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Windsor-Essex chapter letter prompts warning from MP to Michigan about Marathon oil refinery

MasseOn Jan. 15, Windsor-Essex chapter activist Randy Emerson contacted Brian Masse, the Member of Parliament for Windsor West.

Emerson wrote, “I have sent this e-mail to inform you that the Detroit Marathon refinery has applied to the Michigan Dept. Of Environmental Quality to install a gasoil hydrotreater, etc. to further refine oil, some of it tar sands oil, and remove more sulphur dioxide to produce cleaner gas. This WILL result in more emissions of a myriad of chemicals including sulphur dioxide pouring over the border into our lungs. There has already been a hearing in Detroit. The MDEQ is taking further written comments until Jan. 29. I have sent in the comment below to deq-aqd-ptipubliccomments@michigan.gov and am asking for any help you can give.”

As a result, on Jan. 29, Masse wrote the MDEQ, “I am writing to express my concern with the proposed installation of a Gasoil Hydrotreater for the Marathon Petroleum Company LP, located in Detroit MI – Permit Application numbers 118-15 and 122-15. As a Canadian elected official representing people living in close proximity to this plant I am concerned about the air quality impact on citizens I represent.”

Masse also reminds the MDEQ about the Canada-US bilateral agreement on air quality. That agreement that states have “the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.” Masse concludes his letter, “I will be notifying our own Canadian Minister of the Environment as well as the International Joint Commission to apprise them of this proposal and ask them to consider whether as outlined is consistent with US treaty bilateral obligations.”

The Marathon facility in Detroit refines about 120,000 barrels of oil per day. In November 2013, the Marathon refinery started processing 28,000 barrels a day of bitumen from the tar sands. In March 2014, Al Jazeera reported, “Companies don’t usually divulge exactly what is in the diluting agents they use [for the heavy tar sands crude], but most formulas contain volatile hydrocarbons like benzene, a known human carcinogen. …Residents said they believe the refinery’s emissions are behind the unusually high rates of cancer and other illnesses in the neighborhood because it is the closest polluter.”

In Oct. 2015, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, Board members, staff, members of the Windsor-Essex chapter and a representative of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation visited Detroit to learn more about the water and environmental justice issues faced by residents there. We continue to work in solidarity and to build alliances with them.

Further reading
Windsor-Essex chapter writes Michigan to oppose Marathon oil refinery plan (Jan. 15, 2016)
Michigan poised to allow Detroit refinery to pollute even more (Jan. 8, 2016)
Council of Canadians visits Detroit to support campaigns for environmental and water justice (Oct. 27, 2015)

Photo: Windsor West MP Brian Masse.