Low-income families and communities of color suffer most from carbon pollution, energy costs

Added April 16th, 2015 by Shannon Nobles | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Shannon Nobles

The Michigan Department of Community Health called Detroit and its downriver neighborhoods the “Epicenter of the Asthma Burden.” It seems to be no coincidence that this area houses one of the nation’s dirtiest coal plants, the River Rouge Plant. Not only does the Detroit community have a nationally offending coal plant in its neighborhoods, but the state of Michigan as a whole houses five of the dirtiest coal plants in the country.

Carbon pollutants from coal plants have a disproportionate effect on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. This is because coal plants tend to be located in these neighborhoods, thus having a more severe effect on the residents of the community. For example, Detroit ZIP codes are three to six times more likely to have asthma-related hospital admissions than the state as a whole. In fact, Wayne County, hometo Detroit and the downriver neighborhoods, has the highest number of pediatric asthma cases in the state, coupled with being home to more poor residents than any county in Michigan. Twenty-five percent of Wayne County residents live in poverty, with an average income of just $19,073 for a parent with two kids.

The air we breathe should not be an equity issue; all Michiganians should have access to clean air.

Parents should not have to lose pay to take their children to the emergency room because they cannot safely breathe the air outside of their homes. Children should not have to fall behind in school due to sick days as complications of their asthma are exacerbated.

The Michigan League for Public Policy released “Clean Energy Brings Health, Savings and Jobs to Low-Income Michigan Families” today, highlighting these inequities, as well as connecting energy production through fossil fuels to increased energy costs throughout the state. The report was released in conjunction with a national report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a panel event held to highlight the findings of these reports.

A keynote was presented by Paul Smith, deputy legal counsel from the Office of Governor Snyder, followed by a panel of experts on energy issues, including Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director of The Ecology Center, Kimberly Hill Knott, director of public policy for Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, John Kinch, executive director of Michigan Energy Options, and Kate McCormick, Midwest advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The League’s CEO and President Gilda Z. Jacobs moderated the panel.

To learn more about these issues, check out the report, executive summary and past blog posts:  It’s time for Michigan to clear the air! | League supports Michigan’s move to cleaner air

— Shannon Nobles


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