Environmental Justice

Rare discrimination finding by EPA civil-rights office

The Genesee Power Station in Flint, MI

Michigan regulators treated African American residents unfairly during the permitting of a power plant in Flint, feds say

FLINT, MI — “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s civil-rights office has made a rare finding of discrimination, saying the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality treated African American residents of Flint unfairly during the permitting of a power plant more than two decades ago.

In a letter dated Jan. 19, the last full day of the Obama administration, the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office said the evidence showed that ‘African Americans were treated less favorably than non-African Americans’ during permit hearings for the Genesee Power Station – which burns wood waste and other debris – from 1992 through 1994. A ‘preponderance of the evidence in EPA’s record would lead a reasonable person to conclude that race discrimination was more likely than not the reason …,’ office director Lilian Dorka wrote to the complainant, Father Phil Schmitter of the St. Francis Prayer Center in Flint.

In a statement, Schmitter said, ‘Communities of color and schoolchildren have had to grow up near this horrible power plant and be subjected to its harmful emissions. It’s unbelievable that it took EPA decades to make this finding, but it’s important to send a clear message to MDEQ, even now, that it needs to change the way it does business.'”

— Talia Buford, The Center for Public Integrity

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