Heard on All Things Considered

State Regulator Says Fiat Chrysler Air Quality Plans ‘Fall Short,’ Are ‘Not Acceptable’

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Image credit: Rosa Maria Zamarrón

Fiat Chrysler submitted plans to address air quality concerns on Detroit’s eastside, but regulators want to see more details.

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State environmental regulators told Fiat Chrysler that its air quality mitigation plans for its proposed Detroit facilities are not sufficient. 

The company needed to apply for air quality permits because paint fumes from its planned operations on the city’s eastside cause pollution. This is not expected to delay FCA’s timeline. The first vehicles are expected to roll off the line by the end of 2020.

We’re not saying that we’re denying their plans, but we are asking for more from them.” - Annette Switzer, EGLE

The agency said in a letter to Fiat Chrysler dated Jan. 24 that the plan about proposed community projects falls short of expectations, and additional clarification and information is needed.” 


Click on the player above for an interview with Annette Switzer, EGLE’s permit section manager, Air Quality Division


The state regulator said that, while plans for bus stops, rain barrels and tree plantings were highlighted in the proposal, specific details like when these projects would happen were not included.

Additionally, the regulator wants to see what residents and groups the automaker met with and how the plan incorporated their feedback. EGLE specifically asked for a detailed explanation of why air filtration, something requested by community groups in a petition from October, was not included in the proposal.

We’re not saying that we’re denying their plans, but we are asking for more from them,” said Annette Switzer, permit section manager for EGLE’s Air Quality Division.

Lacking” and “Not Acceptable”

Construction at Fiat Chrysler's new facility began in June.Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

Construction at Fiat Chrysler’s new facility began in June.

Fiat Chrysler needed to submit two plans for the upgrades at its Mack Avenue and Jefferson North plants to state regulators by November 30.

The plans concern what projects the automaker will initiate to address community concerns related to air quality and air monitoring around the Mack Avenue Assembly Plant. The company’s proposals were deemed “lacking” and “not acceptable,” respectively.

Regulators said Fiat Chrysler’s air monitoring plan was “not acceptable” because sampling wasn’t frequent enough and did not include two sites, one for upwind and one for downwind sampling. Additionally some of the technical details were not in line with state and federal requirements.

Currently, there is not a specific timeline for when Fiat Chrysler needs to update the plans, Switzer said, but “there are some built-in requirements. FCA needs to have the monitoring station operational prior to starting operation at its new facility.”


Related: Detroit is Already Polluted. Will Fiat Chrysler Make It Worse?


A spokesperson for Fiat Chrysler told to WDET in an emailed statement, “FCA has a great responsibility, and plan, to minimize the environmental impact on the community for this and future generations. We look forward to working with EGLE to resolve any outstanding concerns.”  

EGLE says it will conduct regular compliance evaluations once the plant starts up. Fiat Chrysler is required to certify that they are in compliance with all applicable permit requirements within one year from starting plant operation, otherwise a compliance plan will be necessary.

What we overwhelmingly heard is that people wanted to protect their public health.” - Regina Strong, EGLE

Protecting Public Health

As part of the air quality permit process, EGLE held public hearings last spring.

What we overwhelmingly heard is that people wanted to protect their public health,” said Regina Strong, the Environmental Justice Public Advocate at EGLE.

As a result, EGLE approved the permits that Fiat Chrysler needed to build the plant, but it added two stipulations that were volunteered by the automaker, to include air monitoring and community projects in order to mitigate residents’ air quality concerns. EGLE gave Fiat Chrysler until Nov. 30 to submit plans for these items.

In October, a coalition of community groups published a petition that included six items that they wanted to see included in Fiat Chrysler’s plans. They asked for air filters, air monitoring, a plant buffer around the facility, truck routing, regular community meetings and a public health fund. 

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Laura Herberg, Community Reporter

Laura Herberg is a Community Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here. She has reported since 2010 without owning a car.

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