LANSING — State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D- Detroit) introduced House Bill 5116 recently to create the Air Quality Enforcement and Mitigation (AQEM) Fund that would send fines paid by companies back to the affected communities.
“Through my short time in the Legislature so far, I have lost count of all the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality hearings I have been to in my district. I heard loud and clear from my residents at these hearings that the fines companies pay for violations need to come back to the communities they impact,” said Chang.
Currently, when companies violate the air quality standards or their air quality permit, the result is often a consent order that details what steps the company must take to prevent the situation from happening again, along with a monetary fine. The fine is calculated using federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines and then negotiated with the company.
Chang’s bill would create the AQEM Fund in the Michigan Department of Treasury. All civil and administrative fines collected that are deposited into the AQEM Fund would be spent by MDEQ in this manner:
30 percent would go toward staffing and department functions that benefit communities and are related to mitigation of air pollution through buffering, residential buyouts, air filters or diesel retrofits, increased air monitoring, or improved compliance through training.
70 percent would be granted to nonprofits, local governments and school districts through an Air Quality Community Impact Grant program to address air pollution mitigation, air monitoring, improved compliance, health impact assessments or education and training programs for residents and regulators to increase the effectiveness of enforcement programs.
“It’s time that we put these fines to good use in the communities that suffer from the air pollution caused by industries surrounding our neighborhoods,” said Chang. “My bill will do just that and support air monitoring, buffering, retrofits and other beneficial programs that would improve people’s health and quality of life.”