89.1 WEMU

Issues Of The Environment: Accountability And Environmental Injustice

Jul 1, 2020

53th District State Rep. Yousef Rabhi
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

In 2019, a pair of state lawmakers introduced companion bills that would create environmental accountability by making polluters responsible for paying for the hazards they create.  State Senator Jeff Irwin and State Representative Yousef Rabhi are both Ann Arbor Democrats and have yet to see those measures get consideration in the Republican-led legislature.  Now, as we address systemic racism, environmental justice has to be a part of the conversation.  Representative Rabhi joined WEMU’s David Fair to discuss environmental accountability at the intersection of race and socioeconomics. 


Overview

  • Local and national protests are calling for real changes to correct for racism in the United States.  One way that racism plays out is through environmental inequality.  The abandonment of polluted properties in poor (and often minority dense) cities is one way that environmental racism manifests.
  • EGLE has previously identified more than 7,000 sites across Michigan that require cleanup with more likely to be identified.  Michigan HB 4212 aims to shift the burden for cleaning up pollution back onto the corporations that are responsible.  This is one way to correct for inequality, where the poor and vulnerable pay the price for corporate profit.
  • House Bill 5814 -- which could go further to protect taxpayers from businesses walking away from contaminated sites -- this bill package would upgrade Michigan’s economy and environment to the 21st century.  It brings greener priorities, businesses and resident protections to a 30-year-old law.
  • Yousef Rabhi, Michigan House Representative, 53rd district, is working to introduce legislation that keeps Michigan clean, healthy, beautiful, and liveable for every citizen.  Assessing adequate responsibility for pollution and solid waste management is part of that plan.

Protecting Michigan Citizens from Hazardous Waste Contamination

  • In addition to the recently discovered hexavalent chromium contaminated site in the city of Madison Heights and the potentially contaminated sites in Detroit, and Sanilac County, there are approximately 7,000 known contaminated sites.
  • To protect Michigan’s citizens and natural resources, corporations and bad actors must be held accountable to properly transport, store and dispose of their hazardous waste, and when required thoroughly remediate rather than simply contain contaminated sites.
  • Following the recent introduction of polluter pay legislation—HB 4212 and SB 116—Michigan House Democrats will introduce additional legislation in the coming weeks and months to strengthen our environmental protection laws, including significantly increasing penalties and bonding requirements, restricting new permits for known polluters and helping to address the thousands of orphaned sites across the state.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu