Following the Flint Water crisis that started in 2014, then Governor Rick Snyder announced the creation of the Michigan Environmental Justice Workgroup (EJWG) in February of 2017. The workgroup was created following direct recommendations by both the Flint Water Advisory Task Force and the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee’s Policy Subcommittee. The new group was charged to “develop and provide recommendations to the Governor that improve environmental justice awareness and engagement in state and local agencies. The EJWG will examine policy and recommend for implementation environmental justice guidance, training, curriculum, and policy that further increases quality of life for all Michiganders.”

Speaking about the EJWG, Governor Snyder said the following: “Ensuring every Michigander has the same protections from environmental and health hazards is of the utmost importance. My goal for this group is to have thoughtful, productive conversations about this complex issue and I look forward to their recommendations and insight on this topic.” 

In order to carry out their mission, the EJWG set out “to examine current environmental justice guidance, policies, and activities in Michigan, best practices from around the country that address Michigan’s specific needs and engage with local communities to better understand environmental justice in the State of Michigan.”

Environmental Justice Gets a Seat at the Table 

DWEJ was one of the 23 organizations appointed to this group. Guy Williams, then the CEO and President of DWEJ, represented our organization. Guy joined representatives from across Michigan, coming from academia, nonprofits, government agencies, and business. With only a few environmental justice representatives in the group, being given “a seat at the table” presented us with a substantial opportunity to influence the outcome and amplify the voices of the people we fight for.

The EJWG report, published in March of 2018, included 33 recommendations to meet the requests Governor Snyder had laid out in his State of the State address the previous year. In addition to the environmental justice guidance, combined with training and curriculum recommendations, the workgroup also reached consensus on a vision for environmental justice in the State of Michigan. This vision included: 

  • Integrating and strengthening environmental justice and public health considerations in agency decision-making
  • Enhancing tracking, monitoring and metrics
  • Increasing funding for environmental justice issues and aligning tax policy with environmental standards
  • Improving collaboration across all levels of government and with indigenous tribes
  • Creating tools and resources for Michigan residents

Read the full report

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