Detroit rejects Marathon's request to store petroleum coke without roof


The Marathon tar sands refinery in Southwest Detroit. - EDUARDO GARCÍA
  • Eduardo García
  • The Marathon tar sands refinery in Southwest Detroit.

The city of Detroit on Monday rejected Marathon Petroleum’s request to skirt an ordinance that requires petroleum coke to be stockpiled in enclosed containers.

Petroleum coke is a byproduct of the oil refinery process and is so dirty that it can’t be burned in the U.S.

The city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department (BSEED) said Marathon was unable to demonstrate that “they have not caused a public nuisance.”

"They have offered no analytical data or air monitoring data of any sort that would conclusively show that there are no fugitive dust emissions from the coke pit," BSEED Director David Bell wrote.

Marathon requested a variance from a 2017 ordinance that requires petroleum coke to be stockpiled in enclosed containers.

The company wanted to store the petroleum coke without a roof on the city’s southwest side, saying it would cost tens of millions of dollars to comply with the city’s ordinance, which was adopted after a firestorm of criticism from residents.

The Environmental Protection Agency has warned that petroleum coke dust, if inhaled, can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects. Wind can send the dust into nearby neighborhoods.

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