Civil rights complaint sent to feds over Detroit Jeep plant permits

Residents of an eastern Detroit neighborhood and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center have filed a civil rights complaint with the federal government against Michigan environmental regulators for permits related to the Stellantis Jeep facility, which has been charged with odor nuisance and other violations in recent months .

The complaint, made to US Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan and other officials, alleges that the permits for the city’s first new vehicle assembly plant in three decades constitute discrimination. She is calling for volunteer relocation assistance and additional household repair funds for residents, as well as requiring that Michigan environmental agencies investigate the cumulative effects of pollutants in their permit process.

“The decisions of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (” EGLE “) that allow Stellantis to expand its facilities significantly continue the discriminatory legacy that colored communities must bear the disproportionate burden of industrial pollution, which is caused by the whole of society “according to the complaint of November 8th.

A message requesting comments has been sent to EPA spokespersons.

Jill Greenberg, a spokeswoman for EGLE, said the department “is looking into the complaint and has no further comments at this time”.

The complaint highlights a provision that allows the company to get more pollution at its Detroit facility by reducing emissions at a Warren facility, an issue that has raised allegations of environmental racism as Detroit is an African-American city and Warren is a whiter suburb.

Stellantis, which builds new versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee at its new plant in Mack, previously owned an engine complex on the premises, but the new plant, announced in 2019 with great excitement from area officials and others, is much larger and follows on from that the company’s existing Grand Cherokee plant nearby.

The company said the development, which is credited with creating about 5,000 jobs, would not have happened without offsetting the pollution. The company has stated that its primary focus is on addressing the concerns raised by EGLE in its three violations.

“We take these concerns very seriously and want to get it right. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor and, most importantly, take steps to make the community enjoyable,” the company said.

On Monday, State Senator Stephanie Chang, Detroit, D, US MP Rashida Tlaib, Detroit, D, and Detroit City Council elected Latisha Johnson sent a letter to EGLE Director Liesl Clark, in which they demanded a heavy fine against Stellantis, which led to this formation year out of the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Peugeot manufacturer PSA Group, as well as relocation assistance and a meeting with EGLE.

The lawsuit states that the Mack Plant and the nearby Jefferson North Plant, which together form the Detroit Assembly Complex, “have the potential to emit 1,200 tons of volatile organic compounds each year,” based on 2019 data the Jefferson work and forecasts in the Mack allowed. These compounds include chemicals such as formaldehyde.

More:Tlaib and Chang want Stellantis to pay a heavy fine for smell from Jeep’s Detroit plant

More:As Stellantis violations increase, critics are sounding the alarm over environmental racism

More:Stellantis hires a company to investigate the Mack factory’s odor nuisance, says the equipment was working properly

Nick Leonard, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit, said the pollutants are not to be taken lightly.

“I think they are all worrying. They are all toxic air pollutants for which the state has developed health-based screening models. That generally means they can be potentially carcinogenic, “he said.

The next step for the EPA is to determine if it has an investigation and then open an investigation if it finds it, Leonard said.

“This process can take a long time. That can take years, “said Leonard of such investigations.

The complaint contains the personal experiences of five residents in the neighborhood who describe their struggle with the health effects of living near the plant.

For example, Victoria Thomas, a retired locker room attendant for Detroit Public Schools who has lived on Beniteau since 1983 and occasionally fostered children, now has year-round problems.

“She often wakes up early in the morning with a mild to severe burning sensation in her throat. She has developed a chronic, persistent cough, dry at first, now accompanied by constipation and increased phlegm in her throat. She also has developed chronic watery eyes that year round persist, a symptom that is increasingly being documented in patients with frequent interactions with elevated levels of air pollutants, “the complaint said. She tries unsuccessfully to relieve her symptoms with eye drops and warm compresses.

Contact Eric D. Lawrence: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence. Become a subscriber.

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