The impact of air pollution and water contamination is highlighted by environmental racism which affects the health and wellbeing of Flint and the Tri-Cities communities (Ecouse, River Rouge & Detroit).
Michigan United Environmental Justice (EJ) work has been mostly focused in Southeast Michigan where it has been campaigning to address the horrific pollution impact into three bordering communities that are overburdened by polluting industries in Michigan. They are Detroit 48217 and the adjacent small towns of River Rouge 48218 and Ecorse 48229. Residents in these communities are impacted by a massive tar sands oil refinery, several steel mills, a huge municipal water and sewerage treatment facility that burns sludge, an auto manufacturing plant, several asphalt production facilities, in addition to 30 facilities that emit enough toxins to be listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s toxic release inventory.
The campaign made a powerful corporation, Marathon its target and after 8 years of campaigning, a win was recorded by the campaign in December 2020 whereby Marathon announced to spend $5million to buyout houses in black neighborhood in SW Detroit.
The EJ campaign will continue to hold targets/decision-makers accountable but this time around, the campaign will not just find one target and campaign against since it takes many years just to get a win against one company and there are over 27 companies polluting in the area.
Moving forward, the campaign will focus on pushing City Commissions to declare a climate emergency and commit to a community-based carbon neutrality action plan. This approach will hold all the companies accountable at once and will address the pollution issue in a holistic manner in the respective cities. The community base action plan will address the pollution and other environmental, social and economic issues in the respective cities within a certain timeline.
Also, even if all the cities in Michigan commit to a carbon neutrality action plan, implementation of such an action plan will not be possible because of existing State Laws. So, Michigan United will be leading a Statewide Coalition to organize and campaign for legislative reform to make it easier for cities and municipalities to be able to move forward with the implementation of their carbon neutrality action plans. Some cities with carbon neutrality action plans like Ann Arbor cannot move forward with implementation because of existing state laws which makes for example municipalization of energy very difficult. This statewide legislative campaign will target those existing laws which makes implantation of carbon neutrality action plan difficult in the State of Michigan.
In a nutshell, the EJ campaign will focus on (1) Push Cities to declare a climate emergency, commit to community based carbon neutrality action plan (2) Statewide legislative campaign for law reform that will ease the implementation of Cities carbon neutrality action plans.