Bill text for HR1675 can be viewed here.
March 12, 2019
Zade Alsawah (Peters)
Joe LaPaille (Durbin)
Denzel McCampbell (Tlaib)
James Lewis (Kelly)
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Dick Durbin (IL) and Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) and Robin Kelly (IL-2) announced that today they are introducing bicameral legislation that would address the concerns of petroleum coke on a national level and pave the way for federal environmental safety regulations on the tar sands byproduct. The Petroleum Coke Transparency and Public Health Act of 2019 would require the federal government to study the potential health risks posed by petroleum coke exposure as well as the environmental impacts. Based on the results of the study, the bill would mandate the implementation of federal safety standards for the storage and transportation of petroleum coke. The introduction of the legislation comes as Marathon Petroleum seeks to store pet coke uncovered near the Detroit River, which could expose families to toxic substances. The public has until March 18 to submit comments on Marathon’s proposal to be exempted from a local ordinance requiring that petroleum coke be stored and processed in covered structures. In addition, uncovered piles of petroleum coke have been stored in Southeast Chicago near homes and local baseball fields. Peters and Durbin previously introduced this legislation in 2015.
“We all remember the pet coke piles along the Detroit River blowing into nearby neighborhoods, coating homes and threatening the health of local residents and our Great Lakes,” said Senator Peters. “It’s critical we take action. That’s why I’m reintroducing legislation so that we can better understand the public health and environmental dangers and require evidence-based standards to be developed to protect Michigan families and our communities.”
“If you live on Chicago’s southeast side, you know what pet coke is,” said Senator Durbin. “For years, I’ve been concerned about the possible negative health effects this dangerous pollutant could be having on the community. That is why I’m reintroducing a bill with my colleague, Senator Peters, that would for the first time require a federal study into the health and environmental impacts of pet coke. If the Trump Administration wants to put the special interests of polluters ahead of the American people, than Congress has a responsibility to act.”
“Families in Southeast Michigan continue to be bombarded with harmful pollutants negatively impacting our health,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “Our residents deserve us to do our due diligence to protect their public health and quality of life. We must take action on a national level to create the much needed guidelines on how a carcinogenic toxin like petroleum coke impacts all of us. I’m glad to join efforts with Senators Peters, Durbin and Congresswoman Kelly to get us on the path to do just that.”
“Families in my district know what pet coke is and how dangerous it is to their health and communities. It’s time for a federal study on the health and environmental impacts of pet coke,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “The time for action is now before more harm is done because our public health officials lack accurate data on the impact on pet coke on our families’ health and safety.”
Petroleum coke is a byproduct of refining crude oil into fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Expanded production from Canadian tar sands has dramatically increased the amount of pet-coke entering the United States.
There has been limited review of petroleum coke’s potential health and environmental effects, and each state has different regulations for its storage and transportation. The bill seeks to fill in those gaps by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the public health and environmental impacts of petroleum coke production and use; an assessment of best practices for storing, transporting and managing the material; and an analysis of current and projected domestic production and use.
This bill builds upon previous efforts Peters has undertaken in Congress to address the impact of pet coke on Michigan families. As a member of the House of Representatives representing the neighborhoods where pet coke piles were previously stored along the Detroit River, he met with businesses and families that suffered due to the presence of the substance. In 2013, he teamed with them to successfully advocate for the removal of the pet coke piles. Peters also coauthored a letter with then-State Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) to the International Joint Commission (IJC) urging them to commission a study on how various air pollutants, including pet coke and sulfur dioxide, affected public health in Wayne County.