Does Race, Ethnicity, or Socioeconomic Status Play a Role in Community Members Being Treated Fairly or Unfairly in Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Permit – Granting Process?

Li, Yuyi, Da'Jonae Foster, Jamillah Douthet, Ellen Day, and Kristen Abraham

The present study was completed by students in the Health Disparities Research Coordination Network of the ReBUILDetroit Consortium. The current study sought to assess whether race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status affected community members' fair or unfair treatment in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) permit-granting process.

Pollution burdens fall disproportionately on low-income and racial and ethnic minority communities (Mohai, Lanz, Morenoff, 2009). Industrial air pollution is related to a variety of health issues such as respiratory, cardiovascular, developmental and neurological disorders, and cancer (Scorecard, 2011). Research suggests a relationship between health disparities in minority populations and government processes (Kennedy, 2005). In January 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on the MDEQ’s permit process, describing racially discriminatory actions and a failure to implement a required non-discrimination plan. The EPA made a recommendation to the MDEQ to improve its public participation program (US Environmental Protection Agency External Civil Right Compliance Office, 2017). Citizen participation in the public hearing process is a crucial means of incorporating the needs of the community (Adams, 2004). Prior research suggests race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status contribute to the level of community engagement (Park & Kim, 2014). Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with community leaders and activists of the tri-city area (zip code 48217, Ecorse, River Rouge) regarding their personal experiences with the MDEQ permit-granting process and community members' participation. Content analysis of interview transcripts will be performed to identify common themes. It was hypothesized that participants will describe ways in which race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status plays a role in the unfair treatment of community members. This poster will include a presentation and discussion of the results from these interviews.