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Daily Audio Newscast - May 16, 2024

News from around the nation.

Audio file

Evacuations underway after barge slammed into Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, causing oil spill; Regional program helps Chicago-area communities become 'EV Ready'; Michigan leaders mark progress in removing lead water lines; First Amendment rights to mass protest under attack in Mississippi and beyond.


The Public News Service Dela Newscast, May the 16th, 2024.

I'm Mike Clifford.

A barge hit the Pelican Island Causeway Wednesday morning, damaging a portion of the bridge and causing an oil spill in the bay.

That from KTRK.

They report the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway is shut down for about six and a half miles.

The closure, a major setback for operations as significant maritime commercial traffic uses the waterway along the Texas coast.

KTRK adds that Galveston County officials confirmed evacuations are underway for anyone who needs to leave Pelican Island, but they warn evacuees might not be able to return in the near future.

And a wave of electric vehicles is coming, and the Chicago Area Metropolitan Mayor's Caucus EV Readiness Program is working with area towns and villages to meet the demand.

More details now in this Energy News Network Solutions Journalism Network, Illinois News Connection collaboration.

State leaders expect there will be one million or more EVs on Illinois roads by 2030.

Edith Mockra with the caucus says local governments receive free technical assistance and training in a variety of critical areas as they work toward the designation of an EV-ready community.

So it doesn't come out of left field like, "Hey, here's a great idea, let's do this."

We've thought about this and we have our municipalities aligned on board, and of our 275 communities, 159 of them have passed a formal resolution saying, you know, "Yes, let's do this."

Mockra says the program was developed from a Department of Energy program called SolSmart, which assisted local and regional governments with planning for a renewable energy economy.

She says EV-ready offers examples of forward-looking policies that make changes in codes to accommodate electric vehicles.

Mark Richardson reporting.

And it's been a decade since the massive fallout from the Flint water crisis.

Now Michigan leaders are highlighting their progress in removing lead lines from the water system to prevent a repeat of history.

Since 2019, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has received more than $85 million from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, or EGLE.

EGLE spokesman Hugh McDermott says the funds given to Detroit are part of more than $216 million in grants to invest in a safer drinking water system.

They're going great guns in Detroit.

They're replacing about 150 a week.

We also wanted to illustrate that there's a lot going on statewide.

Every couple weeks we announce new grants for water infrastructure improvements in communities large and small.

The funding for Michigan's water system update includes a $75 million grant from the American Rescue Plan Act.

That's the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in 2021 in response to the COVID crisis.

Crystal Blair reporting.

Water authorities point out they're also working with a $200 million expansion of the MI Clean Water Plan to help communities across the state ensure safer, cleaner drinking water.

This is Public News Service.

In a blow to free speech and the right to assemble, the U.S.

Supreme Court recently declined to hear a case involving the rights of protest organizers in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Danielle Smith explains.

McKesson v. Doe stemmed from protests over the 2016 police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

A protest organizer faced charges after a police officer was injured by the actions of an unknown protester.

Sealy Gay with Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation says an opinion by the Fifth Circuit now stands that allows an organizer to be held liable for the individual actions of others at a protest based on negligence.

This case without question infringes upon all of our First Amendment rights.

It's incumbent upon us to reject its premise and its intention, which is frankly to scare champions of justice and organizers away from mass protest.

The Fifth Circuit covers Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, and Gay notes that the First Amendment still protects the right to assembly.

And a new round of federal funding is coming North Dakota's way to help plug dozens of abandoned oil wells.

The U.S. Department of the Interior this week awarded $25 million to North Dakota to respond to what's described as legacy pollution. 46 orphaned oil and gas wells will be plugged, along with remediation work in more than 270 contaminated sites.

Curtis Shuck leads the Well Done Foundation, which works with states on capping neglected wells no longer in operation.

He says this work is vital in reducing negative environmental impacts, such as lingering methane leaks.

End of the day, when we walk away from a project, it's hopefully like it was never there.

Beyond protecting air and water resources, federal officials say these projects create good-paying union jobs and pave the way for economic growth.

A number of conservation groups say while these efforts are needed, oil companies that abandoned these sites are being let off the hook.

I'm Mike Moen.

Finally, Minnesota is moving closer to ensuring that all workers are eligible for the state's minimum wage of $10.85 an hour.

The legislature has been taking action on a labor policy bill that includes a provision to essentially do away with minimum wage carve-outs.

That would mean that certain groups of workers, such as those hired by small businesses and employees 18 and younger, would no longer have to settle for the lower wage of $8.85 an hour.

During the Senate floor debate this week, Duluth Democrat Jennifer McEwen defended moves like these.

Our businesses in Minnesota are prepared to have a good quality of life for the people that are working at their businesses.

Republican senators argued that the state is creating a burdensome environment for small business.

This is Mike Clifford for Public News Service, member and listener supported.

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