Environment Picture

Two-year campaign culminates in Gov. Granholm inking enviro justice directive

Aim is to protect state’s vulnerable citizens from unfair pollution burdens
Efforts to protect low-income neighborhoods and communities of color from unfair effects of pollution were boosted in November when Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed an executive directive promoting environmental justice.

Granholm’s action drew praise from the Campaign for State Action on Environmental Justice (CSAEJ) and its endorsers, including the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC). CSAEJ has waged a grassroots campaign for policy change since 2005.

Studies consistently show that low-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and the health effects that it inflicts. The result is greater rates of childhood asthma, lead poisoning, cancer and myriad other problems in these populations.

Environmental justice is about equal protection from environmental harm for all communities, regardless of race, religion or national origin. CSAEJ supporters had sought the executive directive as an important policy to better protect environmental quality and civil rights in Michigan.

The Campaign for State Action on Environmental Justice kicked off in January 2005 with a packed town hall meeting in Detroit, where residents testified about environmental conditions in their neighborhoods. Communities in Saginaw, Lansing and Grand Rapids also held events and rallies in support of the effort. Thousands of individuals sent postcards to Governor Granholm in support of the goals of the campaign, endorsed by 35 organizations, including Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Ecology Center, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Clean Water Action, and Sierra Club as well as MEC.

Several members of the campaign worked with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Environmental Advisory Committee in a 10-month process to craft recommendations that were forwarded to the governor for executive action in February 2006.

The order directs the DEQ to develop and implement a plan promoting environmental justice in Michigan. It affirms that “state government has an obligation to advance policies that foster environmental justice,” which the executive directive defines as “the fair, non-discriminatory treatment and meaningful involvement of Michigan residents regarding the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”

With this move, Michigan joins states such as New York, New Mexico and California that have similar guidance in place.

“This is a great day for the state of Michigan,” says Donele Wilkins, executive director of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. “This new directive will help support better teamwork across agencies at the state level and produce a safer and healthier environment for communities that are suffering from undue environmental burdens.”
-Kathryn Savoie, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
RELATED TOPICS: environmental justice
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