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Bills would strengthen air quality protections in Michigan


New legislation in the state house would give local governments more power to reject pollution permits

The bill is part of a package aimed at strengthening protections around clean air.

Democratic State Representative Matt Kolezar introduced part of the package. He said when polluters seek permits from the state, local municipalities aren’t given much of a say.

“At the end of the day people that live in their local communities should have a say so in what is going on around them,” Kolezar said.

Kolezar’s bill would allow municipalities to deny air pollution permits as long as they can establish a clear health risk. Locals would not be able to deny a permit simply because they don’t want something in their area.

According to Kolezar, Michigan ranks among the bottom ten states for air quality and needs to do more to protect residents.

The American Lung Association ranks the Detroit metro region as the 12th worst place for particle pollution in the country and according to a US News report Michigan ranks 41st for the amount of toxic chemical pollution generated by the state. 

Another bill in the package would require the state to look at the cumulative impacts of emissions on a given region.

State Representative Abdullah Hammoud is a sponsor on the package. He said currently when factories submit for emission permits the state doesn’t look at the cumulative impact of pollution on a region.

“And so what we’re asking the department to do is look at the cumulative impact. To look at factory A and B and C collectively and determine if their cumulative output is sufficient and if not those permits should not be approved,” Hammoud said.

Hamoud added that the current permitting process offers only a rubber stamp for emission increases.

One final bill in the package would change how town halls around permitting are conducted - and who has to attend them.

Currently, before approving a permit the state will hold a town hall and allow local residents to voice their concerns about increasing emissions.

Representative Hammoud said one of the bills would require corporations to attend town hall meetings after making a permit request to increase emissions.

“They need to be present at these town halls, they need to be present at these committee meetings, so they can hear directly from the community that they are impacting, that they are profiting off of the backs of,” he said.

The bills currently do not currently have bipartisan support but the representatives both said they feel the package is not a partisan issue and should be able to receive some Republican support.