DETROIT—Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) released the following statement regarding ongoing concerns from Detroit residents that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is not keeping its community benefits promises while it seeks to secure a new air pollution permit for the purpose of expanding its Jefferson North and Mack Avenue complex:
“From the beginning of the Fiat Chrysler community benefits process on Detroit’s east side, I have called for a strong, enforceable community benefits agreement that prioritizes the health, environmental, and economic wellbeing of the residents who live in the shadow of this massive complex, including the residents on Beniteau and other nearby streets most closely impacted.
“I have continued to stand with these brave residents as they have demanded stronger commitments from one of the world’s wealthiest companies in the face of pressure to just accept what they were given and move on. The Beniteau Residents seeking justice have bravely told the city and FCA that they feel the community benefits process did not represent their interests, that the impacts of the FCA expansion on health and quality of life were largely ignored and are only getting worse, and that the money set aside for home repair and the hoops residents have to jump through to access it amount to a failure to address their needs.
“I have also heard directly from residents living in the shadow of FCA, and their stories, like those below, are heartbreaking:
- A resident named Robert described how FCA’s increased pollution puts him and his family at risk: “I’m a cancer patient… I have a son who has had a kidney transplant. So we’re, you know, we’re people that are high risk for COVID, and you’re going to put us at higher risk. This is an asthma community. I mean, because we have little means and little support, we’re just bring walked over… No one has stepped forward to try to do anything to make our homes safe to live in. And that’s what we’ve been asking for.”
- A resident named D’Angelo described the feeling amongst the community about having to live with FCA’s pollution: “You know, it just don’t make no sense man. That we gone have to put up with the rest of our lives as long as we’re staying on Beniteau. You know, that’s not a healthy environment… It’s about our health, more important than money. And our kids gotta breathe this stuff in. It’s just… they don’t care… they don’t care. I guess we don’t have a voice.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has only further exposed the inadequacy of the FCA community benefits agreement. It is time to listen to the residents on Beniteau street and elsewhere in the impact zone and come back to the table to negotiate better benefits for residents. I have heard firsthand from residents who feel like they’re being ignored and pushed out and it’s time FCA actually heard those concerns and addressed them properly.
“We now know that air pollutants can increase the risk for COVID-19, and it is no coincidence that the Detroit communities hardest hit by COVID-19 overlap significantly with those communities most exposed to air pollution—including the community living and breathing the air FCA pollutes every day. These residents need protection from air pollution today, and it means FCA must pony up the money necessary to repair and replace roofs, windows, furnaces, air filtration systems, and other tools to keep our residents safe and breathing clean air. These are the benefits residents originally demanded and have been functionally denied.
“FCA has asked the State Department of Energy, Great Lakes, and Environment (EGLE) for approval of a permit that would allow it to increase pollution in these vulnerable neighborhoods, and EGLE is holding a public comment period until September 18th, 2020. Members of our community can submit comments online at bit.ly/FCAPaintComment by clicking on “Submit Comment” under the heading FCA US, LLC Jefferson North Assembly Plant and Detroit Assembly Complex Mack Plant – Permit to Install Application Nos. 33-20 and 14-19A. If you would rather leave a comment by voicemail, you can call 517-284-0900.
“Thus far, residents on Beniteau and nearby streets surrounding FCA have not received what they were promised, and there could not be more urgency for action. We aren’t going anywhere and we won’t stop fighting for what’s right.”