House Dem Package Holds Bad Actors and Poisonous Polluters Accountable

Monday, February 3, 2020
  • Thousands of sites across Michigan are contaminated by a variety of chemicals — from PFAS to dioxaine to the now infamous hexavalent chromium — largely due to bad actors and corporations willingly polluting Michigan’s air, water and land for the sake of profit.
  • Current statute does not adequately hold these polluters responsible, often only requiring fines which amount to a slap on the wrist and providing no recourse for Michiganders who discover contamination years after a company has shut down.
  • House Democrats have an eight bill package to finally bring bad actors and corporate polluters to justice, to hold them accountable for their negligence, and to ensure they pay for the damage they’ve caused.

LANSING, Mich., Feb. 3, 2020, — In the wake of the “green ooze” discovery exposing yet another instance of negligent corporate pollution in the state, House Democrats introduced legislation at a press conference today to provide real, tangible ways to hold bad actors accountable for the destruction they cause. The eight bill package would increase financial and criminal penalties for companies that poison our air, water and land while also incentivizing corporate CEOs to behave more responsibly.

The spotting of the hexavalent chromium leak on I-696 in December, and the subsequent exposure of improperly contained chemicals at former sites owned by Gary Sayers — including the Commonwealth location in Detroit, just blocks from the Henry Ford hospital and residential areas — was just the latest in a series of stories over the last decade revealing a pattern of major corporations knowingly exposing communities to poisonous chemicals. Thousands of sites across Michigan are contaminated with everything from PFAS to dioxaine to sulfur dioxide due to negligent business practices.

“There are more than three dozen corporate polluters in our community,” said state Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit), who represents a portion of Detroit including the 48217, the most polluted zip code in the state, along with Ecorse and River Rouge. “The life expectancy here is 10 to 15 years shorter than in the suburbs because of what these people are exposed to daily. It is absurd that for years bad actors were striking down the people of this state so obviously and willfully without being held accountable. We’re finally going to stop them.”

The House Dem package would, among other things, make NREPA violation fines a portion of revenue as opposed to a fixed, often miniscule amount (HB 5455), eliminate the statute of limitations to file a civil claim due to environmental issues (House Bill 5453), and establish a Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine allowing CEOs to be held financially and criminally responsible for business decisions that result in pollution.

“For years environmental regulations have been tilted in favor of big corporations, leaving the people and communities that are poisoned by their bad behavior feeling abandoned,” said state Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit), who represents the portion of Detroit home to the closed Detroit Incinerator, in addition to other large hazardous waste storage facilities, as well as Hamtramck. “Even before being elected to the state House, I fought against these major polluters, but the law hasn’t really been on our side. It’s time for change, and House Dems are going to make it happen.”

 

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