Environment Michigan, Ecology Center v. Detroit Renewable Power

DETROIT—National Environmental Law Center (NELC) attorneys sent a formal notice of violations to the companies that own and operate a sprawling municipal solid waste incinerator located in downtown Detroit, Michigan, alleging that the incinerator has been regularly violating the federal Clean Air Act and emitting harmful pollutants into surrounding neighborhoods. The notice, sent on behalf of two statewide citizen groups, Environment Michigan and The Ecology Center, also advised Detroit Renewable Power (DRP) and its corporate affiliate that the groups intend to file suit against the companies in federal court to enforce the emission limits in the facility’s Clean Air Act permit.

The Detroit incinerator burns nearly a million tons of garbage each year which produces emissions of hazardous air pollutants such as benzene, toluene, acrolein, and formaldehyde due to incomplete combustion. Many of these pollutants cause cancer. The incinerator is also a major source of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, both of which help to form ground-level ozone (smog), and sulfur dioxide, another respiratory irritant. In addition, burning municipal solid waste generates particulate matter, heavy metals, and greenhouse gases. The notice of violations sent to Detroit Renewable Power alleges that the incinerator has violated emission limits for carbon monoxide more than 600 times over the past five years. The carbon monoxide violations are particularly significant because they indicate incomplete combustion of waste. Because DRP rarely directly measures emissions of the hazardous air pollutants that are the products of incomplete combustion, strict enforcement of the carbon monoxide limit is critical to public health. 

However, on March 27, Detroit Renewable Power made the stunning announcement that it was permanently shutting down the incinerator. The move elicited instant praise from every corner of the city—from excited and relieved neighborhood residents and environmental activists who had worked for decades to reduce the incinerator’s odors and pollution, and from Detroit’s city officials and public opinion leaders.

We believe that our Jan. 29 notice of intent to sue the incinerator played a major role in the shutdown decision.


Resolution Date: 
Action Taken: 

Notice Letter Sent


Detroit Renewable Power LLC