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

It's Star Wars Night at the Lansing Lugnuts stadium, so there's a big crowd. 

Kids and moms and dads and Lugnuts fans of all sorts line up, get their tickets scanned, snap a photo with a favorite Star Wars character, and then fill the stands to watch the game.

Standing at one of the entrances is a slender, smiling man wearing a straw cowboy hat, scanning tickets.  That's David St. Amant, age 32. 

You can tell there's something different about him from the way his head is bent slightly to one side, and his slow, deliberate speech.

Lee Iacocca at a podium at Ellis Island
Ron Cogswell / Flickr

Automotive legend Lee Iacocca, known best for developing the Ford Mustang and pulling Chrysler back from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1980s, has died. He was 94.

The son of Italian immigrants rose from a modest background to become a household name as CEO of Chrysler Corporation.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Residents are trying to stop a Michigan energy company from building a massive gas plant in Rives Township, a rural area north of Jackson known for its horse farms.

Residents packed a planning commission meeting on Monday. They asked the commission to immediately recommend zoning ordinance changes to the township board to keep Novi Energy from building a 1,800 MW plant.

Shimekia Nichols of Soulardarity
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

A large and mostly dissatisfied crowd attended a Michigan Public Service Commission public meeting in Detroit on Thursday to comment on DTE's first Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

The plan sets out DTE's short-term and long-term plan to ensure reliability and reduce carbon emissions, which are causing global warming.

At a press conference before the meeting, members of environmental groups called the plan inadequate.

solar panels on roof of home
pixabay

In May, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved a new, so-called "inflow/outflow" model for  rooftop solar rates, replacing the former "net metering" scheme.

Solar installation companies say the new rates are slowing demand for rooftop solar already.

Under net metering, people would get a credit for excess energy they put onto the grid, equal to the rate they were being charged for using their utility's electricity.

Protestor holding up a sign that says "Safe Water" at a Flint Water Crisis protest
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After three years, the criminal probe into the Flint water crisis is back to square one.

The Flint Water Crisis prosecution team, working under the aegis of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, has dismissed without prejudice all pending criminal cases brought by the former Office of Special Counsel.

The latest rendering of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority

A state House budget proposal would stop the Michigan Department of Transportation from using taxpayer money on the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.

That's even though Canada is reimbursing Michigan for its expenses.

Anna Heaton is a spokesperson for Business Leaders for Michigan, which is pro-bridge. She says Michigan stands to gain thousands of jobs from the new crossing, not just construction jobs.

Donna Burton / U.S. Government Works

President Donald Trump has backed down, for now, from his threat to impose tariffs on goods from Mexico. But experts say the threat itself was damaging to the corporate world.

Kristin Dziczek is with the Center for Automotive Research. She says tariff threats mean automakers and others that depend on Mexico for trade have trouble planning ahead. They lose time and money focusing on the threat instead of their core business.

Glassdoor.com

Automakers are asking the Trump administration and California to restart negotiations over future fuel economy standards, worried about disruption in their business model if the two sides can't come up with a new, single national standard.  

The problem facing automakers is partly of their own making. Car companies in the U.S. asked a newly elected President Donald Trump to relax the Obama administration's finalized fuel economy standards for 2020 through 2025. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan's two biggest utilities have launched pilot programs to boost the number of electric vehicle charging stations in the state. 

From commuting to longer-distance trips, the programs aim to help electric car owners go anywhere in the state, without worrying about where they will charge the battery next.

DTE Energy and Consumers Energy will offer rebates of $400 to $500 to EV car owners to install home chargers. That roughly covers the equipment cost, but not the electrician's bill. 

Monique Owens

The Eastpointe City Council approved a settlement Monday in a discrimination lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department. 

The city will be the first in Michigan to implement a ranked choice voting system, in which voters designate their top preference among candidates running for office, along with their second and third choices. The decree only applies to city council races.

DEQMIAIR.ORG

The Trump administration says it will allow sales of gasoline with 15% ethanol in it year-round, and it says that will give customers more choices at the pump.

Former administrations banned its sale during the summer, says David DeGennaro of the National Wildlife Federation.

"And that's because ethanol in gasoline actually increases the amount of smog relative to gasoline with no ethanol in it," says DeGennnaro.

Randy Stern / Creative Commons/Flickr

French automaker Renault's board will meet Tuesday to consider a merger offer from Fiat Chrysler.

It would create the largest automaker in the world based on sales, but that's only if Renault's current partner, Nissan, stays in.

wikipedia

A Kent County judge will hear a contested parole case Monday involving an infamous serial killer. Catherine Wood has served nearly 30 years for helping to kill at least five people.

Wood confessed to helping her nursing home co-worker Gwendolyn Graham suffocate at least five elderly and frail residents over the course of three months at the Alpine Manor Nursing Home in Walker, Michigan in 1987.

Phil Konstantin / Wikimedia

Auto analysts say new tariffs against Mexico threatened by President Donald Trump would be  damaging to the auto industry, and make vehicles more expensive for consumers.

Trump has threatened to slap escalating tariffs on Mexico until that country stops undocumented immigrants from reaching and crossing into the U.S.

Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Autotrader.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

An initially emotional Juwan Howard held his first press conference as the new head coach for the University of Michigan's men's basketball program Thursday.  

(Michigan Department of Corrections)

The Michigan Innocence Clinic has filed a motion asking the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its recent decision to deny an appeals hearing for Fred Freeman.

Michigan Innocence Clinic attorney Imran Syed says the Michigan man was wrongfully convicted of murder 32 years ago.

Chelsea Oakes / Creative Commons

Wayne County officials hope a dire new roads study creates some "shock and awe" at the annual policy conference on Mackinac Island this week.

The study puts a staggering three billion dollar price tag on fixing Wayne County's roads and bridges. It says nearly 60% of the county's roads and 31% of the county's bridges are in poor condition.

That's up from 42% just two years ago.

Credit: NOAA derived image from EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3a satellite dat / NOAA

The state of Ohio has stepped into a court battle over whether Lake Erie has legal rights. 

In February, Toledo voters approved the charter amendment by a large margin. The amendment claims city residents have the legal right to protect Lake Erie.

Toledo lies on the shore of the western part of the lake, which is plagued with cyanobacterial blooms, largely caused by fertilizer runoff from farms. In 2014, the city of Toledo briefly shut down its water system, after its Lake Erie water intake was surrounded by a bloom of toxic cyanobacterial.

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

Xcel Energy has reached a settlement with environmental groups that puts it a step further on its ambitious path to zero carbon emissions by 2050.  

Xcel Energy's Northern Michigan Power division provides electricity to 9,000 customers in Michigan. 

The utility also serves customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico.

Mark Stoering, President of Xcel Energy - Michigan and Wisconsin, says the utility proposes to fast-track the retirement of Xcel's remaining coal-burning power plants by 2030. 

prison bars
Flickr user FatMandy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed bills into law that will permit some medically frail and seriously ill inmates to be paroled.

They will be cared for in hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes instead. That means Medicare and Medicaid will pay for the inmates' care, rather than state taxpayer dollars.

Two parents with child
oneinchpunch / Adobe Stock

Dana and Kristy Dumont, a same-sex couple in Michigan, have filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit over whether religious child welfare agencies can decline to help them foster a child.

The lawsuit was filed by St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Melissa and Chad Buck, who fostered and then adopted five children using St. Vincent Catholic Charities' services.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people gathered in Ann Arbor on Wednesday to support abortion rights.

Similar rallies were held across the country. That's after Alabama passed a law last week that makes performing almost all abortions a felony.

Other states have recently adopted bills that ban abortion after six to eight weeks.

Cecile Richards is the former President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She told the crowd to vote against anti-abortion legislators, and  President Trump, in 2020.

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

In yet another sign that invasive Asian carp could be inching closer to Lake Michigan, researchers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have found environmental DNA of two species of carp in a lake that's just a few miles from Lake Michigan.

Environmental DNA comes from things like fish scales. It's an indicator that the fish could be present.

Ford Motor Company's headquarters in Dearborn.
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company has begun a new round of job cuts.

The automaker plans to lay off 7,000 white-collar workers globally by August to "prepare for a fast-changing future."

The company said Monday that the plan will save about $600 million per year by eliminating bureaucracy and increasing the number of workers reporting to each manager. The cut amounts to 10 percent of Ford's global salaried workforce.

Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Autotrader. She says Ford's plan is to wring every penny out of its current operations for future investments.

pipes inside generating station
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

In 2016, Michigan got an important new tool in the growing effort to limit global heating.

The state's new energy law requires regulated utilities, for the first time, to submit long-term strategic plans that include reducing carbon emissions.   

The plans are called Integrated Resource Plans, or IRPs.

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have now submitted their first IRPs, and the plans show that Michigan's two biggest utilities differ on how aggressively to cut carbon emissions.

pothole
Peter Atkins / Adobe Stock

For the next six weeks, Toledo will be on a pothole repair blitz. The plan is to fill 50,000 potholes throughout the city. That's more than twice the number that have been filled so far this year.

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz says Toledo doesn't have quite as bad a pothole problem as some Michigan cities.  

But it's bad enough. 

Wikipedia

Lawsuits against Ford Motor Company over cars with alleged defective transmissions are piling up.

The so-called "dual clutch" transmissions are in 2011 to 2016 Fiestas and 2012 to 2016 Focuses.  

M SEAS

The city of Ann Arbor will ask its co-plaintiffs in a groundwater contamination lawsuit against Pall-Gelman if they should ask the U.S. EPA to add the site to the Superfund program.

The resolution was approved unanimously by Ann Arbor's city council.

Pall-Gelman is the company responsible for contaminating Ann Arbor's groundwater with a chemical called 1,4 dioxane. 

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