Peters, Durbin Introduce Bill to Study Effects of Petroleum Coke

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Dick Durbin (IL) announced today that they introduced legislation to address the concerns of petroleum coke on a national level and open the door for federal environmental safety regulations on the tar sands byproduct. The Petroleum Coke Transparency and Public Health Act of 2015 would for the first time require a federal study into the health and environmental impacts of pet coke. Based on the results of the study, the bill would also require federal safety rules for the storage and transportation of pet coke. U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (IL) introduced companion legislation in the House earlier this year.

“In 2013, pet coke that was stored improperly along the Detroit River blew into nearby neighborhoods and threatened the health of our Great Lakes,” said Senator Peters. “While those piles have since been removed, fully understanding the public health and environmental risks associated with pet coke is critical for protecting our communities from this crude oil waste that is exempt from many federal environmental regulations and standards. I’m proud to introduce this commonsense bill with Senator Durbin to develop strong, evidence-based rules for storing and transporting pet coke.”

“As we continue to explore new methods of energy production, it is important that we understand the health, safety, and environmental impacts of those technologies,” said Senator Durbin. “While we’ve made great progress in limiting and containing pet coke on Chicago’s southeast side, we need to be sure it doesn’t land in another community’s backyard in Illinois or a nearby state. The comprehensive study and rules on petroleum coke authorized by this bill will give us the information we need to continue expanding our energy economy, improving our public health, and protecting our environment.”

Petroleum coke is a byproduct of refining crude oil into fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Recent expansion of refining capacity at a number of U.S. refineries, including facilities in the Great Lakes region, has increased the production of petroleum coke. The legislation introduced today is spurred in part by a three-story high pile of petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River in Michigan.

There has been limited review of petroleum coke’s potential health and environmental effects, and each state has different regulations for its storage and transportation. The bill seeks to fill in those gaps by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the public health and environmental impacts of petroleum coke production and use; an assessment of best practices for storing, transporting and managing the material; and an analysis of current and projected domestic production and use.