EGLE faces bias complaint over new Jeep factory license in Detroit


Residents living along the perimeter of the new Jeep assembly plant in Detroit filed a civil rights complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, arguing that the state of Michigan discriminated against the predominantly black low-income neighborhood when it approved an emission permit for the facility .

Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has not been diligent, say residents of rue Beniteau, in failing to conduct a cumulative impact assessment of the plant owned by Stellantis NV before approving its license. The result, they say, is discrimination based on race, color and national origin in violation of federal law.

Residents are asking for assistance for people wishing to leave the neighborhood, more money for home repairs and the requirement that EGLE conduct a cumulative impact analysis during the authorization process. Additionally, if it turns out that EGLE has discriminated against and cannot fight the discrimination on purpose, the EPA may decide to terminate the funds or refer the case to the Department of Justice for review. lawsuit, according to a press release on the complaint.

EGLE’s decisions “allowing Stellantis to significantly expand its facilities continue the discriminatory legacy of forcing communities of color to bear the disproportionate burden of industrial pollution generated by society as a whole,” wrote the lawyer Nicholas Leonard of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in the complaint on behalf of five residents.

EGLE is reviewing the complaint, spokeswoman Jill Greenberg said on Tuesday, and has not commented further on it. Stellantis declined to comment on the complaint.

Robots in the basecoat booth of the paint shop at Stellantis' Detroit assembly complex on Mack Avenue apply color to the body of a Jeep Grand Cherokee L. The company has invested $ 1.6 billion dollars to reuse two existing facilities and build a paint shop.

In recent weeks, the Mack assembly plant producing the Jeep Grand Cherokee L three-row SUVs has received three air quality violations EGLE. The violations come after residents complained about strong paint smells and an inspection that found emissions were not properly channeled through equipment that destroys potentially harmful pollutants. The same issue was found at Stellantis’ updated Warren Truck Assembly Plant.

Violations will not necessarily result in penalties. They instigated US Representative Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit; State Senator Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit; and Latisha Johnson, elected District 4 city council member, this week to urge EGLE “to hold Stellantis accountable for the heaviest fine possible that has a real deterrent effect” and a consent decree with an additional environmental project “robust”, including voluntary resettlement assistance and increased home repair assistance.

EGLE Director Liesl Clark confirmed in a statement that she had received the letter and that meetings will be held to discuss the situation: “EGLE welcomes the dialogue with elected representatives of the community, and we are happy to partner with solutions. “

In a statement, Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said of the violations, “Our focus continues to be on resolving these issues.

Including installation of new ducts, hiring a third-party engineering firm find the cause of the odors and set up a community helpline for residents to call with complaints, which the automaker says will help it respond to complaints faster. Elected officials, however, took issue with the hotline and the confusion it created in the community with EGLE’s 24/7 Pollution Emergency Alert System hotline. Complaints filed with this hotline have resulted in violations.

“How, if at all, is the hotline coordinated with EGLE’s accountability efforts? The politicians asked in their letter to EGLE. “For example, is Stellantis obligated to share complaints reported via its hotline directly with EGLE? Are EGLE investigators dispatched after Stellantis receives a call indicating the presence of odors or other public health risks? Can complaints reported to the Stellantis hotline result in EGLE issuing a notice of violation? “

Stellantis is not required to share community hotline information with EGLE, Greenberg said, and EGLE encourages residents to contact the state agency directly at 800-292-4706.

The company has not received any calls to its hotline since it went live on November 1, Tinson said. He intends to share a summary of the information, including descriptions of any complaints, as part of the 90-day report he plans to file with EGLE in January. The automaker says it will then share this information quarterly with the agency and the community.

Residents of Beniteau, whose backyards line the expanded $ 1.6 billion Detroit Assembly Plant site, allege EGLE violated Title VI which requires “that no person in the United States United is not, by reason of race, color or national origin, excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or discriminated against in any program or activity receiving support federal financial.

At the heart of their argument is that the Mack Assembly Plant, which began delivering vehicles to dealerships in June, is having a disproportionate impact on a predominantly black community that already faces increased risks of health issues such as ‘asthma.

In order to get the permit, Stellantis had to cut emissions at another site, as it was increasing them at the old Mack Avenue engine complex with a new paint shop. Plants emit volatile organic compounds which, combined with the atmosphere, create the toxic gas ozone. Southeast Michigan has not met the EPA’s national ambient air quality standard for ground-level ozone since 2018. EGLE may require offsets to be made in the seven-county area, but does not have the power to specify where.

Stellantis has cut emissions at Warren, a move that cuts VOC emissions in southeast Michigan by 30%, according to the company. The Mack plant in Detroit has the lowest volatile organic compound emissions rate of any U.S. assembly plant in the country, the automaker also said.

However, within a mile of the Warren plant, 52% of residents are people of color, compared to 98% around the Detroit plant, according to the Environmental Justice Tracking and Mapping Tool. from the EPA.

“EGLE’s decision,” wrote Leonard, “to issue many of the requested permits for the Stellantis complex in a short period of time, which resulted in a significant increase in air emissions in a low-income community where nearly all residents in less than 1 mile are already people of color inundated by other industrial sources, amounts to discrimination based on race, color and national origin.

The complaint says census tracts surrounding these Stellantis facilities have adult asthma prevalence levels 130% to 176% higher than rates for the state as a whole, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Mack’s factory zip code is one of many in the city with the highest asthma hospitalization rates for adults and children, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“The disparate health impacts that would occur by increasing emissions in a black community with particularly high levels of respiratory disease while decreasing emissions in a community with fewer people of color,” Leonard wrote, “did not taken into account when granting permits “.

By not including an impact assessment when processing the permit, EGLE therefore cannot know whether it is Title VI compliant, Leonard concluded.

“The intention behind EGLE’s decisions allowing Stellantis to further flood a community so vulnerable to the effects of increased levels of pollution may not have been to discriminate,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the effects of their decisions have been to cause considerable and discriminatory harm.”

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble


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