26-Year-Old Civil Rights Complaint Finally Ends

The legal controversy over the Genesee Power Plant in Flint, Michigan has finally ended, with a court forcing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to better investigate and resolve complaints of environmental discrimination.

1 minute read

June 19, 2018, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


"After 26 years, the oldest pending civil rights complaint against the Environmental Protection Agency is finally over," reports Sophie Yeo. "A district court in California has found [pdf] that the EPA was guilty of environmental racism when it ignored the pollution concerns of a largely African-American community in Flint in the 1990s."

The story of this lawsuit dates back to 1990, when a Catholic priest named Father Phil Schmitter began speaking out against plans for the Genesee Power Station, an incinerator expected to emit lead, mercury, arsenic, and other pollutants into the air, according to Yeo.

The article includes a detailed history of the incinerator's approval and construction, the initial civil rights complaint brought forward by the St. Francis Prayer Center against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the subsequent failure of the EPA to respond to the complaint. As noted by Yeo, such negligence on the part of the EPA was not uncommon. "A 2015 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that, of all complaints submitted to the EPA's civil rights office, 162 were rejected, 38 were not reviewed, and only 64 were accepted."

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