EJ Communities’ Urgent Need for Climate Action

mejc_logo_colorReposted from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

*This letter was originally prepared for a meeting with EJ Public Advocate Regina Strong, and Dr. Brandy Brown, Climate and Energy Advisor to the Governor

Memo on Governor’s Climate Agenda: To Address the Urgent
Need for Environmental Justice, We Must be Climate READY

First, we want to recognize the moral significance of making time and space to meet directly with environmental justice communities and organizations on the urgent demands of the climate crisis.

Vulnerable communities, Black, Latinx, Arab, and Indigenous peoples have bore the brunt of contamination and degradation in Michigan for decades, if not centuries. As such, our expertise of the regulatory system, our traditional ecological knowledge, and our social networks are rich, exact in their capacities, and best suited to troubleshoot and resolve climate issues – whether the issues are ones that are emergent or ones tied to past abuses of the energy sector.
Additionally, organizations and Tribes led by leaders who live in their communities bear externalities and the highest risks of bad policy decisions. They also have the most to gain from positive results of good policy in physical and material ways. The rewards of positive policy decisions should seek to amend and resolve the historic disproportionality of toxicity and inaccessibility to food, water, land, healthy communities and cultural freedoms.
With this in mind, we believe there are several low hanging fruits for the Governor to move on that exemplify early stage crisis responses that are administratively sound. We summarize them in a community-useful acronym called Climate R.E.A.D.Y. that identifies our priorities and timeframe.

CLIMATE R.E.A.D.Y.
Readiness for the crisis
● Establish regular communication with frontline communities, especially those that are
multilingual and accessible for multi-abled people;
● Engage local hearings, townhall, and listening sessions on toxics, vulnerability, health, pollution, legacy sites, flooding, high heat and extreme cold;
● Meet regularly with EJ organizations and Tribal governments about climate, environmental impacts, and troubleshooting resilience strategies;
● Communicate with multi-platform channels through televised, print, and online sources.

Emergency-response protocols
● Establish cross-agency and cross-jurisdiction working groups that can quickly mobilize when there is a threat of exposure and/or contamination along with extreme weather contingency planning, funding, and execution;
● Troubleshoot and evaluate emergency situations and closure of regulatory loopholes;
● Disclose fully all materials, incidents and responsible parties, with fines and fees levied at the scale of the risk and directed toward clean up and harm reduction/mitigation;
● Deploy effective and timely risk communication to potentially impacted communities, with
adequate evacuation notification.

Assess past and foreseen harms
● Employ Cumulative Impact Assessments and Health Impact Assessment in decision-making;
● Assess climate risk in decision-making at the permit level, and certificate of necessity, IRP and other planning, including high lake levels, including life cycle analysis of all GHG emission sources (public and private);
● Establish a Climate Commission in which equity is central and where environmental justice communities have a majority in decision-making;
● Enact vulnerability criteria that are utilized in decision-making processes regarding emissions control, reduction, mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Development initiatives
● Aggregate financing, block grants, and special funds deployed for Just Transition within geographies directly impacted by pollution, flooding, food shocks, high heat, drought, extreme cold and persistent contamination AND particularly where there is no or inadequate access to healthcare, housing, food and clean water, and other resilience measures for public health and welfare;
● Direct public dollars to leverage the Just Transition of municipalities and workforce sectors impacted by fossil fuel regulatory statutes like facility closure;
● Target strategies for transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable economy within those same vulnerable geographies, including EV access, clean drinking water and sanitation infrastructure, organic food, waste reduction and elimination, community solar, energy, efficient retrofits, transmission renovation and distributed generation;
● Create a “Do business in Michigan” incentives program for Michigan-based companies to receive tax breaks or other incentives as they pursue/maximize using local production inputs and purchase products, minority-owned businesses, as locally as possible to reduce transportation emissions, which will also create Michigan jobs and economic benefits.
● Train those most under-represented in the clean energy workforce including but not limited to: returning citizens, veterans, Tribal members, DACA residents;
● Reject bailout promises that burden residential consumers with debt from stranded assets we foresee in the energy sector;
● Adopt strategies for EJ communities displaced by extreme weather events settling or unsettled in Michigan.

Year 2030
● Acknowledge that by all estimates the climate crisis is upon us in Michigan and there is no time to wait.
● Pursue aggressively 100% renewable energy by 2030. As the steward of 89% of the nation’s fresh surface water, Michigan must act.
● Reject the false solutions presented by the oil and gas industry, like carbon capture and storage, cap and trade, and nuclear energy, as being the only options to put millions of people to work, and save lives on a global scale.

With this Climate R.E.A.D.Y. program for Michigan, we believe the Governor’s Climate Agenda has the best opportunity for ecological and environmental justice success. MEJC is ready and able to help you meet this challenge and demonstrate our commitment to Michigan communities and the nation.

Thank you.

Regards,
Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

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