UPDATED: Detroit Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department Extends Public Comment Period Regarding Marathon's Request for a Variance from the Detroit Dust Ordinance

The Detroit Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) has extended the deadline for public comment regarding Marathon’s request for a variance from the Detroit dust ordinance. Most importantly, Marathon has requested an exception from the Ordinance’s requirement that all petroleum coke be stored, processed, and handled in a fully enclosed structure. The public may submit comments until March 18, 2019. Comments may be submitted either online or by mail. Information regarding how to submit comments as well as Marathon’s request for a can be found here.

However, BSEED has not committed to hold another public hearing on Marathon’s request for a variance. While BSEED held a public hearing on January 23rd, it did so before it provided proper notice as required by section 22-5-64 of the ordinance. Contact BSEED to insist that they comply with the Detroit dust ordinance, and hold another public hearing so that residents can provide their input regarding Marathon’s request for several exemptions from the Detroit dust ordinance. Contact BSEED at 313-224-2733.

What is Petroleum coke?

Petroleum coke is an extremely dusty byproduct of oil refining. When stored in large quantities, it can create large amounts of fine dust, commonly referred to as particulate matter, which can blow into nearby neighborhoods and impact people’s health. A study commissioned by the City of Chicago found that the maximum predicted concentration of fine particulate matter from a petroleum coke pile placed outdoors was approximately 4,900 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which is 32 times the health-based ambient air quality standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What does the Detroit dust ordinance require, and what is a “variance”?

In 2017, the city of Detroit passed an air quality ordinance to strictly regulate the storage of petroleum coke. This Ordinance requires all facilities in Detroit to store, handle, and process petroleum coke in a completely enclosed structure to limit human exposure to particulate matter pollution. However, a facility may request a “variance” from a requirement if they believe that compliance with the Ordinance will impose an unreasonable hardship. A variance is an exemption from specific requirements of the Ordinance that is granted on a case-by-case basis by BSEED.

Marathon has requested a variance from numerous requirements in the Detroit Ordinance, including the following:

  • Requirement that Marathon store, handle, and process petroleum coke in a fully enclosed structure

  • Requirement that Marathon conduct a street sweeping program in compliance with the Ordinance

  • Requirement that Marathon install a rumble strip for outgoing trucks to limit the track out of dust onto roadways

  • Requirement to conduct visual emissions observations

If Marathon is issued a variance, it does not have to comply with the specific requirements described above. Before being issued a variance, Marathon must demonstrate that being exempt from these requirements will not create a pubic nuisance, or adversely impact the surrounding area, environment, or property uses.

Additional Information

Detroit Dust Ordinance

Great Lakes Environmental Law Center Fact Sheet + Talking Points

Great Lakes Environmental Law Center Comments Regarding Marathon Variance Request

Marathon’s Variance Application

Marathon’s Fugitive and Coke Handling Dust Control Guide

Information About How to Submit Comments