Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This does not help Detroit's value proposition.

Incinerator across the freeway from Golightly Middle School (large building on right)

Equal opportunity housing between John R and I-75.

Incinerator behind University Prep Middle School (in foreground)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Help Save the EPA!

*Check out Green for All's real-time health impacts tracker on the cost of delaying EPA's new baseline standards for power plant emissions.

Between today and tomorrow morning, we need as many people as possible to call U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Senator Carl Levin and urge them to VOTE NO on all of the following Amendments that would prohibit the EPA from regulating limits on carbon dioxide and other dangerous pollutants emissions.
These severe attacks will result in more children in hospitals attached to respirators, and more seniors' lives will be put at risk from heat waves and severe weather.

Three votes on EPA Amendments are to take place tomorrow, Wednesday, March 30, 2011.

1) Under lobbying pressure from the coal industry and oil refineries, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has proposed an Amendment in the Small Business bill (S.493) to ban the EPA from regulating Green House Gas emissions.

In essence, his bill would overturn the scientifically-based endangerment finding and the 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Language of the proposed Amendment (S.AMDT.244):

"To prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change."

2) Senator John D. Rockefeller amendment (S.AMDT 215) would establish a 2 year delay in establishing green house gas regulations implemented by the EPA, which would also be part of the Small Business bill (S.493) - HIGHEST PRIORITY

Language of the Amendment (S.AMDT. 215):

(a) In General.--Except as provided in subsection (b), notwithstanding any provision of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.), until the end of the 2-year period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency may not take any action under the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.) with respect to any stationary source permitting requirement or any requirement under section 111 of that Act (42 U.S.C. 7411) relating to carbon dioxide or methane.

(b) Exceptions.--Subsections (a) and (c) shall not apply to--
(1) any action under part A of title II of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7521 et seq.) relating to the vehicle emissions standards;
(2) any action relating to the preparation of a report or the enforcement of a reporting requirement; or
(3) any action relating to the provision of technical support at the request of a State.

(c) Treatment.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no action taken by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency before the end of the 2-year period described in subsection (a) (including any action taken before the date of enactment of this Act) shall be considered to make carbon dioxide or methane a pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.) for any source other than a new motor vehicle or new motor vehicle engine, as described in section 202(a) of that Act (42 U.S.C. 7521(a)).

3) Senator Max Baucus introduced an Amendment to the Small Business bill (S. 493) that would exempt industrial and agriculture sources from greenhouse gas regulation under state permitting programs.


These are very dangerous amendments that will undoubtedly adversely impact urban and rural communities. It is imperative that we make at least 100 calls to both offices.

Please circulate widely.

Contact information

Senator Debbie Stabenow

Washington office: (202) 224-4822

Contact: Matt Vankuiken

Senator Carl Levin

Washington office: (202) 224-6221

Contact: Alice Yates or Dia Kirby

Sample phone script
Hello, my name is ________________, and I’m from [CITY].
[Give a brief description of yourself: I am a doctor/nurse/business owner/teacher/mother/ father/grandmother/grandfather/person with asthma/parent of a child with asthma/etc.]
I’m calling to urge Senator ________________ to vote NO on any measure that limits the EPA’s ability to do its job of protecting the public health.
The EPA has the important job of protecting the public – especially our children – from dangerous pollution.
That’s why the American Lung Association and other health groups are calling on Congress to protect the EPA.
I urge Senator ________________ to oppose any efforts to weaken the EPA.
Any delay or attempt to limit the EPA’s ability to do its job is a step in the wrong direction.
Thank you.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kimberly Hill, Government Relations, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice at (313) 833-3935.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Updates on the Detroit Incinerator and Detroit Urban Ag policy

Sandra here - I went to the Green Task Force Meeting this afternoon. Unfortunately I arrived late and missed the Water Subcommittee report out, but got clarification on some really important issues about the Incinerator and Urban Ag policy.

The battle over the Detroit incinerator - some say the world's largest municipal solid waste incinerator - has been going on since it was first proposed and built in the 1980s during Coleman Young's administration. After decades of tangled contracts and subcontracts, with separate entities owning the land, owning the facility, operating the facility, collecting the garbage, selling the steam, repackaging the steam, distributing the steam (whew!)... the facility, operations, and steam loop have all come under one Canadian company called Atlas Holdings, which calls the grouping Detroit Renewable Power.

Detroit Renewable Power packaged the steam distribution together with the incinerator and is currently pursuing a combination of local and state tax abatements totaling over $14 million. They are also pursuing a state bond issued on their behalf to the tune of $75 million. Now, the state does not guarantee that bond and it would be sold to private investors. But it would be exempt from taxes because they'd use the state's bonding authority.

Brad Van Guilder (Ecology Center) noted that the history of this type of deal is suspect - the $80 million in state bonds was for another incinerator in Dearborn Heights. The whole project went bankrupt in three years and the private investors lost 100% of their investment. (Makes me think we should just go ahead and let 'em get the state bonds ^_^).

DRP is seeking $325,000 for the steam loop and $4.1 million for the incinerator in state brownfield tax credits. We all know that Gov. Snyder put out a budget that cuts the brownfield credits, but left a $50 million set aside for projects already in the pipeline. The Incinerator nosed in just before the deadline. If an important credit like the brownfield tax credit (which helped make nearly every single redevelopment in the city possible, from the Riverwalk to the Oddfellows Hall to the Book Cadillac) is going to be capped, not a penny should go to a stinky, cancer-causing, asthma-inducing incinerator!

Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority passed it over to the Community Advisory board, which approved the credits for the steam loop, but decided to have a public hearing for the incinerator - that's the meeting liveblogged in the previous entry. After hearing people speak, the Community Advisory board voted 5-2 to approve the tax credits, and now it goes to City Council for approval.

During the public comment period at the hearing on 3/17, we heard from neighborhood residents, Zero Waste Detroit, and incinerator employees. Residents living near the facility spoke of their children's asthma, members of Zero Waste Detroit questioned the incinerator's eligibility for public subsidies and pushed for a recycling-based alternative to solid waste disposal that would create more and safer jobs, and employees spoke of the positive changes at the facility since the change in ownership, that they had never had any asthma problems inside the facility, and that the city needed jobs at any cost.

Simone Sagovac of Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision later pointed out that workers inside the facility wouldn't be exposed to the air emissions the way the surrounding neighborhood residents and school children would.

Brad and Margie Weber from Rosedale Recycles pointed out the artificial linking of the steam loop (which can run independently of the incinerator) with the incinerator for the state brownfield tax credits. Brad also questioned whether the proposed activity (which has not been described to the public) was eligible for public subsidy, noting that not only does the incinerator not produce a public benefit, but could operate without the subsidy.

Margie also said that the Incinerator is a financial mess for the city since it requires Detroit residents to pay for trash disposal at a rate of $170/ton while suburban cities are sending their trash to our incinerator for $30/ton.

Ahimna Maxey from East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Sandra Turner-Handy of Michigan Environmental Council, and Michelle Martinez from Sierra Club acknowledged the need for economic development and jobs in the city, but passionately spoke of the need to encourage clean, healthy industries that don't sacrifice the wellbeing of the city's residents for jobs.

Resident Ophelia Owens, member of the Community advisory board to the DBRA, nearly walked out in frustration after testifying about her entire family's problems with asthma and her own inability to work because of severe asthma problems.

Now that the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority has approved the project for credits, the next step is a hearing at the Planning and Economic Development Committee of City Council at 10am, April 28 at the Coleman A Young Municipal Center.


Right to Farm

Right to Farm is a state law originally intended to protect existing farms from nuisance complaints by encroaching businesses and residents sprawling out into the suburbs and exurbs. As long as a farm is in compliance with generally accepted agricultural management practices (GAAMPS), they are protected by the law. The Act actually prohibits local farming regulations that would be stricter than the state regulations.

However, now that the City of Detroit is considering various commercial farming proposals, the situation is flipped: the City needs to be able to protect existing residents and businesses from encroaching farms coming into an urban area.

Kathryn Underwood from the City Planning Commission has been spearheading the City's urban agriculture policy efforts, and reported that Detroit would need an amendment to Right to Farm that allowed an exemption for cities of a certain size. Professors John Mogk and Komi Pathukuchi from Wayne State University are assisting with efforts to pass legislation introduced by Reps. Gabe Leland, D-Detroit, and Mike Huckleberry, D-Greenville in 2010 to exempt Detroit from the Right to Farm Act.

Both the Farm Bureau and the Department of Agriculture oppose exempting Detroit from the Act. The Farm Bureau argues that it is important for farmers to be regulated by a consistent set of rules, and not a patchwork of rules that changes by location. If necessary, the Farm Bureau recommends that Detroit use the established process of enacting additional ordinances subject to review by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture. Both the Farm Bureau and the Dept. of Ag. believe that the standards set by the GAAMPs are adequate to regulate farms for environmental health and safety.

The key is to put in place a policy that both promotes urban agriculture while protecting the city from the environmental stresses of commercial agriculture such as increased soil and water pollution and increased water demands.

Farm Bureau statement:
Great Lakes Echo on 2010 Bill:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

White House Environmental Justice Gathering - December, 2010

In December 2010, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice was invited to attend the historic White House Environmental Justice Gathering.

This event was in response to the Administration's commitment to enforce Executive Order 12898, which charged all federal agencies with making the achievement of environmental justice part of its mission by "identifying and addressing as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority and low income populations" (EPA). The EO established the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on environmental justice, which is made up of 12 federal agencies and chaired by the EPA.

The White House invited over 100 environmental justice leaders from across the country to hear from several cabinet secretaries and to share our testimonies and suggestions about how to involve federal agencies in resolving environmental justice issues.

There were a series of topics that were covered including: Green Jobs, Clean Energy; Legal Framework for Advancing Environmental Justice; Healthy Communities and Climate Adaptation. Many of the federal agencies were enlightened about the diverse environmental hazards confronting low-income and minority communities throughout the country.

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice is committed to working very closely with other environmental justice leaders to make sure that the White House and designated federal agencies are responsive to the myriad of issues that were raised during the Gathering.

We will also engage the White House and federal agencies in strategic discussions about advancing environmental justice through legislation, strengthening green job opportunities in urban communities, as well as mitigating climate change.

- By Kimberly Hill

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference

Hi - Sandra here.

Last month, I spent three days in Washington, DC, for the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference. I was one of four Green For All Academy candidates/fellows on a panel called "Faces of the New Green: Models in Green Jobs Development Among Low-Income Communities & Communities of Color."

(L-R: Eric, Zoe, me, Selim; Rosa took the photo)

Zoe Holloman presented about the work she's doing in Buffalo, NY, with the Massachusetts Avenue Project's Growing Green program, which is doing amazing things like running an aquaponics farm (fish and plants growing together), teaching youth to grow food and sell value-added products (such as "Super Duper Salsa" and "Amazing Chili Starter") at one of the country's largest supermarket chains.

Eric Mathis presented about how his company The JOBS Project is building unexpected relationships with non-traditional allies to initiate alternative energy projects in the middle of COAL COUNTRY in West Virginia.

Selim Sandoval presented on... you know, after two presentations, I'm still not clear what exactly he does, but apparently he and his partner raise a crap-ton of federal money! And he was named to's "40 People Who Are Redefining Green."

I talked about the lessons we've learned about workforce development at DWEJ over the three years we've run our Green Jobs Training Program. These include: engaging industry players/employers from the start, getting recruitment and selection right, staying connected to policy and policymakers, expanding the definition of "green" beyond energy, and focusing on training for legally required certificates (such as HazWOper and Lead/Asbestos Worker), which makes hard-to-employ people very marketable.

Green For All's Academy Coordinator Rosa Gonzalez did an amazing job roping us all in, getting us prepared and facilitating the heck out of our panel. I saw a lot of panels with less than 20 attendants. GFA did their usual spectacular promotions work and got over 200 people signed up for our panel, prompting the conference organizers to ask us to do a repeat session.

This was a good experience - seeing all the really cool things that are happening in other parts of the country (I guess sometimes I need a reminder that there are cool things happening outside of Detroit ^_^), and brainstorming solutions for shared challenges with folks as varied as Goodwill Industries and a latino electrical union from the Southwest US.

It was also really cool to meet other Green For All staff members I've been talking to about Community Benefit Agreements, such as Jeremy Hays, who helped facilitate the High Road Agreements for Seattle and Portland's Better Buildings programs.

This was my favorite exhibit, created by LIUNA. The little figures are all Barbie and Ken (and friends) dolls, in various weatherization installer poses. Very multi-ethnic - DWEJ and Green For All would approve.

I think the only thing that would have really made this better is if the folks who built and run the training program - Donele Wilkins, Roshani Dantas, Domiana Carter, Kinnus Paul - could have gotten the recognition for their work, and show the conference-attenders some of the true blue Detroiters that spearheaded the first really successful (85%+ job placement, baby!) green jobs training program in Detroit.