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US EPA to investigate alleged civil rights violations of residents near Detroit Jeep plant

A silver Jeep is in the process of being assembled at the Stellantis Jeep plant in Detroit.
The U.S. EPA will investigate if state environmental regulators violated the civil rights of residents near the Stellantis Jeep plant in Detroit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will investigate whether state regulators discriminated against people living near a Detroit factory.

Residents near the Stellantis Jeep plant say regulators did not consider if the plant would add to already high air pollution levels in the majority-black neighborhood, resulting in a disproportionate impact of pollution on a racial group.

Nick Leonard is Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.

"These communities have some of the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the state," he said. "It's a question of who's going to bear the risk of these plants, and is it going to be disproportionately borne by people of color."

Leonard said it's possible the EPA could decide there should be no new factories built near the residents, or Stellantis might be required to add more pollution control technology.

Stellantis declined to comment.

"Michigan EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) looks forward to EPA’s review of Michigan permitting decisions and processes," spokeswoman Jill Greenberg said in a statement, "to ensure that the state is doing everything within its authority to protect vulnerable communities, and to receive guidance from EPA in doing so most effectively."

There are several other disputes in Michigan that allege similar issues of disproportionate impact of pollution on residents based on their race, including an appeal of a state permit issued to Ajax Materials Corp for its hot mix asphalt plant in Flint, as reported by the Detroit News.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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