Detroit councilwoman to introduce petroleum coke law

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A Detroit councilwoman plans to announce Wednesday she’s introducing a law to regulate the storage and transportation of petroleum coke or pet coke.

Council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez talks about an ordinance in the works for 3 years to address air quality in Detroit.

It also aims to reduce the amount of dust created by bulk solid material storage facilities.

Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López said in a statement Tuesday she will hold a 9:30 a.m. news conference in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue to make the announcement. She said her new ordinance, if approved, will be the city's first aimed at improving air quality.

“Every Detroiter deserves to breathe clean air,” Castañeda-López said. “Protecting the public and environmental health of all residents is important to my office because it impacts our children, neighborhoods and local economy.

“Detroiters’ ability to live, work and play in the city is directly tied to air quality and this ordinance is the first step to advancing environmentally friendly policies and practices in the city.”

Pet coke is a byproduct of petroleum refining. Its storage has been controversial since a company stored 30-foot-high piles of pet coke along the Detroit River a few years ago and it blew onto homes and into the waterway.

Council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, right, listens to Mayor Mike Duggan, left, on Tuesday.

She said her proposed legislation will require companies to store the material in enclosed bins and clean and tarp trucks and rail cars used to transport the material before leaving facilities. It will also require their facilities to submit a dust plan that includes street sweeping, wind monitors and air monitors along the perimeter of their facilities.

The councilwoman also said many cities across the nation have already passed similar legislation, including Oakland, Calif., Nye County, Nev., and Washington, D.C.

Nicholas Leonard, a staff attorney for the Great Lakes Environmental Law Clinic, agrees with Castañeda-López. Based in Detroit, the clinic is a group that works to protect the region’s lakes and the communities that depend on them.

Petroleum coke, or pet coke, is a byproduct of petroleum refining.

“To protect residents, many cities and counties across the country have enacted ordinances to control fugitive dust emissions from facilities that store materials such as petroleum coke, sand, gravel, asphalt millings, and other aggregates,” he said in a statement. “Rather than reinvent the wheel, Detroit’s ordinance draws from successful ordinances in other cities and counties that have been passed to limit neighboring communities’ exposure to fugitive dust emissions.”