New permits to reduce air pollutants from Marathon

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality has approved two new air permits for Marathon’s refinery operation in southwest Detroit — a move the state said would lead to reductions in harmful air pollution.

Sulfur dioxide in particular will be reduced under the permits, which were required under new standards handed down by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The fuel giant’s original proposal under the standards would have allowed for higher sulfur dioxide emissions coming from the operation located just off Interstate 75.

But local officials and residents successfully pushed back, and state officials maintain that additional, voluntary steps taken by Marathon will reduce by one ton the amount of sulfur dioxide released each year from the refinery. They also will result in cuts in sulfuric acid and nitrogen oxide emissions.

“The voice of our citizens and elected officials working together and communicating to Marathon and MDEQ had a powerful influence on this decision,” said Brenda Jones, Detroit City Council president, in a DEQ press release. “Marathon and MDEQ listened to citizens during public comment and this caused Marathon to work harder to achieve a healthier solution that provides greater benefit to the community.”

Marathon’s presence in Detroit long has been an issue of concern for the residents who live nearby. Complaints of health concerns linked with air pollution have been common.

In January, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan criticized the terms of Marathon’s original permit requests and threatened litigation if changes were not made. This week, Marathon officials touted their cooperation with the city to reach an acceptable permit.

“In order to address public concerns, we worked closely with Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan’s administration and the MDEQ to develop the supplement to our permit application,” said Dave Roland, general manager of the refinery, in a press release. “We believe this partnership was successful, and we remain committed to our ongoing efforts to minimize emissions.”

On Friday, Duggan similarly welcomed the new permits.

“This is very good news for the families who live near this refinery,” the Democratic mayor said in a statement.

“I’m glad Marathon listened to the community’s concerns and has agreed to reduce its emissions of sulfur dioxide and other harmful pollutants. While we have more work to do on the issue of environmental justice, this outcome is a step in the right direction toward protecting the health of residents of Southwest Detroit.”

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