04.22.16

Peters, Stabenow Urge Swift Completion of Plan to Reduce Sulfur Dioxide Air Pollution

State of Michigan Plan to Reduce Air Pollution is One Year Overdue

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow today sent a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) to reduce sulfur dioxide levels and other air pollution in Wayne County to protect the health and well-being of Michigan residents if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) fails to submit a final State Implementation Plan (SIP) within 60 days. In July 2013, part of Wayne County was found to have sulfur dioxide levels above the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, but MDEQ has failed to submit a finalized SIP to address sulfur dioxide pollution for over a year.

“Residents of Wayne County simply cannot afford to wait for the process to drag on any longer,” wrote Senators Peters and Stabenow. “In light of continued delays, as well as a lack of action in responding to the Flint water emergency, we are concerned that the MDEQ is not fully committed to this process. If the EPA finds that the State and private stakeholders are unable to work expeditiously enough to develop an effective plan by the end of spring, we urge you to move forward with a Federal Implementation Plan that protects the health and well-being of the people of Wayne County.”

The State of Michigan was required to submit a State Implementation Plan to EPA outlining their efforts to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution by April 2015. MDEQ released a draft State Implementation Plan in August 2015, but has failed to submit and implement a final plan to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution, meet national air quality standards and protect the health of Wayne County residents.

Exposure to sulfur dioxide can have negative effects on respiratory and cardiovascular health. Asthmatics and children are particularly sensitive to high levels of sulfur dioxide. Detroit residents have a rate of asthma-related hospitalization that is three times higher than the Michigan statewide rate, and asthma is the single largest cause of student absenteeism in Detroit.

The full text of the letter is copied below and available here:

April 22, 2016 

Administrator Gina McCarthy

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

We write to express great concern about the State of Michigan’s failure to submit an Implementation Plan to address sulfur dioxide emissions in Wayne County, MI.  Given the threats to public health from continued noncompliance with national air quality standards, it is critical that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require an Implementation Plan as soon as possible—the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) plan is already well past due.  If MDEQ fails to finalize an effective Implementation Plan over the next 60 days, we would urge the EPA to pursue a Federal Implementation Plan.  A strong sense of urgency is needed to reduce sulfur dioxide levels and other air pollution in Wayne County in order to improve the health of Michigan residents.

As you know, in July 2013 a portion of Wayne County was designated as having sulfur dioxide levels above National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The state was required to submit its Implementation Plan to the EPA by April 2015. MDEQ released a draft Implementation Plan in August 2015, but the plan did little to demonstrate how this non-attainment area would meet national air quality standards. On March 10, 2016, the EPA issued a finding of Michigan’s failure to submit an Implementation Plan.  Residents of Wayne County simply cannot afford to wait for the process to drag on any longer.

Detroit and Wayne County residents are at risk of exposure to high levels of sulfur dioxide, which is well documented to cause significant respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Asthmatics are particularly sensitive to exposure to high levels of sulfur dioxide. The rate of asthma hospitalization for Detroit residents is three times higher than that of Michigan as a whole. This burden is disproportionately placed on children. In Detroit, asthma is the largest single cause of student absenteeism.

The EPA should ensure that a strong and effective Implementation Plan to meet national air quality standards in Wayne County is in place as soon as possible. In light of continued delays, as well as a lack of action in responding to the Flint water emergency, we are concerned that the MDEQ is not fully committed to this process. If the EPA finds that the State and private stakeholders are unable to work expeditiously to develop an effective Implementation Plan by the end of spring, we urge you to move forward with a Federal Implementation Plan that will get the job done protects the health and wellbeing of the people of Wayne County.                      

Sincerely,

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