WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) re-introduced the Cumulative Impacts Act, which would create critical protections for environmental justice and frontline communities overburdened by air and water pollution, building on Congressman Raul Grijalva’s (AZ-07) visionary H.R. 1705, the A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act. The Cumulative Impacts Act would require the EPA to analyze cumulative impacts in permitting decisions under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and deny permit applications unless the applicant can demonstrate a reasonable certainty of no harm to the community or vulnerable groups.
“If these past two months taught us anything, it’s that we need stronger protections against increased air pollution,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “Metro Detroit has some of the highest asthma rates in the country, Wayne County has exceeded sulfur dioxide limits in our air for years, and the State of Michigan and Environmental Protection Agency even worked together to reduce protections from ozone pollution recently. We need to wake up. This legislation will protect and empower our frontline residents living with the devastating effects of climate change and fossil fuel development. The EPA’s permitting process must put people’s health first and we must require cumulative impact analysis to ensure that permits that have a significant impact on our health are denied.”
Cumulative impact analysis looks at all outputs of pollution and toxins in an area collectively to accurately understand the impact on our children and the families who live nearby. Cumulative impacts are the public health and environmental effects of past, present, and future pollution releases. Cumulative impact analysis considers all these impacts in light of sensitive populations and other social factors that may heighten vulnerability to environmental pollution and its associated health risks.
A recent article in the Detroit News highlighted the fight for cumulative impacts analysis in Metro Detroit’s environmental justice communities. For example, Dearborn’s South End is home to an extreme concentration of corporate polluters, including the Ford Rouge Complex, Cleveland Cliffs’ Dearborn Works steel mill, and the Dearborn Industrial Generation power plant—which sit directly across the road from schools, homes, and playgrounds. In the nearby 48217 neighborhood, corporate polluters like Marathon Petroleum have been routinely violating their own permits for years—and now Marathon is seeking to increase its emissions in a community that has been identified as one of the most polluted in Michigan.
“As a resident living in a community with a heavy concentration of corporate polluters, the Cumulative Impacts Act will ensure that our community is not continuously and unfairly overburdened by further industrial proliferation. This law will force the government to do its part in protecting the people it serves by denying additional permits in areas where the air is already hazardous for human health,” said Samra’a Luqman, a community advocate in Dearborn’s South End. “We refuse to continue being the nation’s dumping ground for industries and corporations in the name of corporate greed. My family and our neighbors deserve to breathe clean air and drink clean water as basic human rights, and we need new laws that will put the well-being of impacted communities before the profits of the companies poisoning us.”
“The Cumulative Impacts Act addresses the urgent need to protect frontline communities that bear a heavy burden of pollution, and is an historic step toward environmental justice,” said Kathryn Savoie, Ph.D., Director of Equity and Environmental Justice at the Ecology Center. “It’s critically important that the EPA assess cumulative impacts of pollution, which will lead to better decisions that improve the health and quality of life of overburdened communities.”
“As industry pollution increases, so too do the risks to children living with asthma. Protecting our community’s health should always be a determining factor in the permitting process. We need environmental protections to safeguard people who are the most vulnerable to the effects of pollution and provide them with the critical care they need,” said Joslyn Pettway, Chief Executive Officer of Covenant Community Care.
The legislation is endorsed by a wide range of local organizations, including the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Ecology Center, Eco Works, Clean Water Action, Breathe Free Detroit, Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit, Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Chandler Park Neighborhood Association, Sustainable Community Farms, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint, D2 Solar, We the People Action Fund, We the People of Detroit, Citizens Climate Lobby Detroit, Moms Clean Air Force Michigan, St. Francis Prayer Center (Flint), Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action, Concerned Citizens of South Dearborn, Detroit Hamtramck Coalition for Advancing Healthy Environments, and Covenant Community Care.
The full text of the bill is available here.