Tracy Samilton | Michigan Radio

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.

General Motors

It's "go time" for negotiations on the next four-year contract between Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers union.

The current contract expires September 14th, and, as is usually the case, the union has picked one of the three automakers to set the pattern for the other two.

It's GM's turn this time around. Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader, says she is not surprised, given GM's controversial closure of four U.S. plants.

The union's primary concern is trying to maintain, if not increase, jobs in the U.S., and keep plants open.


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is making a $500,000 grant to expand two pilot projects in northern Michigan.

The program is called the "Behavioral Health Home" initiative. It offers wrap-around services with a team approach to treat both mental and physical health care needs for Medicaid patients with serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance.

user MirkoB / Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes, bad things can lead to good things.

New research by ecologist Cory Suski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests that pollution in the Chicago Area Waterway System is deterring invasive silver carp from moving into Lake Michigan.

Two auto workers on an assembly line

A recession may be on the way in the U.S. - and it may already have arrived in Michigan.

Charles Ballard is an economist at Michigan State University.

He says there has been essentially no job growth in Michigan in the first half of 2019.

led light bulbs on a light blue background
voloshin311 / Adobe Stock

Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe pulled no punches at a kickoff event for the utility's campaign to encourage customers to use less energy in the war against climate change.

"I cannot stress firmly enough that we are in a crisis and must take action right now," she said.  "We can't do this ourselves, we need your help."

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

A new survey from Cox Automotive finds that many people remain concerned that electric vehicles cost more than gasoline powered vehicles.

And they think battery range - the distance an EV can go before it has to recharge - is also a reason not to buy an EV.

Tracy Samilton

  Update, 8/19/19 12:53 pm:  David Coulter took the oath of office early Monday afternoon to become Oakland County Executive, after submitting his resignation as Mayor to the City of Ferndale earlier in the day.

Update, 8/19/19, 9:00 am: Ferndale City Council members voted Monday to accept the resignation of Mayor David Coulter. 

Coulter is quitting four months before the end of his last term to take the top job in Oakland County.

Rep.Rashida Tlaib speaking in front of a group of people
Malak Silmi / Michigan Radio

Updated 9:28 a.m., August 16, 2019:

In a statement, Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) announced she would no longer be traveling to Palestine and Israel. 

Ford Motor Company

Next time you're at the mall or grocery store, look around. You won't see many, if any at all, electric vehicles. Maybe a few hybrids.

But you'll see lots of pickup trucks and big SUVs, which by comparison still merit the derogatory phrase, gas guzzlers.


Climate scientists say global warming will have different effects on different regions in Michigan, and some of those effects may seem counterintuitive.

For one thing, parts of Michigan you might not expect are warming at a faster pace than others.   

That includes Petoskey and Traverse City in the northwest, and Alpena in the northeast.

people holding climate change protest signs
Bob Blob / Unsplash

All this week, Michigan Radio's Environment Report will be focusing on climate change and how it's already affecting us in the state of Michigan, and what's expected to change in the future. It's a huge crisis we face now — and that generations to come will face — and it will affect every aspect of our lives, from what we eat, to how we travel, to how we live inside our homes.

Consumers Energy

An advocacy group says Michigan utilities aren't meeting the business demand for renewables.

Laura Sherman is president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.

She says Michigan utilities charge too much for their voluntary renewable energy programs. She says the programs aren't adequately recognizing that wind and solar are among the cheapest sources of electricity right now.

"It's a markup right now," says Sherman. "If it is the cheapest, then the customers should be reaping the benefit of that cheaper energy, long term."

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

General Motors will close its Warren Transmission plant on Friday.

The plant made transmissions for two vehicles that GM is discontinuing: the Cadillac XTS, and Chevy Malibu.

Plant worker Danielle Murry says GM could have allocated other products to keep the plant open, but chose not to.

She says union workers made painful concessions during the last recession to help GM. 

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Toyota says it will offset 40% of its global warming emissions from its North American operations within three years.

It will do that by buying contracts for new wind and solar projects.

The Toyota commitment is part of an encouraging trend, according to Greg Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable  Energy.

Ped Saunders / Creative Commons

Attorneys who handle accident claims say Michigan's new no fault law has implications for pedestrians and motorcyclists - and could be especially bad for motorcycle riders.

Brandon Hewitt is COO of Michigan Auto Law.

He says motorcyclists injured in a crash with a car can't make a claim on their own car insurance if they are injured.

They can claim only what the car driver's insurance pays out. 

Ford Motor Company

In a surprise move, Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen, Honda, and BMW announced they have struck a deal with California on voluntary fuel economy standards for 2022-26.

That's after the Trump administration said it would move forward with a plan to roll back Obama era standards, freezing them after 2020, despite pleas from the automotive industry and other groups not to do that.

map of Line 5
Enbridge Energy

A tribe in northern Wisconsin is suing Enbridge Energy to try to force the closure of Line 5.

Dylan Jennings is a council member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.  He says the pipeline is an increasing threat to a fragile watershed.

Several environmental, legal and advocacy groups, including the ACLU of Michigan and Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, have petitioned the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to intervene in water shutoffs in Detroit, calling them a public health emergency.

ACLU attorney Mark Fancher says more than 112,000 Detroit households had their water shut off at some point between 2014 and 2018.

Army National Guard / Flickr

Motorcycle riders are greatly overrepresented in U.S. traffic deaths, with more than 5,000 killed each year.

The Governors Highway Safety Association says frequently, when cars and motorcycles are involved in a crash, the drivers of the car said they didn't even see the motorcycle.

The safety group says wearing high-visibility clothing could help to prevent some of those kinds of crashes – but its new study finds many reasons why motorcycle riders don't.

car windshield with large crack
romaset / Adobe Stock

A new study by AAA finds that vehicle escape tools do not work on laminated glass. And fully a third of 2018 vehicle models had laminated glass not just on the front windshield, but all of the side windows.

Vehicle escape tools are intended to help someone break a window if they are trapped in a car, for example, if it catches on fire and the doors won't open, or if the car becomes submerged in water.

AAA tested six different vehicle escape tools. Four were able to break regular tempered glass – the kind that is very common on the side windows of older cars.

A nurse administers a vaccine.
Rhoda Baer / Flickr -

More Michigan parents are requesting vaccination waivers for their children.

The rate dropped to 3.1% in 2015, after a new state law went into effect in 2014, requiring parents who want a waiver to attend a vaccine education session at their county health department.

The rate has since crept up to 3.8% in 2018.

Bob Swanson directs the Immunization Division at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

praewpailyn / adobestock

Michigan is in for a heat wave.  

Weather forecasters say most of southern lower Michigan will be under a heat advisory from Thursday through Saturday, with a heat index well over 100 for many cities.

The heat index combines temperature with humidity to describe how hot it will actually feel.

Brian Wheeler is a spokesman for Consumers Energy.  He says the electric grid is in good shape, and MISO (the grid operator for Michigan) estimates there will be adequate power reserves to meet 2019 summer peak demand.

Public domain

Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib held a press conference on Monday to repeat her call for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

She says the rationale for impeachment should be his inhumane policies and disregard for the Constitution, not what she calls his "racist and xenophobic playbook."

Trump tweeted over the weekend that Tlaib and three other congresswomen of color should "go back and fix the crime infested places from which they came."

Tlaib was born in Detroit.

General Motors

Detroit automakers kick off bargaining talks with the United Auto Workers union this week to negotiate the next four-year contract.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Researchers predict a large cyanobacterial bloom in Lake Erie this year.

But it will probably not be as bad as 2011 and 2015, when the blooms covered a large area of western Lake Erie.


Michigan Senator Gary Peters has joined with other members of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus (AI Caucus) to sponsor a bill going after deepfakes.

Deepfakes are online videos created using sophisticated machine learning software.  They manipulate real content to depict events and statements that did not actually occur.

"They are a very dangerous item that can be weaponized to put out false information," says Peters.  "But if you watch it, you would think, my gosh that must be accurate because I saw them say it myself."

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.