The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Sierra Club Files Lawsuit Against Michigan For Granting Permit to State's ‘Worst Polluter'
Already known as one of Michigan's worst air polluters, you could could argue that Severstal Inc. is the last company that needs a permit to emit more toxins.
But Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) did just that in May, which prompted the Sierra Club and three other petitioners to file a lawsuit Monday in Wayne County Circuit Court. The groups want the court to strike down the Dearborn steel company's permit, citing federal Clean Air Act provisions and actions allowing a state business-promoting agency to intervene with environmental regulators involved in a permit decision.
The permit allows Severstal to release more than 725 times more lead into the air from one portion of the company’s plant, compared to the original permit from 2006, the Detroit Free Press reported prior to the approval. The new permit lets the company pollute at levels already cited more than 30 times in clean air enforcement actions by the DEQ, according to the Sierra Club.
“The decision to grant this permit to pollute violates the Clean Air Act and means families living in Dearborn and Detroit will be breathing more toxic air for years to come,” Rhonda Anderson, the Sierra Club’s senior Detroit organizer, said in a statement.
The South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Association, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice and the Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit also field the suit. Coincidentally, the groups filed the suit the same day that West Chester, OH-based AK Steel bought Severstal for $700 million. That didn't take any eyes off the permit, though.
“It’s outrageous and just wrong to put a corporate polluter's interest ahead of public health,” Tyrone Carter, president of the Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit, said. “There are kids growing up and going to school within sight of this plant who deserve and have a right to be protected from harmful pollution by a company that makes millions of dollars in profits but won’t be required to comply with clean air laws.”
A 90-day review of emissions from a Severstal smokestack two years ago revealed 1,660 violations of state and federal regulations for smoke opacity, which is a measure of particle levels in the smoke. Still, the company received the permit shortly after a visit from Gov. Rick Snyder, in which some alleged the governor received a Russian vase and a $1,000 contribution from Severstal’s top North American official. The chair of the state's Democratic party deemed the permit "backdoor politics at its worst," while Rhonda Anderson of the Sierra Club said it was "an embarrassment" for the state.
“We are doing this for our kids and our grandkids,” said South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Association board member Abdo Bapacker. “Many families in the South End are sick from breathing polluted air.”
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.