The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center is proud to release its latest report, titled “Furthering Environmental Justice in Air Quality Enforcement with Supplemental Environmental Projects.” The report details how supplemental environmental projects may be used to promote environmental justice in the context of air quality enforcement, the current obstacles in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) policy that prevent the wider use of supplemental environmental projects, and provides recommendations for how the MDEQ’s policy may be amended to better promote environmental justice through the use of supplemental environmental projects.
Supplemental environmental projects are environmentally beneficial projects that a violator agrees to undertake pursuant to an enforcement action that was initiated due to a violation of an air quality standard. For example, a supplemental environmental project may consist of a violator of an air quality standard agreeing to purchase and install a state-of-the-art air filtration system in a nearby school to improve indoor air quality, or agreeing to replace or retrofit old diesel engines in the community to improve outdoor air quality.
Particularly in Michigan, environmental justice communities often prefer that an enforcement action include a supplemental environmental project (SEP) because monetary penalties for air quality violations go to the state general fund and fail to provide community members with any form of redress for the excessive risk they have been exposed to due to the violation. As a result, supplemental environmental projects are a key method to further environmental justice. However, the MDEQ’s current supplemental environmental project actively disincentivizes the inclusion of supplemental environmental projects in negotiated settlements because a settlement with a SEP is inevitably more expensive than a settlement without a SEP. As a result, supplemental environmental projects are an underutilized tool to further environmental justice in Michigan.
This report is meant to serve as a resource for organizations and residents that are interested in how air quality enforcement interacts with the concept of environmental justice, and how supplemental environmental projects may be used to promote environmental justice. It is also meant to serve as a resource for state environmental quality agencies, particularly the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, that are interested in promoting the use of supplemental environmental projects.
Read the full report here:
This report was made possible with funding from the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES), an environmental health sciences core center headquartered at Wayne State University. Please read more about their work at: https://cures.wayne.edu