May 3, 2024 - News

Environmental advocates push for "cumulative impact" rules

Activists surround Donna Givens-Davidson as she speaks with signs that say "We demand clean air," and similar messages.

Donna Givens Davidson of the Eastside Community Network speaks at the press conference, surrounded by advocates. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

Prominent names in environmental justice have formed a group to push for statewide change addressing how pollutants affect residents cumulatively.

The big picture: Joined by Wayne County health director Abdul El-Sayed, advocates launched the Clear the Air Coalition at a press conference Thursday.

  • They want to get legislation enacted attempting to ensure no communities are exposed to pollutants that harm their health at a higher rate than other communities.

What they're saying: Air pollutants are generally measured one by one. But when we breathe them in, all of them hit us at once — yet public policy doesn't reflect that potential "cumulative impact," El-Sayed said in a speech Thursday.

Between the lines: Members of the coalition include longtime environmental activist Donele Wilkins of the Green Door Initiative, Donna Givens Davidson of the Eastside Community Network, Nick Leonard of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, Southwest Detroit activist Theresa Landrum and the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC).

Reality check: There's still a long road to new state regulations. Proposals have been introduced in the past, but the coalition is looking to get new legislation drafted and hasn't yet identified which lawmakers would take the lead, the MEJC's Chris Gilmer-Hill tells Axios.

  • As an example, the advocates point to New Jersey's law, which requires regulators to consider the cumulative health burden of pollutive facilities seeking to open or expand in already polluted areas, per the New Jersey Monitor.

Context: They held Thursday's press conference at Eastside Community Network near the Stellantis plant, which is paying fines for repeated air quality violations in a city with massive environmental racism concerns.

  • Givens Davidson referenced the plant in her speech, saying: "How can we allow this to happen in our community?"
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