After the 2007 Executive Directive on Environmental Justice, activists around the state felt the time was right to prepare for the state of Michigan a plan on how to implement the Executive Order. The Order, modeled after President Bill Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order on Environmental Justice, mandated that all agencies and departments of the State of Michigan must take environmental justice into account in their proceedings. Please read more about the Executive Directive No. 2007-23 Promoting Environmental Justice by following that link.
The 2009 Plan was the result of a year long process by the Environmental Justice Working Group, assembled by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The Plan is below, where you can see the moderator, facilitators, and members listed.
The Plan was approved for public comment on December 11th, 2009, after a long process of meetings throughout the year. During these meetings, industry, environmentalists, activists, and government representatives from many Michigan agencies participated in a negotiation process that ultimately resulted in this plan.
The Plan going into public comment in 2010 contained one of the most important procedures for effecting change in environmental justice – a petition process. The petition process enables a public citizen to file a formal complaint with the State. This petition then triggers a response from the State. This was the teeth of the plan, and was a victory for the environmental justice advocates participating.
The advocates anticipated the public comment period as an opportunity for the public to embrace the plan and voice their support for this effective plan for the implementation of the Executive Order. The vocal support of the public would enable the Department of Environmental Quality to approve and implement the plan. What happened, instead, no one but a few could have predicted.
The industry representatives who participated during the process to create the 2009 Plan contributed to the plan as much as anyone, and all involved were fairly confident that the plan would be certified in the public comment process and finalized into the final plan. During public comment, however, there were many more industry comments from the same and similar industries. In an analysis conducted at the University of Michigan Law School, it became clear that there were many more industry comments from the same and similar industries, a sort of double dipping on influence, that outnumbered the amount of comments from private citizens.
There were fewer meetings in 2010 than 2009, and much of the changes were occurring outside of the Working Group meetings. There was to be one last meeting in late 2010 before the plan was finalized, but it was canceled, leaving more decision making behind the scenes.
After the public comment period, there were many changes to the plan, as small as change of words like fairness and equality, to the elimination of entire chapters. The Petition process was the one of the most important parts of the Plan to be eliminated. On the Eve of 2011, with a Republican Governor-Elect Rick Synder coming into office January 1st, 2011, the Working Group had to decide to either approve the plan as it stood or risk losing everything in the new Administration. There was disagreement among those who had worked so long the plan as to whether or not to accept a Plan that was much less than they knew the State needed, and those who felt it was better than no plan at all. Ultimately, the 2010 Michigan Environmental Justice Plan was approved by the Working Group in December, 2010.