“One of the worst things you can do to a population is take away their ecology.”
– Oday Salim, quoted in Grist’s list of 50 “forward-thinking fixers” and sustainability leaders for 2018.
Professor Oday Salim is the director of the University of Michigan’s Environmental Law & Sustainability Clinic and he’s an attorney at the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. (Those positions overlap.) Throughout his career, Salim has focused on environmental justice issues like water affordability, pollution control, improving non-native English speaker participation in state permitting processes, and more. In our conversation, we talk about the issue of water affordability and accessibility in largely-minority communities, including water shutoffs in Detroit and a 1998 water infrastructure case in Lansing. We also touch on the state’s obligation under the Civil Rights Act to facilitate community participation in decision-making processes, specifically when it comes to translating documents for community members who aren’t proficient in English. We cover a proposal to add a third turbine to a natural gas plant in Dearborn (which has a large Arabic-speaking population) that was eventually withdrawn by the energy company involved as well as an ongoing case regarding the proposed expansion of a hazardous waste site in Hamtramck.
Toward the end of the show, we discuss the draft environmental justice plan that’s been sitting on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ proverbial shelf for the last decade. Professor Salim closes us out with some recommendations as to what pathways we need to establish in Michigan law and policy in order to uphold environmental justice in our state.
You can learn more about those cases in addition to some that we didn’t have time to cover below.
Until next time, keep it hot, keep it here.
Water affordability and infrastructure:
Community participating in decision making:
More cases to learn about: