FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016
Contact: Rep. Stephanie Chang
Phone: (517) 373-0823
Statement for state Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) on the report from the Joint Select Committee on the Flint water public health emergency:
“I am glad to see the Report of the Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Emergency release its report and recommendations today and applaud the hard work of the committee members on such important topics. The Flint water crisis and water crises across the state continue and we need to take all necessary steps to address them.
“I am glad that citizen oversight at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) was highlighted as a next step. However, I believe that any citizen oversight commission that is instated should include many of the provisions included in House Bill 5404, 5405, and 5406 that make sure these bodies have the strongest available tools to protect public health, such as the revocation and revision of permits, and other abilities to take enforcement and investigative actions. I also believe we need to make sure that a variety of voices are represented on these commissions, including members of the public and representatives of local governments and environmental leaders.
“Also, water affordability and shutoffs must be more comprehensively addressed. I have the honor of serving on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) local government advisory committee and we have submitted recommendations to the EPA administrator for the national drinking water action plan that is expected before the end of the year. I was far from alone in bringing forward the topic of affordability. Many other local government officials in rural, suburban, and urban areas of the country expressed that water affordability is a major issue that must be addressed. When cities like Detroit are shutting off water to tens of thousands of residents or proposing to begin shutoffs in Flint simply because some residents are unable to afford their water bills, it is a human rights and public health concern. House Bills 5097and 5122 would address water affordability and institute shutoff protections and should have been included in the joint committee report. Nationally, there is a recognition that affordability is a priority, so it is extremely disappointing that our state has failed to recognize it as such when it impacts so many of our vulnerable residents.
“Long before the Flint Water Crisis was acknowledged, I began working with what grew into a bi-partisan workgroup of legislators and stakeholders, including Representatives LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit), Sheldon Neeley (D-Detroit), Phil Phelps (D-Flint), Edward Canfield (R-Sebewaing) and the late Rep. Julie Plawecki and we developed these bills as part of our “Water as a Human Right” bill package. Our water workgroup will be following this issue very closely and hope that all issues are addressed fully.”