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Environmental Impact Statements



Environmental Impact Statements May Soon Be Required

An article appearing in the Flint Journal on Wednesday, November 12 indicated that a bill requiring Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) was currently being developed by Rep. Robert L. Emerson of Flint, Michigan. The bill would require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to begin conducting EIS's as early as January 1998. An EIS is a document which aspires to determine how a certain facility or development will affect such elements as earth, air, water, plants and animals, environmental health, land and shoreline usage, aesthetics, light and glare, transportation routes, and public services. In addition to identifying which elements will be impacted by the subject development, the EIS may assess various alternatives to a development to determine a method of development which results in minimal impact to the environment, and may offer mitigation measures in order to reduce or effectively eliminate the identified impacts.

Although the article stated that currently approximately 30 states require EIS's before facilities may receive approval for development, the proposed bill adds a new assessment category to the EIS. The bill would require the MDEQ to assess all sources of environmental concern in a community before approving the development. This requirement would make the proposed assessment process the first requiring a cumulative risk review. This requirement stemmed from a recent lawsuit in Genesee County involving the Genesee Power Station and the northeast Flint community it resides in. The power station typically incinerates construction debris from older housing stock, in which lead from paint is a concern, the article noted. Judge Archie L. Hayman ruled in May that although the facility in question may have operated within state guidelines, the state failed to consider the cumulative effect of all sources of concern within the community. David Dempsey, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council noted that the cumulative risk review requirement is beneficial in that it more accurately assesses the "real world" condition of the community. Significant developments which make use of federal or state-level funding, or which have the potential to cause a significant environmental impact, either solely or in conjunction with other facilities, may be required to submit an EIS for review.

The article added that the MDEQ would most likely not support the proposed bill; the MDEQ feels that it already adequately addresses the health and safety concerns within Michigan communities.

Although the bill may have some prominent opposition, the bill is an indicator of the feelings of those that experience the effects of large-scale commercial and industrial development in their community. The requirement of the cumulative risk assessment would be a critical factor in adequately addressing the potential impacts on a community from a large and complex development. Not only would the EIS assess impacts from the subject development, but also it would determine how these impacts would behave in a community already exposed to certain other existing environmental concerns. The net result would be an environmental assessment that more accurately and scientifically identifies and mitigates negative environmental impacts to the community.

Reference: Webber, Tammy. "Tough Anti-Pollution Bill Rooted in Genesee Township." Flint Journal. November 12, 1997: A3


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Christian D. Howd
Environmental Technician
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Applied EcoSystems, Inc.
Environmental Engineering, Consulting, and Field Services
G-5527 South Saginaw Street
Flint, Michigan 48507
(810) 695-4477
Fax: (810) 695-4483