WUOMFM

Tracy Samilton

Auto Reporter/Producer

Tracy Samilton covers the auto industry, business, 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 on the auto industry 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. 

Ballots being prepared for the recount in Ingham County.
Rick Pluta / MPRN

The Detroit News reports that nearly a third of the precincts in Wayne County - most of them in Detroit - may not be able to be recounted in the presidential recount which began Monday in Michigan, due to broken machines and mistakes by poll workers.

Wayne County starts its recount on Tuesday. From the News:

“It’s not good,” conceded Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade says federal prosecutions of hate crimes will remain a priority in Michigan - even if she herself is replaced by a new administration.

McQuade is U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

She hopes to reassure people who may fear that the government will abandon the prosecution of hate crimes, due the tone of the discourse during the presidential campaign.

wikimedia commons

It's going to take more time and work than originally expected to fix a methane problem at an old Kent County landfill. 

In August, county officials discovered during routine tests that the methane from a landfill next door to the Kentwood City Office Building was migrating outside its perimeter.

Methane is a flammable gas created by the decomposition of organic matter.

Director of Public Works Darwin Baas says the subsequent investigation revealed a surprising amount of methane being produced.

The Packard Plant Project

If you have driven past the derelict Packard Plant in Detroit recently -- that eyesore beloved of Detroit "ruin porn" photographers -- you probably noticed something is different.

Most of the graffiti is gone.

And more improvements for the massive east Detroit property are on the way. Owners say the Packard Plant Project will be the largest historic renovation in North American history - and the third largest globally.

Computer rendering of overpasses at American Center for Mobility.
State of Michigan

Willow Run is more than 330 acres of crumbling concrete and weeds today. 

But the site of the B-24 bomber assembly plant during World War II will soon be transformed  into miles of roads, highways, overpasses, and nighttime lighting, where the self-driving and connected cars of the future will be developed and tested. 

At the groundbreaking Monday, Governor Rick Snyder said the project will keep Michigan in the driver's seat as the world changes.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

The state Department of Environmental Quality has issued an emergency rule establishing a stricter cleanup criteria for 1,4 dioxane, a highly carcinogenic chemical that has polluted Ann Arbor's groundwater for decades.

The plume of contaminated water has been slowly moving in all directions, including towards the Huron River.  It's feared that eventually the contamination could reach Barton Pond, the source of the city's drinking water.

U.S. Attorney

A Detroit immigration attorney accused of bribing a federal special agent is also being accused of defrauding former clients.

Attorney Brad Thomson represents some of Charles Busse's former clients. He says Busse made promises he couldn't keep, filed unnecessary documents, and that some people were deported to their home countries because of his mistakes.

Thomson says given the federal charges facing Busse, there may not be much money left over for his clients, and it may be difficult or impossible to reopen some deported immigrants' cases.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company made $1 billion during the third quarter, down $1.2 billion from its record third quarter earnings last year.

The automaker says the lower profit was driven primarily by three things:

Scio Residents for Safe Water

After waiting three years for the state to issue a stricter cleanup standard for the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane, Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township are done.

The two townships, along with the Sierra Club of Huron Valley, will jointly file a petition next month requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a preliminary assessment for a plume of contaminated groundwater to become a federal Superfund site.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

A frustrated Ann Arbor City Council wants to force a faster cleanup of a plume of groundwater contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.

That's after the chemical was found in surface water near Slauson Middle School.
The contaminated water is slowly spreading under the city of Ann Arbor as well as Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township.  

City leaders say the polluter, Pall Gelman, needs to do a lot more to clean it up.

DOJ

The U.S. Justice Department has charged two people in Detroit with taking bribes in order to defer the deportations of immigrants. 

The government says Detroit attorney Charles Busse took bribes from Iraqi, Mexican, and Albanian immigrants facing deportation, and then paid bribes to Clifton Divers, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The scheme had Divers claiming the clients were confidential government informants in order to get the deportations deferred. 

The crimes allegedly took place between 2009 and 2015.

hands
cliparts

The number of people diagnosed with chlamydia rose 6.4% in Michigan from 2014 to 2015.  In all, there were 47,702 cases of chlamydia last year.

Gonorrhea cases rose 9.8%, with 10,615 people being infected.

But the increase probably doesn't mean that more people are catching STDs, says Katie McComber with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Chloroform was detected in the groundwater at about 5 parts per billion in some tests in Waterworks Park in Ann Arbor.
user UnagiUnagi / Google Maps

State officials have a new water contamination investigation on their hands: what is the source of newly-discovered contaminants found in the groundwater near Slauson Middle School in Ann Arbor?

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality discovered the chemicals trichloroethane and chloroform there after conducting tests for a different chemical - 1,4 dioxane. 

The 1,4 dioxane is a known contaminant from the chemical company Pall-Gelman. The plume of 1,4 dioxane is slowly moving underneath Ann Arbor towards the Huron River.

teenage driver
flickr.com

In the past decade, fatal car crashes for teen drivers ages 18 to 20 haven't declined as much as those for younger teens, ages 15 to 17.

That's according to a study commissioned by Ford Safe Driving for Life, a program to teach teens to be safer drivers.

Jim Graham is Manager of the program.  He says the problem appears to be that more teens are waiting until they are 18 or older to get their license.

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

At long last, the foreclosure crisis is over.

That's according to Daryn Blumquist, Senior Vice President of Attom Data Solutions.  Blumquist says in Michigan, September saw the lowest foreclosure activity since December, 2005. 

Foreclosure activity plummeted 41% from September of 2015.

Bank foreclosures are also no longer being delayed due to a backlog. Blumquist says taking a long time to foreclose caused unintended problems for neighborhoods.

wikipedia/creative commons

Self-driving cars, taxis and buses could pose a threat to the viability of commuter trains and subways,  according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. 

Nicholas Lang of BCG estimates between a third to to half of rail passengers could migrate to self-driving transportation by the year 2040.

One example of how this could happen:  imagine automated mini-buses that seat up to 15 people.  Lang thinks they could be more comfortable, convenient and cheaper than existing public transportation.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Many minority students remain stunned, hurt, and angry, days after racist flyers were found in two buildings on the University of Michigan campus.

One of the flyers called on "Euro-Americans" to "Be White" and "stop living in fear."

Another flyer gave racist reasons why white women should not date black men.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel called a "Community Conversation" meeting on Sunday afternoon to let people express their feelings and thoughts.

Michigan Governor's office

Lt. Governor Brian Calley is returning from a seven-day trade mission to the U.K. and Ireland.

It's the Snyder administration's first-ever trade mission to the U.K. and Ireland. 

Calley says his focus was on discussing Michigan's wealth of talent in engineering, IT, and skilled trades.  The state no longer offers long-term tax breaks to lure foreign businesses, but Calley says that kind of incentive isn't really necessary.

A crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update: 9/28/2016 2:50 p.m.

There appears to be a compromise on funding for Flint that would avoid a potential partial shutdown of the government.  House Republicans say they will allow a vote on U.S. Representative Dan Kildee's amendment to the Water Resources Development Act, providing $170 million to help Flint deal with a lead-tainted water system.

U.S. Senator Gary issued the following statement:

“The people of Flint have waited far too long for Congress to act and finally help put them on the road to recovery. House Republican leadership refused to even go on record supporting Flint as recently as Monday, and I am pleased that under pressure from Senate and House Democrats they are now indicating some willingness to help Flint. I will continue pushing to pass our carefully crafted, fully paid-for agreement that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support as part of WRDA or another legislative vehicle. I have said that Congress can and should help both flooding victims and Flint residents, and I cannot support a government funding bill that prioritizes one state’s emergency over another’s.”

9/27/16

Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted against a bill to keep the federal government funded through December 9, sending the bill to defeat.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow said the bill included $500 million to help victims of flooding in Louisiana, while ignoring residents of Flint, whose water was tainted with lead two years ago.  

Roller coasters may help you get rid of kidney stones.
wikipedia

Sometimes science moves in a mysterious way.

A few years back, urologist David Wartinger, a former Michigan State University professor, saw a student patient who he'd been treating for kidney stones. The patient had just returned from spring break in Florida.

"And he told me, doc, you're not gonna believe this, I went on a roller coaster and I passed a kidney stone. I got right back on the same coaster, I passed another stone. I got back on the coaster a third time and I passed three stones in a row."

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Tesla, the electric car company based in California, is suing Michigan over its law that prohibits direct-to-consumer sales of cars. 

In 2014, the Michigan state legislature essentially Tesla-proofed an existing law at the urging of auto dealers. 

The law makes it clear that car companies can sell their products only through licensed dealers. Tesla sells its cars directly to consumers out of stores it owns. 

Tesla says the Michigan law violates its constitutional right to due process and equal protection, as well as restricting interstate commerce. 

JBleeker / Creative Commons

The Center for Automotive Research says the federal government's plan to impose a 54.5 fuel economy standard by 2025 is likely to result in significant job losses, if gasoline prices remain roughly the same as they are today.

The standard will require automakers to install increasingly sophisticated and expensive technology in new cars.  CAR says consumers won't be able to offset that higher cost through lower prices at the pump.

University of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued federal policy for automated, or self-driving vehicles, to spur innovation while taking a proactive approach to safety.

"Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely.

Reporters getting a closer look at the Chevy Bolt concept.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Many people are open to the idea of buying an electric car, according to a just-released survey by the Consumer Federation of America.

Thirty-six percent of people who don't know much about electric cars said they'd be interested in buying one someday; 57% who do know a fair bit about electric cars said the same.

Unifor members at a rally in Canada
Unifor

Unifor, the union that represents most Canadian auto workers, says it has reached a tentative contract with General Motors after "round the clock negotiations." The strike deadline was 11:59 p.m Monday.

The terms of the deal include a major concession by Unifor, according to the CBC:

A major concession in the talks was an agreement by the union to convert all new employees to a defined contribution pension plan. That's different from the defined benefit plans that legacy employees all have. 

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

Michigan and its Midwest electric grid operator, MISO, believe they've come up with a solution to a potential shortage of electricity that could happen as early as 2018.

That's the year yet another power plant in the grid will shut down (this time in Indiana); Michigan's Consumers Energy shut down six smaller power plants in April. 

The shutdowns mean there might not be enough electricity generation capacity during times of peak demand.

Wind turbines
(courtesy Consumers Energy)

Researcher Markus Hagemann says even he was surprised by the radical degree of change that will be required in energy use in order to limit global warming to a 2 degree Celsius increase.

Hagemann is with NewClimate Institute, a partner with Climate Action Tracker.

The group's research shows that gas and diesel-burning cars and trucks would have to get about 100 miles to the gallon by 2030, and the entire fleet will need to be at least 50% electric by 2050.

A Tesla supercharging station at a Meijer store in Ann Arbor.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

In an administrative hearing, the state of Michigan denied electric car company Tesla of California a dealership license that would permit it to sell cars here.

No one was surprised by the denial, including Tesla.

In 2014, Michigan car dealers successfully lobbied the state Legislature to essentially Tesla-proof a Michigan law that forbids auto manufacturers from selling cars directly to consumers. 

That's Tesla's business model, and dealers see it as an existential threat. 

wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

General Motors has committed to using electricity solely from wind, solar or biogas for all of its 350 operations in 59 countries around the world -- within the next 34 years.

CEO Mary Barra says it "helps us better serve society by reducing environmental impact." 

The automaker says it used about 9 terawatt hours of electricity in 2015 to build its vehicles and power its offices, technical centers and warehouses globally.  A terawatt equals a trillion watts.

Workers at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant will soon be working on larger vehicles.
Sam VarnHagen / Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company is by no means the only automaker moving production of small cars to Mexico.

Ford confirmed this week it will move the last of its small car production to Mexico, where labor costs are significantly lower than in the U.S.  But many other companies have been doing the same.

And suppliers have wasted no time in expanding in Mexico to serve the new factories.

Pages