There are a number of legislative and community updates to share with you. From air quality to education to historic districts, there is a lot happening and there are many issues that my office will be monitoring closely.
Marathon permit to install
I spoke again at the Detroit City Council hearing last Thursday regarding Marathon Refinery’s proposed permit that is pending review by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). I shared my opposition to the permit and our concerns about the increased emissions – not just sulfur dioxide but also half a dozen other pollutants. The public comment period has closed. When we learn about the MDEQ’s decision, we will share that with you.
Air quality legislation
I recently introduced two bills to address thermal inversion, which is a weather condition during which a layer of warm air overlies a layer of cooler air near the ground and acts like a lid, limiting vertical mixing and thereby trapping pollutants near the ground. I became aware of thermal inversion because air quality is a major concern in Southwest Detroit. Even when companies are operating normally, during thermal inversion conditions, air pollution becomes an even bigger problem for residents because pollutants do not disperse the way they normally would.
House Bill 5286 would require each company applying for a new or renewal air quality permit to include a plan for the appropriate reduction of emissions during winter thermal inversion action days. It also would change the averaging period for emissions to eight hours, and require that any exceedances by the company should not be above one hour.
HB 5287 would require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to declare an Air Quality Action Day for a geographic area in Michigan when they have forecasted that the air quality index or particulate matter (PM 2.5) sub-index are in the “moderate” category or worse. An Air Quality Action Day involves the MDEQ giving the public advance notice of the air quality anticipated for a certain day (high levels of ozone or particulate matter) and recommended steps to take, especially for vulnerable populations like seniors and children. The bill would also create a new “winter thermal inversion action day” if there is a thermal inversion forecasted during the winter months, and require MDEQ to (1) revise air quality standards to account for thermal inversions when declaring action days, (2) revise voluntary pollution prevention measures suggested for action days, and (3) further restrict industry emissions when a thermal inversion is forecasted.
Lastly, the bill requires MDEQ to convene a workgroup to study thermal inversions and develop further actions to be taken to address air quality as related to thermal inversions. The workgroup would include public health experts, air quality experts, representatives of environmental protection organizations, and residents of areas in Michigan with high levels of air pollution.
Education in Detroit
A few weeks ago, Senate Bills 710 and 711 were introduced as proposals to address the financial state of Detroit Public Schools. My office will be monitoring these bills closely. This morning, the Senate Education Committee reported out a set of bills (Senate Bills 713, 714, and 715) that would penalize teachers who engage in actions such as sick-outs. These bills are now moving to the full Senate. This is an attempt to punish those like the teachers in Detroit participating in the “sick-out” to draw attention to the deplorable conditions of a number of Detroit school buildings in which teachers and students have to work and learn. In committee this morning, new provisions would temporarily freeze union dues collection and prohibit the collective bargaining unit from representing educators for five years in that district. I am very disturbed by these changes that would cut away at the collective bargaining rights that educators deserve. I oppose these bills and am very concerned about their swift passage through committee. We will be monitoring these bills closely as well.
Historic districts bill
I have heard from a number of residents with concerns about House Bill 5232, which would modify the procedure for establishing or eliminating an historic district in Michigan. House District 6 is home to many historic districts, and I share your concerns about the potential negative impact the bill would have on these districts.Here is a link to the House Fiscal Agency analysis of the bill. The House Committee on Local Government took testimony on this bill last Wednesday and we will continue to monitor this legislation closely.
AK Steel permit hearing postponed
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has postponed the public hearing regarding AK Steel’s permit to install. When this public hearing is announced, we will share those details with you.
Thank you for reading our updates! Please feel free to contact my office anytime with concerns, ideas, or questions.
State Representative Stephanie Chang
6th House District