Judge Rejects US Department of Justice Opposition to Millions in Investments for Vulnerable Communities in Southeast Michigan


Trump administration blocked from interfering in agreement that would provide funding for electric buses, environmental projects in communities burdened by decades of air pollution


Shannon Fisk, sfisk@earthjustice.org


Brian Willis, brian.willis@sierraclub.org

Today, a federal court Judge ruled against the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) objection to an agreement between DTE Energy and the Sierra Club that would bring air quality improvements to communities of color burdened by decades of coal plant pollution in River Rouge, Ecorse, and the 48217 zip code. This decision will preserve funds for electric buses and $2 million in community based environmental projects in southeast Michigan that DTE Energy committed to while also finalizing retirement dates for three coal plants.

“The judge’s ruling to reject DOJ’s meddling and protect millions of dollars dedicated to community projects and electric buses is backed by legal precedent, and a common-sense recognition of the important benefits at stake for communities that have suffered from decades of environmental injustice,” said Shannon Fisk, Earthjustice Managing Attorney who litigated the matter on behalf of the Sierra Club. “We hope that the DOJ will take this as a clear signal that it should not be interfering with the ability of communities to protect their interests in the enforcement of our nation’s environmental laws.”

“This is a crucial victory protecting our historic settlement agreement with DTE, delivering cleaner air to Michigan’s most disproportionately polluted communities” said Mike Berkowitz, Beyond Coal Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club. “Scientists confirmed that exposure to air pollution from coal plants decreases the chance of survival once contracting Coronavirus, exacerbating the already dire threats facing communities in environmental injustice hotspots. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the judge’s decision couldn’t have come at a more crucial time for Michigan communities.”

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