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Civil rights complaint filed with feds over state's permits for Stellantis Jeep plant

Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

Residents of an east side Detroit neighborhood and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center have filed a civil rights complaint with the federal government against Michigan environmental regulators for permits connected to the Stellantis Jeep plant that has been cited for odor and other violations in recent months.

The complaint, sent to Michael Regan, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agency officials, alleges the permits for the city's first new vehicle assembly plant in three decades amount to discrimination. It seeks voluntary relocation assistance and additional home repair funds for residents as well a requirement that Michigan environmental regulators study the cumulative impacts of pollutants in its permitting process.

"The decisions by Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy ("EGLE") allowing Stellantis to significantly expand its facilities continues the discriminatory legacy of requiring communities of color to bear the disproportionate burden of the industrial pollution generated by all of society," according to the complaint dated Nov. 8.

A message seeking comment was sent to spokespeople for the EPA.

Jill Greenberg, a spokeswoman for EGLE, said the department "is reviewing the complaint and has no further comment at this time."

The complaint highlights a provision allowing the company to pollute more at its Detroit plant by reducing emissions at a plant in Warren, an issue that has raised allegations of environmental racism because Detroit is a majority African-American city and Warren is a whiter suburb.

 

Stellantis, which builds new versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee at its new Mack plant, previously owned an engine complex on the site, but the new plant, which it announced in 2019 to great excitement from area politicians and others, is much larger and joins the company's existing Grand Cherokee plant nearby.

The company has said that without the pollution offset the development credited with creating about 5,000 jobs would not have happened. The company has said its main focus is on addressing the concerns raised by EGLE in its three violation notices.

"We take these concerns very seriously and want to get this right. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor and, more importantly, take action as necessary to keep the community enjoyable," according to the company.

On Monday, state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and Detroit City Council member-elect Latisha Johnson sent a letter to EGLE Director Liesl Clark seeking a hefty fine against Stellantis, which formed this year from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot maker PSA Group, as well as relocation assistance and a meeting with EGLE.

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