Chang on community benefits, environmental protections regarding FCA plant expansion in Detroit

LANSING — Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) has issued the following statement about Detroit community members’ concerns related to a planned plant expansion by Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) in the city

“The FCA expansion will bring a tremendous number of jobs to our state and city, and I applaud all involved for this needed boost for working families in, and around, my district. I also deeply respect the advocacy of residents who made their ideas, concerns, and questions heard at weekly meetings — which I or a member of my team attended — that were convened by the City of Detroit in accordance with the community benefits ordinance. 

“The Neighborhood Advisory Council’s commitment to robust community benefits is admirable, and I support their efforts under an extraordinarily short timeframe to ensure local residents’ access to jobs and job training; housing, including home repair grants; alleviation of environmental stresses, including traffic and noise pollution; growth of youth programs; and neighborhood improvements such as parks, recreation centers, and support for local small businesses. I hope that the final community benefits package will include the strongest possible investment in neighborhood revitalization, and a clear commitment to home repair grants that are open and accessible to neighborhood residents who face hurdles accessing other programs.

“I urge FCA, the City of Detroit, and the State of Michigan to utilize the remainder of the community benefits process, Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) permitting process, and Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) board process to ensure that residents are safeguarded by strong environmental protections. 

“At the same time, I am concerned about the expected increase in volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions that will result from this planned expansion, since this facility is in one of Michigan’s non-attainment areas for ozone — and an area that already has known, high rates of asthma hospitalization. It is critical that we ensure the paint application process at this plant uses as little VOCs as possible, and perhaps follow the powder-coatings process already used at other FCA plants where similar Jeep vehicles are being produced. It’s also necessary that we fund school air filtration programs for the many schools within a one-mile radius of the plant, conduct health impact assessments, and strengthen FCA’s air quality permit so that we truly protect residents. 

“I will continue to communicate with the Michigan Department of Transportation regarding any potential changes to I-94, the service drive, and Conner or Gratiot ramps related to the FCA plant truck routes, since truck traffic to and from the facility are expected to increase — and could negatively impact our residents’ quality of life and the environment. 

“Finally, it is important that we keep in mind last year’s news from another automaker about plant closures that would affect hundreds of hardworking Michiganders. So, as we prepare for the FCA expansion project, our state’s residents and taxpayers deserve to know that promises attached to state tax incentives issued to FCA will be fulfilled — and that they include provisions to recapture tax breaks if job commitments aren’t upheld and ensure strong environmental protections. 

“I am committed to a continued dialogue with FCA, City of Detroit, and State of Michigan officials to ensure these important needs will be met before this expansion happens. My immense gratitude goes out to everyone who has been engaged in this process from the start: Your voices must be at the forefront of every discussion on this matter.”

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