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.

Andrew Yang
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Andrew Yang isn't shy about being a math nerd. 

And his supporters love it. 

The businessman and Democratic presidential candidate's signature phrase, "I did the math," brings loud cheers, every time, from people at his campaign stops.

Yang, who says "the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian guy who likes math," made a stop in Detroit on Saturday, explaining the centerpiece of his campaign:  a thousand dollar guaranteed monthly income for every American over the age of 18, paid for with taxes on corporations.

Prison wall
Microsoft Images

Geo Group, a private prison company that operates more than 50 prisons across the country, says it will re-open the former North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin.

The facility in the northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan closed in 2011.

Geo Group says it has signed a 10-year, $37 million contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the purpose of housing non-U.S. citizens convicted of immigration offenses and other crimes. 

Because the state doesn't own the facility, it can't block the deal. 

DTE

The Michigan Public Service Commission says DTE Energy can raise residential electricity rates by nearly 9%, starting in May. That's roughly a $6 per month increase for most customers.

The rate increase will pay for infrastructure, including a new billion dollar natural gas plant, plus an increase in the utility's tree-trimming activities. DTE says tree limbs falling onto lines during storms are responsible for a majority of power outages.

But the commission has rejected DTE Energy's proposal to raise fees and slash credits for customers with solar panels.

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Macomb Daily

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith announced his office has filed larceny felony charges against former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger.

Spranger is accused of stealing $1,660 from a 78-year old Warren resident's bank account in March, using the woman's ATM card without her permission.  Spranger was living in the woman's home at the time to provide caregiving services.

Plastic trash on beach
Adobe Stock

Plastic pollution is choking landfills, the oceans - even the air we breathe.

Current recycling programs for plastics are inadequate to deal with the growing problem, according to researchers who testified Tuesday before a U.S. House subcommittee, convened by Michigan Congresswoman Haley Stevens.

Part of the new line 6B pipeline in central Michigan.
Mark Brush ❤️ / Michigan Radio

A new report by an energy watchdog group says companies are betting over a trillion dollars in risky gas pipeline projects.

Global Energy Monitor says these projects are hugely expensive - so the payback is over decades. Climate scientists say we need to stop burning fossil fuels completely by 2050.

IIHS

A car safety group says passengers in the back seat need better seat belt systems. 

David Harkey is President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

He says technology in the front restraint systems of newer model cars tightens the seat belt in the split second after a crash. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Margaret Lewis is a retired court reporter who lives in a big, older home in Highland Park -- the kind you say has "good bones," because it needs some work. 

She's on a fixed income, and she's done just about everything she can think of to lower her utility bills. 

One winter she even turned the thermostat down to 50 degrees.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders says he won't make the same mistake as the Clinton campaign did in 2016, and assume the battleground states of Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania will swing Democratic in 2020. 

President Donald Trump won all five states in 2016.

DOE/public domain

An annual survey by two clean energy organizations, E2 and Clean Energy Trust, says Michigan had 126,081 clean energy jobs in 2018, more than 11 other states in the Midwest region.

More than 65% of the clean energy jobs in Michigan are in energy efficiency, and more than 20% are in advanced transportation, including electric vehicle and battery manufacturing. Nine percent of the jobs are in renewable energy sectors like wind and solar. 

Michigan Radio

Tuesday is an important day for about a thousand Iraqis with final deportation orders. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Advocates for Iraqis in the U.S. who are facing deportation held a press conference on Saturday.

They're urging the federal government to let Iraqis with final orders of deportation appeal to an immigration judge.

They say deportation could be a death sentence, especially for Chaldean Christians.

Democratic Congressman Andy Levin is spearheading the effort.

designer491 / Adobe Stock

Thousands of Michiganders wrongly accused of unemployment fraud have new hope.

That's after the Michigan Supreme Court said two plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the state could go before the Court of Appeals and argue that the state owes them damages.

The case was filed after a faulty computer system at the Michigan unemployment agency mistakenly flagged 40,000 claims as fraudulent between 2013 and 2015.   

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan equipped with Waymo’s fully self-driving technology.
FCA

Seventy-five percent of people are too afraid to ride inside a fully self-driving or autonomous car. That's according to a new survey by the insurance group, AAA.

Greg Brannon is AAA's head of automotive engineering and industry relations. He says media reports about high-profile accidents involving self-driving vehicles drove those fears back up, after they'd fallen a bit in surveys conducted over the past few years.

IIHS

The U.S. trend of raising speed limits has been deadly for many.  A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says higher speed limits have caused 37,000 additional traffic deaths between 1993 and 2017.

Michigan raised speed limits to 75 on some highways in 2017. 40 other states also have a 75 mile per hour speed limit. 

Phil Konstantin / Wikimedia

President Donald Trump continues to threaten to close down the border with Mexico to stop immigrants from reaching the U.S.

Such a move would shut down the U.S. auto industry "within a week," according to Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research.

Nearly every model of vehicle assembled in the U.S. utilizes some parts made in Mexico, and millions of vehicles are assembled in Mexico for export to the U.S.

A shutdown would also hurt many other aspects of the economy, including agriculture, says economist Charles Ballard at Michigan State University.

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 awning
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. 

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