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Residents urge state to stop Marathon emissions plan: "Any increase is a harm"

Jan 6, 2016

Theresa Landrum near the Marathon refinery.
Credit Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Residents living in the heavily industrial area near southwest Detroit’s Marathon oil refinery are furious about a plan to increase emissions there.

And they let state environmental regulators know it at a public hearing Wednesday night.

Marathon wants to start removing sulfur, to meet new federal standards for cleaner-burning gasoline.

But to do that, it wants to increase local emissions — in the already-most-polluted ZIP code in the state.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says that based on computer modeling, it believes the project meets state and federal health standards.

But Theresa Landrum of the Michigan Sierra Club says the DEQ has never actually studied people, especially those living in highly-polluted areas.

“So what you say is not harmful to human health … how do you know?” Landrum asked MDEQ officials.

Detroit officials, including Mayor Mike Duggan, have also voiced opposition to the plan.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is Detroit’s public health director. He says added pollution has a “disproportionate impact” on health outcomes in heavily-burdened areas.

“So polluting here – where we know this is the single-most polluted in the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan – is going to have an outsized effect,” El-Sayed said.

The MDEQ has tentatively green-lighted the project, but hasn't formally approved a new permit yet.