FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11th, 2016
Michigan DEQ Fails to Protect Clean Air, Now the EPA is Stepping In
Detroit, MI — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) failed to submit plans to reduce sulfur dioxide air pollution in Wayne County, which violates federal clean air standards.The EPA can now begin drafting federal plans to protect communities in the state exposed to dangerously high levels of the pollutant.
Exposure to sulfur dioxide pollution, which almost entirely comes from coal-fired power plants and to a lesser extent oil refineries, can cause immediate trouble breathing, trigger asthma attacks in adults and children, and send people to the hospital for respiratory emergencies.
“This is good news for people who live in the shadow of industrial pollution in Detroit and downriver,” said Regina Strong, Michigan Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign for the Sierra Club. “Due to the state’s continued inaction, the EPA is moving forward to bring SO2 rates into attainment in this area, which suffers from the highest asthma rates in the state. Now the real work begins. We need the EPA to work quickly on development and implementation of a plan that will lessen the dire impacts of the pollution that continues to put the health of the most vulnerable — children and the elderly — at risk.”
In 2013, the EPA designated a portion of Detroit and Wayne County as failing to meet federal air quality standards for sulfur dioxide. The MDEQ missed the EPA’s April 2015 deadline to submit a plan to address the nonattainment problem (EPA went on to propose 12 additional areas with high levels of sulfur dioxide in February including St. Clair County). To date, only two original states (Florida and Missouri) have submitted plans required by the Clean Air Act to improve air quality.
Detroit and downriver communities, deemed the “Epicenter of Asthma Burden” by the Michigan Department of Community Health, have a long history of enduring the impacts of heavy industrial pollution. According to a 2014 American Lung Association report, Wayne County has the highest number of pediatric asthma cases in Michigan, an asthma hospitalization rate that is three to six times higher than the state as a whole, and the highest state population living in poverty.
“My community deserves relief from the air pollution that impacts our daily lives,” said Michigan State Representative Stephanie Chang. “The EPA notification is definitely a step in the right direction. I urge them to move quickly to implement a plan that will bring SO2 levels into attainment. We cannot delay any longer.”
Since the EPA formally acknowledged the eleven states that have not submitted cleanup plans, under the Clean Air Act, the agency now has two years to design a federal plan to reduce sulfur dioxide air pollution in the designated areas.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.