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PUBPOL 710.003

PUBPOL 710.003: Reducing Toxic Airborne Emissions in Michigan

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Fall 2019
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This class is an interdisciplinary problem solving class offered at the Law School through the Problem Solving Initiative (PSI). 

Michigan has many pollution sources, including Marathon Petroleum, U.S. Steel, Lafarge Cement, and coal-fired power plants. Odors and clouds of dark particles have left their mark on neighboring residents, who exhibit the highest number of pediatric asthma cases in Michigan and significantly higher rates of newly-diagnosed lung and bronchial cancers, and cardiovascular disease than the rest of the state. Nonetheless, most polluting plants are considered by the state to be in compliance with existing air quality regulations. They are the beneficiaries of a serious flaw in Michigan law that protects plants and penalizes neighboring residents: in Michigan, as long as each plant is in compliance with the regulations governing that specific plant, the cumulative impact of pollution from neighboring plants, though toxic for nearby residents, is not taken into account and is not regulated.

Some states, including California and Minnesota, reduce toxic airborne emissions and promote better health outcomes for residents by measuring the cumulative impact of hazardous air pollutants. In this class, students will determine why Michigan has failed to adopt such a cumulative impact approach. Why has there been such strong resistance in Michigan to the adoption of a cumulative impact approach? What other obstacles are there? How can we overcome them? What support is there for a change in the law? What arguments can be used to persuade stakeholders to change their approach?

Students will incorporate ideas from environmental studies, law, health sciences, design, social work, and other fields to advance a solution that accounts for multiple, geographically-concentrated pollution sources and promotes environmental justice for all Michigan residents.

This class is open to all University of Michigan graduate and professional students. Please note: Non-Law students are responsible for checking with their own schools, colleges, or units to learn if a PSI class will count toward graduation or other departmental requirements.

Non-law graduate/professional students seeking to apply can contact [email protected].

Instructors: Allyn Kantor (Law), Paul Mohai (SEAS)