MEC commends DEQ decision to maintain oversight of toxic air chemicals
The Michigan Environmental Council applauded the Department of Environmental Quality's announcement this week that it will continue regulating all air emissions of toxic chemicals, noting that the decision will go a long way in ensuring the department fulfills its primary mission of protecting human health and the environment.
Business groups had urged the administration to reduce the number of regulated chemicals from over 1,200 to around 750. The chemicals that would have been deregulated fell into two categories: Some that have not been tested for their impact on public health or their potential to cause cancer, and others that are known to be somewhat toxic but non-carcinogenic.
"The DEQ's decision to continue regulating these chemicals is consistent with the best available science on the health risks of exposure to toxic substances, and it's the right decision for Michigan residents," said James Clift, MEC policy director. "We hope this is a sign that the department is putting its focus back where it belongs, on protecting Michigan's environment and the health of people who live here."
The decision to maintain the air program means the DEQ will continue to assume untested chemicals are fairly toxic. The department also will continue to limit emissions of less-toxic chemicals, since even mildly toxic substances can have significant health impacts if emitted in large enough quantities.
The proposed changes would have had a disproportionate impact on low-income families and communities of color. Numerous studies have shown that residential neighborhoods next to industrial areas tend to have below-average income and have a greater likelihood to be communities of color. Residents in these areas of the state already are at greater risk because Michigan's air program does not take into account the cumulative impacts of multiple pollutants from multiple sources when setting acceptable emissions limits.
Clift noted that the department's decision comes with other positive changes to the air program, including provisions that aim to make it easier for industrial facilities to convert outdated, coal-fired boilers to use cleaner fuels such as natural gas.
Michigan Environmental Council
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