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Environment & Climate Change

Detroit politicians, residents line up to blast Marathon emissions plan, MDEQ

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The Marathon oil refinery in southwest Detroit had a small fire this morning.

Political leaders are lining up to blast a Detroit oil refinery’s plan.

Mayor Mike Duggan was just one of the officials speaking out at a public hearing Thursday night.

Duggan threatened to sue the state if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approves the Marathon refinery’s plan.

The oil company wants to increase sulfur dioxide and some other emissions there, in a bid to meet new national standards for cleaner-burning fuel.

The MDEQ says the plan meets state and federal environmental standards, and shouldn’t harm public health.

Marathon also says it’s reduced sulfur and other emissions significantly in recent years.

But many, including Detroit State Representative Stephanie Chang, worry about the cumulative effects of industrial pollution on the area, which is already considered in “non-attainment” of federal standards for sulfur dioxide emissions.

Chang says the MDEQ’s position also reflects recent criticisms of its “minimalist approach to regulatory and oversight responsibilities … [that are] unacceptable and insufficient to protect public health” in the wake of Flint’s water contamination crisis.

Chang says it’s not too late for MDEQ to change its mind here, though.

“I know that a lot of times we get frustrated. We feel like they [MDEQ] aren’t doing what they need to,” Chang said. “Well, this is their opportunity to do the right thing.”

Ann Byrne, who lives in the southwest Detroit neighborhood near the refinery, says residents there feel like the MDEQ already lets Marathon and other large industrial polluters get away with too many violations.

“There’s a conflict there,” Byrne said. “And we don’t like it. Essentially, they’re doing the same thing to Detroit air [that] they did to Flint water.”

The MDEQ has yet to formally approve Marathon’s request. The public comment period on a revised permit ends Friday.

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