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Peters Statement on City of Detroit Rejecting Pet Coke Ordinance Exemption Request

EAST LANSING, MIU.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) released the below statement following the decision by the City of Detroit’s Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department to reject an ordinance exemption request from Marathon Petroleum to store pet coke uncovered near the Detroit River:

“When pet coke piles were stored in the open near the Detroit River years ago, it blew into residents’ homes, impacted businesses, flowed into the Great Lakes basin and resulted in a massive dark dust cloud that drifted over the River. It threatened the health and safety of all those living in the area – and I worked with residents to force the pet coke piles out of the community.

“I applaud the City of Detroit for reaffirming today that pet coke piles have no place being stored in the open again along the Detroit River. While this is an important step, I will continue pursuing federal action to put standards in place so Michiganders can be protected from the risks of exposure to pet coke.”

Last month, Peters led introduction of bicameral legislation with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) and Robin Kelly (IL-2) that would pave the way for federal environmental safety regulations on the storage and transportation of petroleum coke - a byproduct of refining crude oil into fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Expanded production from Canadian tar sands has dramatically increased the amount of pet-coke entering the United States.

The Petroleum Coke Transparency and Public Health Act of 2019 would require the federal government to study the potential health risks posed by petroleum coke exposure as well as the environmental impacts. Based on the results of the study, the bill would mandate the implementation of federal safety standards for the storage and transportation of petroleum coke. 

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.

This legislation builds upon previous efforts Peters has undertaken in Congress to address the impact of pet coke on Michigan families. As a member of the House of Representatives representing the neighborhoods where pet coke piles were previously stored along the Detroit River, he met with businesses and families that suffered due to the presence of the substance. In 2013, he teamed with them to successfully advocate for the removal of the pet coke piles. Peters also coauthored a letter with then-State Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) to the International Joint Commission (IJC) urging them to commission a study on how various air pollutants, including pet coke and sulfur dioxide, affected public health in Wayne County.