Sen. Chang introduces bill to create air quality fund in MDEQ

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Stephanie Chang (D–Detroit) today introduced legislation that would create the Air Quality Enforcement and Mitigation (AQEM) Fund in the Michigan Department of Treasury. The fund would be supported through fines collected from companies that violate air quality standards or air quality permits, with the money generated distributed to communities whose environments were harmed due to these violations.

“Air quality violations are a statewide issue that have a serious local impact on public health in my district and other areas that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution,” Sen. Chang said. “It’s critically important that we provide our communities and residents, who are affected by air pollution, with adequately funded programs and services that will improve quality of life and public health in our neighborhoods.”

Currently, when a company violates air quality standards or their air quality permit, a consent order is issued that details what steps must be taken to prevent the situation from happening again. They are also billed a monetary fine, calculated using EPA guidelines and then negotiated with the company, with the payment received deposited into the state’s General Fund budget. Current law does not specify that payments should be routed to a specific fund.

Under Senate Bill 60, all civil and administrative fines collected under Part 55 of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act would be deposited into the AQEM Fund and dispersed using a percentage formula, with:

SB 60 would define environmental protection communities as geographic areas that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) identifies, using tools such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool, or EJSCREEN, and factoring in indicators such as sensitive populations, socioeconomic factors, exposures and environmental effects.

MDEQ would oversee rules for implementation of the grant program through the AQEM Fund and develop them in consultation with an advisory committee that would include a public health expert, a representative of an environmental justice organization, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a representative of a local health or environmental department, and two residents from communities facing a disproportionate environmental burden.

MDEQ would also be required to provide an annual report on how grant allocations were distributed from the AQEM Fund.

“It’s time to put the money collected from these fines to good use for residents in communities who suffer from air pollution caused by industries in their neighborhoods,” Sen. Chang said. “This legislation was crafted with direct input from residents in my district who know the burden of air pollution far too well, and is designed to direct funds back to their communities.”

SB 60 is identical to, and a reintroduction of, House Bill 5116 of 2017.

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