From Line 5 to PFAS: The best of the Advance’s environmental reporting

By: - December 23, 2019 8:55 am

Mackinac Bridge | Susan J. Demas

Quotable of the Year:

“If you’re a state like Michigan or Minnesota, and you’re looking at two of the greatest lakes in the world, being faced with the possibility of an Enbridge oil spill [from] some 50- or 60-year -old pipelines, you’d be pretty worried. And you should be.”

— Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth

Susan J. Demas graphic

In the last days of 2019, the Advance is running a series of our best stories from a few of the many issues we cover, from the environment to the 2020 election. With more than 2,000 stories to choose from, it was hard to pare the list down.

Here’s our roundup of our top environmental stories:

Line 5

One of our first stories of the year was on Line 5, with newly inaugurated Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asking Attorney General Dana Nessel to issue an opinion on Enbridge’s tunnel approved during Lame Duck.

Whitmer, Nessel push back on Snyder’s Line 5 plan

Just a few weeks ago, the Advance did a deep dive into issues with Line 5, Minnesota’s Line 3 and how the two oil pipelines have become an issue in the 2020 presidential race.

Whitmer looks beyond Line 5 with new task force as Enbridge files suit

State government

As part of our “Inside Michigan Government” series, the Advance sat down with Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

Whitmer joins 19 governors fighting climate change, shakes up environmental oversight

Micheconomy columnist Rick Haglund wrote about Republicans and business interests were misguided to fight Whitmer on environmental measures early on in the year.

Rick Haglund: Biz groups fighting Whitmer’s environmental agenda fail to see big economic picture

We also talked with Ninah Sasy, a Flint native and EGLE’s first clean water public advocate, about the Flint water crisis and other water safety issues for communities.

Flint water meets state, federal standards for 3rd straight year 

Climate change and environmental justice

Detroit residents talked about the environmental and health hazards they’ve long lived with during a congressional hearing.

Michigan residents decry environmental injustice at Detroit congressional hearing

You might think that the Sun Belt will feel the effects of climate change more than Michigan, but a new study shows that more heat-related deaths are projected in Detroit than in cities like Atlanta or Houston.

U.S. House passes climate bill in a rebuke to Trump

After taking over the U.S. House this year, Democrats wasted no time in crafting legislation to fight climate change, including a bill that would force President Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement.

U.S. House passes climate bill in a rebuke to Trump

And cities across the country and in Michigan held climate strike events, fueled by young activists.

Activists demand bold action at Lansing climate strike


Congress has held a number of hearings on PFAS, chemicals found in a number household items, and its impact on drinking water. Corporations like 3M have been a focus.

‘This is ridiculous’ — Michigan lawmakers slam corporations on PFAS

One of the most contaminated sites in Michigan is the former Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda. The Advance reported from the town and how it’s dealing with health issues and the hit to outdoor tourism.

Oscoda residents vent to Air Force brass about PFAS worries

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.