Tracy Samilton

Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.

Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. Before beginning her journalism career, she spent time working as a legal assistant at various firms in the Ann Arbor area.

A newly introduced bill in the state House would allow people to buy shares in a solar array. The concept is called community solar. The bill was introduced by Representative Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton).

Each subscriber would pay a portion of the cost of constructing the solar array, and they would get a credit on their electric bill for the electricity produced.

Ed Rivet is with the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum. 

He says under the bill, 10 or more people or groups could support clean energy even if they can't install their own rooftop solar panels.

That could include renters and condo owners, businesses or places of worship.

The city of Troy faces a second lawsuit alleging its zoning ordinances discriminate against religious groups. 

This time, it's the U.S. Department of Justice suing.  

The justice department lawsuit says Adam Community Center bought a building in one of Troy's business districts, intending to use it as a mosque.  But the city of Troy refused to grant zoning approval for such a use. 

The government says Troy's zoning ordinances treat places of worship worse than nonreligious assemblies, a violation of federal law. 

A newcomer to the auto industry world will produce 100,000 electric delivery vans for Amazon.

Rivian, which has its design and engineering center in Plymouth, Michigan, got its start in 2009.

Amazon says the vans will help it meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2040.

Large investors in Rivian include Amazon, along with Ford Motor Company, and Cox Automotive.

Rivian is also developing an electric sports pickup, and an electric large SUV.

The city of Detroit has installed four public fast-charging stations for electric vehicles near DTE Energy's headquarters downtown.

The project is a collaboration among DTE Energy; General Motors; Planet M, which is the state of Michigan's mobility initiative; and Blue Energy, the supplier of the stations.

The United Auto Workers say General Motors canceled health insurance for more than 49,000 striking workers Monday night, without any notice.

The move means employees will need to sign up for COBRA insurance. COBRA is the federal insurance program for people who are out of work.

The union will have to dig into its strike fund more deeply than it apparently planned because of the decision.

On day two of the United Auto Worker's national strike against General Motors, I caught up with UAW member Jessie Kelly, right after her four-hour shift on the picket line at GM's Warren Tech Center. 

Kelly, a 29-year-old single mom of one, is in a skilled trades apprentice program at GM. It's a long way from her early days with the automaker, when she was a temp. 

More than 49,000 General Motors plant workers are walked off the job starting just before midnight on Sunday. That's after the union failed to reach a deal on a new four-year contract with GM.

On Sunday morning, in a preview of a much bigger planned strike, a maintenance workers union in Flint also represented by the UAW went on the picket line.

“Solidarity forever!” the workers shouted.

This scene is expected to be replicated at all of GM's manufacturing plants around the country.

Update: Sunday, September 15, 11:59 a.m.

The United Auto Workers union says its contract negotiations with General Motors have broken down and its roughly 49,000 members will go on strike just before midnight on Sunday. The union's contract with GM expired Saturday night and union officials said the two sides were far apart on economic issues.

GM issued the following statement on Sunday morning:

“We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways and it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight. We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business.” 

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."

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.

  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.

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.

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.

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."

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