The Michigan Environmental Council was a convener of communities in 2011, amplifying the voices of members and allies to establish public policies fostering environmental and social justice.
Every Michigan resident has the right to healthy air and clean water. Furthering an environmental justice ethic helps provide equal protection from pollutants for all communities, regardless of race, religion or national origin. Still, many Michigan populations continue to suffer disproportionately from disease, hardship and substandard services that are the fallout from industrial pollution and institutional and political neglect.
Our Detroit office, in particular, was critical in moving toward state and local policies that embrace justice and fairness:
• MEC was a key player in the Zero Waste Detroit (ZWD) coalition that is seeking smarter, safer and less expensive solutions to the city’s massive incinerator—the world’s largest municipal trash burner. ZWD helped halt the issuance of more than $4 million in brownfield credits to the incinerator’s operator until pollution and odor violations are addressed, and worked with the Department of Environmental Quality to create a resident complaint log to notify the agency of particulate fallout and odors from the incinerator. The coalition also helped establish curbside recycling in the Bagley community—the third neighborhood in the fledging but important program.
• MEC worked to connect community voices in Detroit to city leaders through the Detroit Works Project long-term planning process. MEC’s Sandra Turner-Handy was appointed a process leader in the environmental field and completed the project’s Ambassador Program. During the year, she played a key role in developing a civic engagement process to identify the city’s assets, strengths, neighborhood building blocks and citywide strategies to raise the quality of life in Detroit. MEC hopes the civic engagement model being developed can serve as a model for other cities across the nation.
• MEC helped develop environmental justice (EJ) metrics for the Department of Environmental Quality and encouraged the agency to implement the state’s EJ Directive. MEC was part of a broad coalition that secured adoption of the state’s EJ Directive in 2009. Meeting with Detroit city leaders, MEC helped compile analyses for the city’s State of the Environment report, which will serve as a guideline as the city moves to create thriving neighborhoods with smart land use decisions.
• MEC contributed to an educational campaign to inform the city’s Charter Commission of environmental hazards and safe practices. Those efforts helped provide the impetus for green sustainable technologies to be part of the city’s new charter. It also helped move Detroit toward sustainable practices and green technologies in its decision-making process.
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