Letter from our President and CEO:
In January, I was very excited to be invited to join the Environmental Justice Work Group formed by Governor Snyder. My entire career since the early ’90s has been dedicated to finding ways to advance environmental justice here and across the country. Michigan has been a national leader in research and policy development in environmental justice since 1990.
Cities like Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, and Kalamazoo are in urgent need of transformation and innovation around environmental protections. It’s very unfortunate that the Governor’s initiative was spurred on by a tragic situation around water quality. However, this is a wonderful opportunity to regain momentum on a systemic level. In 2009, a similar work group created an environmental justice plan that has never been implemented. Myself and others in the environmental justice community are hopeful we can build on parts of that work today.
There is, however, one concern I have regarding the recent announcement of the Environmental Justice Work Group composition. The state has not created it in accordance with the Principles of Environmental Justice nor has it created it with balanced voices that will enable the conversation to be heard. As a result, myself and my two other colleagues from the movement who have been appointed to the work group—Dr. Paul Mohai and Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte—recently wrote to the governor expressing our concerns.
You can find our letter here.
I encourage you to express your support for a well-balanced work group to the Governor as well.
Why to attend the public hearing on the incinerator’s air permit violations
Wednesday, March 8, International House, 111 E. Kirby
6 pm information; 7 pm comment period
• The incinerator is located in a low-income community of color. 87% of residents within a mile
are persons of color; 60% live below the federal poverty line. The surrounding community has
a high rate of respiratory illness, particularly asthma, commonly triggered by emissions that
violate the Clean Air Act.
• Less than 20% of the garbage burned at I-94 & I-75 is Detroit garbage; 65% of the garbage
burned at I-94 & I-75 comes from Oakland County
• A low-income community of color bears the environmental and public health burden of burning
municipal solid waste coming mostly from the wealthiest county in the State of Michigan and
one of the wealthiest counties in the United States.
Health impacts of emissions:
• Average emissions from the DRP facility account for approximately 2% of premature deaths,
4% of the hospitalizations, and between 3 and 4% of asthma outcomes among children,
according to analysis of reported emissions data by Community Action to Promote Healthy
• The health impacts attributable to the DRP facility alone cost $2.6 million each year.
Gaps in addressing the violations and deficiencies of the penalty:
• The Violation Notice cites Detroit Renewable Power for 19 distinct air emission violation
incidents, yet the proposed Consent Order addresses only 6.
• The per-day cost of the particulate matter (PM) violations is extremely discounted. PM limits
were exceeded for 64 days and the fine proposed is $8,000, or $125/day. The daily fine for
other violations in the Consent Order is $5,000. 64 days of violation times $5,000 equals
$320,000 alone for PM.
• The incinerator has multiple violations of the Clean Air Act with failure to monitor sulfur dioxide,
carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxides. All of these pollutants are known to harm respiratory
function. These violations should be included in the penalty assessment.
• The draft Consent Order fails to discourage future violations: DRP’s negligence in failure to
perform continuous emissions monitoring, as well as failure to perform cylinder gas audits
should be deemed a History of Noncompliance and Willful Negligence, and a failure of
As drafted with a fine of only $149,000, the draft Consent Order is extremely deficient.
This is your opportunity to speak up:
• for Clean Air for Detroit residents
• for accountability by government agencies that are mandated to protect the public.
Last month, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice partnered with EcoWorks to facilitate a workshop and lead a discussion at the Power Shift Midwest conference. Power Shift is a youth-led national event that holds regional conferences for local environmental organizations to come together and discuss climate justice with young organizer and activists. This year, Power Shift’s Midwest conference was hosted in the Student Center at Wayne State University. Over 100 young activists from all around the midwest attended the conference to discuss energy efficiency and climate justice initiatives taking place in the midwest.
Bryan Lewis, from EcoWorks discussed what it means to genuinely empower youth, and offered some tools for organizers to take home with them and create more effective youth programs, and Leila Mekias from DWEJ discussed organizing the Detroit Youth Climate Summit taking place for its third year this fall. Additionally, Kimberly Hill Knott introduced policy and research projects DWEJ is planning to release this fall like the Detroit Environmental Agenda (DEA) and the Climate Action Plan (CAP) through the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative (DCAC), a DWEJ initiative.
DWEJ employees Kimberly Hill Knott and Leila Mekias explained the importance of DCAC’s work by describing impacts of climate change and environmental issues specific to Detroit, and the unique work DWEJ is doing to tackle these issues by centering the needs of Detroit communities while working with the city government and other big players in Detroit like local universities and businesses to find agreements around climate issues that are right for everyone. Knott and Mekias explained how DWEJ is doing this through creating the CAP and DEA with its partners. One of many goals for these projects is to begin shifting environmental conversations to prioritize communities who need this attention the most.
After the event, Mekias commented, “Climate change threatens the quality-of-life for future generations. We are already seeing the changes, here in Detroit and around the world. It’s crucial to act now to protect and improve our environment for today’s and tomorrow’s youth. That’s why we believe in youth empowerment to act on climate change, and why it was such an honor to work with Power Shift towards our common goals.”
Apart from raising awareness around some of the flaws existing in many environmental and climate justice dialogues, DWEJ and EcoWorks were able to connect with youth dedicated to working for climate justice from around the midwest region and explore future collaborations with them, as well as get a better idea of what kinds of assistance others are looking to DWEJ to provide outside of Detroit and Michigan. Many of the attendees were interested in finding ways to incorporate DCAC’s research into their own efforts and implementing DWEJ’s work model at local organizations in their cities and states.
These conversations reminded us of the importance of our work not only in Detroit and in Michigan, but also in our nation. DWEJ is setting standards for environmental justice and advocacy work, inspiring others to do the same We are confident in the fact that what we bring to the table when collaborating with other key environmental justice organizations is unique, valuable, and necessary to accomplish our goal of achieving environmental justice for all residents of Detroit, while taking part in international conversations about climate change issues that affect everyone.
We had some wonderful folks come out to our most recent Detroit Climate Ambassador gathering on August 20th. Residents of many places in Detroit and its surrounding areas showed up to weigh in on important conversations around how to address climate issues affecting Detroit residents today and in the future.
During this month’s meet up, we were able to accomplish collectively writing a mission statement for the Detroit Climate Ambassador program. Wibke Heymach did an excellent job at facilitated a workshop which provided us with helpful guidelines and key points to highlight and focus on. We discussed creating a mission statement that is specific enough to the program, but that is also broad enough to include all the different types of projects the climate ambassadors are working on now, and will grow into in grow in the future. We split up into two groups, and each group wrote its own mission statement.
After they finished, each group shared their mission statement with the other, and we discussed how to merge our collective ideas. The final statement reads:
The Detroit Climate Ambassadors seek to build resilience to a changing climate by engaging Detroit area residents working collaboratively to center the voices and efforts of Detroit community members in their communities. We seek to connect, prepare, and take action through community-based climate action projects.
We were also able to discuss other relevant topics like the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative’s (DCAC)
Climate Stories project, and the needs and wants of some of our current climate ambassadors. The Climate Stories project, headed by DCAC and the University of Michigan Dearborn is a project that will tell the history of climate change and its impact on the city of Detroit through a documentary. The documentary will include narratives and personal interviews of some of Detroit’s residents. DCAC is looking to the climate ambassadors to share some of their climate-related stories in this project. To prepare resident story-tellers for this, the DCAC team is organizing story-telling workshops that will help people form their stories in a way that allows them to convey what they hope to and have the greatest impact possible on their audience in the time they will be given. The next workshop will be held on September 19th , 6pm at Coffee & ______ (14409 E. Jefferson Avenue). If you have a story to share about climate change and Detroit, come share your story with us, while learning some new skills!
Per the request of the climate ambassadors, we are planning to have information to both hand out and present at our next gathering on different terms used in discussing the effects of the climate change and how these effects are impacting Detroit specifically. By doing this, we will be able to work together more effectively, and we can start projects from here out with the same understanding of what we are up against.
If you’re interested in learning more about the impacting climate change, or want to know how you can be involved, join us at our next climate ambassador meeting Saturday, September 17th. Connect to us through email, or Facebook to stay tuned on further details like location and time for our next meet up, as well as new projects we’ll be working on!
Trump’s plan to burn more coal and increase dangerous pollution a threat to public health
DETROIT – Kimberly Hill Knott, Director of Policy for Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, issued the following statement today in response to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, Aug. 8.
“Mr. Trump’s irresponsible energy plan would threaten the health of Detroiters and families across Michigan. Burning coal spews dangerous pollution into our air and has been linked to premature death, increased asthma rates and other respiratory diseases, especially in low-income and communities of color. All communities deserve clean air to breathe, which is why Trump’s plan to dismantle important air quality protections and increase dangerous pollution is reckless and a major step backward. It is clear that coal company profits are much more important to Trump than the health and well-being of the American people.”
“Mr. Trump’s claim that the ‘war on coal has cost Michigan over 50,000 jobs’ is completely false. Even DTE and Consumers Energy have indicated that no jobs have been lost as a result of coal-plant closures. Moreover, it seems that Mr. Trump doesn’t understand that Michigan is not a producer of coal and we import 100 percent of the coal we burn from other states.”
“Michigan has taken great strides to reduce dangerous pollution from coal-burning power plants by utilizing clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Michigan’s clean energy sector has created more than 87,000 jobs while reducing dangerous pollution and saving lives. We challenge Candidate Trump to meet with environmental justice advocates and see how dangerous pollution threatens the lives of children, families and seniors in low-income communities. We need leaders who will stand up for the most impacted communities and reduce dangerous pollution, not make it worse.”
DWEJ is a nonprofit that champions local and national collaboration to advance environmental justice and sustainable redevelopment by fostering clean, healthy and safe communities through innovative policy, education and workforce initiatives.
This is letter to the editor in response to this Detroit News column: http://www.detroitnews.com/
By Courtney Chennault
The Detroit Climate Ambassadors are on a roll! Thanks to everyone who came to our gathering on Saturday, July 16, at the Congress of Communities on Vernor Highway.
Guest speaker Jeffrey Jones shared his powerful story of how he and his neighbors have addressed environmental challenges in their community, Hope Village. Jones’s day job may be Doing Development Differently in metro Detroit (D4), but much of what also drives his work in his neighborhood is Bounce Back Detroit, organized by him and his wife, Doretha. When they first proposed creating a community rain garden, many people were skeptical. Jones sites the experience of making Hope Village’s rain garden a reality as a great example of how to make positive change in local neighborhoods, even when there are doubters. Hope Village now has not only a beautiful rain garden, but also a “Little Library.” Their “literacy rain garden” has washed away some of the neighborhood’s drug activity, sprouted seeds of camaraderie between neighbors, and supported a budding interest in reading.
Jones also talked about another initiative on the horizon: a transformation of the Davison Cut into a walk/bike path. Jones’s vision is that this area will facilitate safe and emission-free transportation against the backdrop of plants, art, and smiling faces, similar to the Dequindre Cut.
We also heard from University of Michigan Dearborn Assistant Professor Natalie Sampson, who teaches in the Department of Health and Human Services. She discussed an exciting new project in which Detroiters will share their own climate change stories. How have heat, rain, flooding impacted your life? What was that storm really like? What can we do? She’s currently looking for people who are willing to tell their stories. You’ll then learn how to become that fabulous “storyteller” you’ve always wanted to be under the guidance of Chiquita McKenzie. If you’re interested, contact Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, we discussed current green projects to check out in Detroit! These include urban farms, youth-focused nature center projects, a solar beltway, and others.
We now have a standing gathering time: the 3rd Saturday of the month, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. So put the next Detroit Climate Ambassadors gathering on your calendar now: Saturday, August 20, at Detroit Unity Temple, 17505 Second Avenue (basement). In the next month, feel free to dream up some ideas to talk about, some projects to implement, maybe choose one place from the “green project” list below and go see what it looks like.
And then come on back next time—that’s August 20 at 10 a.m.—for some action. Detroit Climate Ambassadors, an initiative of DWEJ’s Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, really are the change in our neighborhoods. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone (and your friends) next month! For more information, email email@example.com.
By Aiko Fukuchi
Thank you to everyone who attended June’s Climate Ambassadors meeting! We covered a lot of ground, discussing topics from energy poverty to which renewable energy sources work best in Detroit!
Alisha Opperman from Michigan Community Resources led a training that helped Climate Ambassadors improve their outreach skills followed by a discussion of what projects community members are excited to work on in the near future.
Climate Ambassadors also discussed current projects and workshops many are working on across the city. Some projects include a community downspout garden being built by community members on Van Dyke Street in West Village, Climate Ambassadors-led recycling workshops, and initiatives being taken by residents across the city to install more efficient, environmentally friendly, solar-powered streetlights in their neighborhoods.
After the meeting we spoke with one of our newest Climate Ambassadors, Courtney Chennault, who shared her first impressions of the Climate Ambassador program:
“I really enjoyed my first Climate Ambassadors meeting! I was able to meet and listen to other environmentally passionate people who are leaders in Detroit. It was inspiring and educational to hear what projects other people in the room were working on. As people shared their backgrounds, I kept thinking, “Wow, that’s someone I want to connect with! I think the Climate Ambassadors have a lot of potential, and I am excited to have a part in the exciting work that lies ahead.”
Kimberly Hill Knott, Director of Policy stopped by the Mlive media group at the Mackinaw Policy Conference to talk about environmental issues that must be tackled as we evolve into a smart city, using smart technology.