Michigan: Fiat Chrysler's Mack plant environmental plan is 'lacking'

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan is demanding Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV do more to address air-quality concerns from its new Mack Avenue assembly plant on Detroit's east side, despite the Italian American automaker saying it will have the lowest emissions rate of any auto assembly plant in the United States.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy's Air Quality Division determined Fiat Chrysler's plans to address and monitor environmental conditions at the site are "lacking" and "not acceptable," according to a letter to the automaker. The statements come amid an outcry among lawmakers and residents in the neighborhood surrounding the plant.

The state of Michigan wants Fiat Chrysler do more to address air-quality concerns from its new assembly plant on Detroit's east side

"The plan falls short of expectations, and additional clarification and information is needed," Mary Ann Dolehanty, the Air Quality Division's director, wrote in the letter dated Friday.

The state took issue with Fiat Chrysler's plans to monitor air quality for two weeks in each quarter at a single location as well as some of the measurement instruments the company planned to use that did not meet standards.

"This will not provide sufficient data to characterize the air quality," Dolehanty wrote. "Sampling should be continuous, or follow the one- to three-day sample schedule as published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency."

The state division recommends sampling be done in two locations. Additionally, it requested more information on how the company put together the plan and with whom, its 1,000 tree-planting project and public health education initiatives. The division also wants an explanation for why air filtration has not been proposed and an investigation for a pilot at one of its buildings at the site.

"We know that as we build our new state-of-the-art assembly plant and bring nearly 5,000 new jobs to Detroit, FCA has a great responsibility — and plan — to minimize the environmental impact on the community for this and future generations," an FCA representative said in a statement. "We look forward to working with EGLE to resolve any outstanding concerns."  

Fiat Chrysler has said the "landfill-free" facility will represent a 10% reduction in emissions in the region with similar upgrades planned for its assembly plant in Warren. The Mack site is expected to produce a third of the volatile organic compounds that the adjacent Jefferson North Assembly Plant does. Volatile organic compounds become vapor at room temperature.

Fiat Chrysler in November said it had met with residents publicly and privately to develop its environmental plan. The plan also includes controlling runoff water, installing vegetative barriers and other conservation initiatives.

In October, residents held a rally to demand Fiat Chrysler donate funds to the public health fund, implement air filtration at schools and other sites with vulnerable residents and other initiatives. A petition was submitted to the state's EGLE department.

"Environmental justice is about centering those who are most impacted by pollution," state Sen. Stephanie Chang. D-Detroit, said in a statement Tuesday. "FCA has an opportunity to be the better neighbors our residents deserve — and it is reassuring to know that the state is on our side in urging more be done."

The city of Detroit and state-funded Michigan Economic Development Corp. is supporting the transformation of the former Mack Avenue Engine Complex into the city's first new assembly plant in nearly three decades with $92.9 million in incentives. The $1.6 billion project is expected to create 3,850 new jobs and begin production by the end of the year. A community benefits plan says it will hire from Detroiters first and invest $35 million into the neighborhood.

“FCA is a multi-billion-dollar company that should realize that if you are going to ask for public dollars, you must work to improve the communities giving you those dollars," Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, said in a statement. "The promises of jobs are not enough to prevent respiratory diseases and ensure we have healthy communities. We can have jobs, improved public health, and tools to improve neighborhoods if FCA focuses on their neighbors and not solely on their bottom line."


Twitter: @BreanaCNoble