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Detroit Neighborhoods Organizing to Shake Toxic Burden

August 1, 1998 | By Keith Schneider
and Curt Guyette
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Such political alliances appall environmental justice activists. After Mr. Archer rallied the National
Mayor's Conference to oppose the EPA guidelines earlier this year, Detroit resident Brenda Liveoak took aim
at both the mayor and the Engler Administration.

"I wish I could build a house and put them in it for life, right smack between the Detroit Waste Water
Treatment Plant and Great Lakes Steel," she declared.

What's Ahead
EPA Administrator Carol Browner, meanwhile, is navigating carefully through this political minefield.
She is assuring business leaders that development won't come to a halt, and promising activists and the
Congressional Black Caucus that the law will be enforced. Her strategy for accomplishing this balancing act is
to involve community members during the early stages of the planning and permitting process for industrial plants.

Back in Michigan, in 1997 a Genesee County Circuit Court judge decided in NAACP-Flint Chapter vs.
Engler that the state must take into account the cumulative effect of all existing conditions before issuing permits to
industry. The ruling, if it stands up to the Administration's appeal, will make it easier for communities to fight new
sources of pollution.

To reinforce the Court's decision, state representatives Kwame Kilpatrick (D-Detroit) and Mary Parks
(D-Pontiac) have introduced House Bills 5902 and 5925, which would force regulators to consider the broader
factors of race, ethnicity, income, and cumulative burden when issuing industrial permits. The bills are languishing
in the House Conservation Committee. To register your support for a public hearing on them, contact Committee
Chair Tom Alley (D-West Branch) at 517-373-3817. G

CONTACTS: Donele Wilkins, 12101 Mack Service Dr., Detroit, MI 48215. Tel. 313-821-1064, fax 313-821-
1072; Dennis Archer, 2 Woodward Ave., Suite 1126, Detroit, MI 48226. Tel. 313-224-3400.
Curt Guyette is a writer for the Detroit Metro Times.

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