding the "road load" specifications used during testing done on a machine called a dynamometer.

PFAS sites in Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

PFAS discharges from Kalamazoo's wastewater treatment plant are now under the state limit of 12 parts per trillion for surface water.

That's down from a high of about 53 parts per trillion last summer.

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A number of environmental groups, Democratic politicians, and citizens who live in areas contaminated with PFAS are criticizing Thursday's PFAS Action Plan announcement by the U.S. EPA.

PFAS is a class of chemicals linked to health problems that's contaminating many drinking water systems.  

wikimedia

A new University of Michigan study finds that doctors frequently send discharged patients home with a prescription for risky antibiotics. That's even when the patients were taking less risky antibiotics in the hospital.

The study looked at people who were hospitalized for urinary tract infections or pneumonia.

The risky antibiotics include Ciprofloxacin (often just called Cipro), Leviquin and generic drugs ending in "floxacin."

Honda

Honda, Ford and Mazda are working against time to find owners of cars with potentially deadly Takata airbags.

These are old vehicles - made in 2001 to 2003, in Honda's case - with the very earliest versions of the defective air bags, known as "alpha" airbags.

Chris Martin of Honda says the propellant in the airbags becomes unstable over time when exposed to heat and humidity.

He says there's up to a 50% chance the airbags will explode in an accident.

Bridge and frozen river in Portland, MI
Courtesy of Jessica Dorsky

The city of Portland evacuated more residents as severe flooding from the Grand River got worse.

The town is about 25 miles northwest of Lansing.

About 50 people were evacuated Tuesday when ice and water began pouring over the banks along North Water Street.

MSU

The University of Michigan has established a commission on achieving carbon neutrality, to help fight climate change. 

But student activists say the process is already deeply flawed.  

Carbon neutrality means reducing carbon emissions as much as possible, and balancing what's left with actions like planting forests, which absorb carbon, or buying credits with renewable energy companies.

Wikicommons

John Dingell,  the longest-serving member of Congress in American history, died Thursday of cancer at age 92.

General Motors

It's been a couple days of good and bad news for General Motors employees.

GM announced Tuesday it's adding a thousand workers to build heavy duty trucks at its Flint Assembly plant. That's just as the automaker begins laying off 4,000 white collar workers, over the next two weeks.

Michael Mazengarb / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Circuit West, an experimental green energy development in Grand Rapids, now has an energy storage component.  

Circuit West is described by developers as "a 13-block hub of innovative electricity generation, distribution and storage and energy efficient building construction."

The storage is in the form of large cabinet-sized batteries that can store more than an hour's worth of the energy being produced by existing solar panels.

Roger Lin is with NEC Energy Solutions, which is providing the batteries for the pilot project with Consumers Energy.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update: Thursday, January 31, 5:09 p.m.

Consumers Energy says residential customers can turn their thermostats back up after midnight on Thursday. The utility requests that people keep their thermostats at 65 degrees or below until midnight.

Original post: Thursday January 31, 7:20 a.m.  

Frigid temperatures across the Midwest are putting stress on the electric grid for Michigan and part or all of 14 other states.

MISO - the group which runs the electric grid for the region - declared a "maximum generation event" Wednesday.

That means electric demand is very high, so utilities are being asked to take a number of steps to conserve electricity - including urging customers to reduce their electricity usage.

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