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Windsor-Essex chapter writes Michigan to oppose Marathon oil refinery plan

Windsor-Essex chapter activist Randy Emerson during our visit with Detroit activists, Oct. 2015. Photo by Valerie Jean.

Windsor-Essex chapter activist Randy Emerson during our visit with Detroit activists, Oct. 2015. Photo by Valerie Jean.

The Council of Canadians Windsor-Essex chapter has written the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in opposition to a proposal that would allow the Marathon oil refinery in Detroit to increase its emissions of at least eight air pollutants, including nitrogen, carbon monoxide, sulfuric acid mist and sulfur dioxide.

Chapter activist Randy Emerson states, “It has come to our attention that Marathon Petroleum Company LP has applied for installation of a gasoil hydrotreater (GOHT) feed heater, a GOHT reactor, etc. and that due to process this will increase emissions from the refinery. On behalf of Council Of Canadians Windsor Essex chapter and environmental group, Windsor On Watch, we are opposed to this application. We understand that it would increase emissions of sulphur dioxide by 22 tons per year and due to prevailing winds these extra emissions will cover Windsor and surrounding areas with more airborne pollutants in an area that already has high asthma and lung disease rates. Sulphur dioxide is not the only chemical that will be released. There will be others. Therefore we ask that you do not accept the Marathon application.”

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.”

The Associated Press has reported, “The agency plans to consider public comments before taking final actions on Marathon’s applications.” But the Detroit Free Press has noted, “The state Department of Environmental Quality has announced it proposes to approve Marathon’s revised air pollution permits…” The deadline to comment to them on this matter is Jan. 29.

To express your opposition to the Marathon refinery plan, please email deq-aqd-ptipubliccomments@michigan.gov.

The Windsor-Essex chapter has also sent its concerns about the refinery to Windsor-area Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Parliament in the hope that they will take some action on this matter.

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
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)