From the Headlines – Week of December 13 – 17, 2021

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The smell: Eastside Detroit residents living near Stellantis’ Jeep assembly plant are enduring odors that smell like gas or paint and complaining of headaches and burning eyes. “Many of them just don’t do basic things like have their grandkids over, have family and friends over. It’s largely just because they’re constantly worried,” said Nick Leonard, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, which is representing several residents in a civil rights complaint against the Environmental Protection Agency. In approving its permit for Stellantis, the complaint alleges that Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), “participated in the creation of a class of internally displaced peoples, forced from their homes by decades of compounding discriminatory decisions that have resulted in this man-made crisis.” But Detroiters aren’t the only ones dealing with these problems. Across the country, African Americans are 75% more likely to live next to industrial facilities like paper mills and asphalt plants. (Vice)

Stellantis responds: At a public meeting Wednesday, Stellantis representatives responded to odor complaints by saying that emissions from its Jeep plant were not a health risk and that the company would address problems with exhaust gases from the facility by the end of the year. Al Johnston, manager of corporate environmental programs for the company, said the company found emissions for particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide at the plant were similar to measurements taken by the state several miles away on east Seven Mile road, suggesting air quality was not any worse near the facility. However, Robert Shobe, who lives next to the plant, questioned where Stellantis was taking its own measurements from. “You’re studying the air three-quarters of a mile from where we live. I’m no scientist, but I’m no fool either,” he said. (Freep) 

Mystery solved? An explanation of sorts has emerged for the eight-foot mound of earth that appeared on Dearborn Street in southwest Detroit in September, damaging a gas main and necessitating the demolition of the Stash Provisioning Center. Detroit Chief Operating Office Hakim Berry said in a statement that the upwelling was the result of a “soil failure”, caused by heavy materials being stored in an area where the ground wasn’t strong enough to hold them. It’s unclear from the statement who was storing these materials, but Berry said the company was operating legally. “(T)his incident and others in Southwest Detroit are causing us to review our ordinances as they relate to top material storage, particularly in the southwest area of the city,” he said. (Crain’s)

Power bill: Michigan legislators voted in favor of a $1 billion fund to attract business to the state after some lawmakers who crafted the legislation took the unorthodox step of signing non-disclosure agreements. The move may be connected to GM’s decision to build a new $2.5 billion battery plant near Lansing. Earlier this year, Ford announced it would open battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky, where public utilities provide cheaper electricity, an advantage for facilities that use far more energy than normal auto plants. Although GM’s new plant will be served by Lansing’s public utility, the new business incentive may be in part an effort to compensate for the high energy costs charged by investor-owned utilities like DTE and Consumers. “This subsidy is covering DTE’s profits and flawed business model,” said Democratic House Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi. (Freep, Deadline Detroit)

Toxic muck: The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is set to receive $1 billion as part of the federal infrastructure bill, but how that money will get doled out by the Environmental Protection Agency is an open question. The Detroit River’s sadly impressive 3 to 4 million cubic yards of toxic sediment would seem to be a major target for a cleanup. But federal funding Michigan receives for toxic sediment clean-up requires the state to provide partial funding to support the project, and those funds are no longer available. “State bond funding to address toxic sediment sites from the Clean Michigan Initiative has been depleted and not replaced,” said Michigan Department of Great Lakes Environment and Energy spokesperson Scott Dean. Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to question how long the GLRI will be needed. Cameron Davis, Great Lakes adviser to the Obama administration, says that such questions assume the lakes are “fixable” without ongoing support. “We are past the point where the Great Lakes can take care of themselves without our intervention,” he said. (Great Lakes Now)


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