Neighbors of Marathon refinery fight proposed emissions hike

Southwest Detroit and Downriver residents are over plans to add more emissions into the air. Neighbors of the Marathon refinery in the state's most polluted zip code are saying leaders enough is enough at the idea of a proposed emissions hike.

Those with Marathon and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality got an earful and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan tore into both of them and threatening to take legal action. There are nuisance neighbors and then there's this. Sherry Griswold lives next door to the marathon refinery.

"I had sulfuric acid sprayed in my face, right from there," Griswold said. "This is what we breathe every day."

The company wants to increase sulfur dioxide emissions by 22 tons a year to meet new Environmental Protection Agency fuel standards.

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"It means a lot of people are going to get sicker," Griswold said.

And thousands of people who live in southwest Detroit and Downriver feel the same way.

A handful of them packed the Patton recreation center as Marathon front man Jim Wilkins tried to sell them on the emissions hike.

"Obviously the one project that's in question here you saw an increase of 22 tons a year," he told the crowd. "But there are several other reductions associated with our flairs that will more than pull down our emissions increases with the clean fuels project."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan came out swinging.

"I'm going to convert 'Marathon-speak' into what I believe is actually accurate," Duggan said to the crowd. "Do you see these numbers coming down, how they look like good corporate citizens? Those numbers are primarily driven by the federal government forcing them in the consent agreement to reduce the pollution.

"Even at this reduced level we are still the only area of non-attainment on sulfur dioxide in the state of Michigan."

The Detroit City Council and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans are pleading with the MDEQ to deny the Marathon proposal.

"We do careful reviews of our permit applications," said Lyn Fiedler of the MDEQ. " We're going to continue to do that. We've gone through our review and that's why we asked for additional information from the company."

But there are questions about the MDEQ's judgment after the Flint water crisis.

"I don't think people generally  have faith in their ability to make a sound honest decision," said Evans. "And I for one, am absolutely opposed to the permit."

"The only area in Michigan that exceeds the pollutant level for sulfur dioxide is this area in southwest  Detroit," Duggan said. "And if the MDEQ agrees to add more pollutants in this area I think their credibility will be done for good."

The public comment period for the proposal ends Jan. 29. Duggan says if the state agency approves the proposal, the city of Detroit will fight it in court.

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