Marathon Petroleum wants to increase emissions in SW Detroit

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Marathon Petroleum is on the verge of getting state approval to increase emissions at its southwest Detroit refinery.

But not before residents in the area get their say.

Marathon Petroleum is the only refinery in the state and produces 130,000 barrels a day. The company just completed a $2.2 billion dollar expansion in 2012 - and now wants to further expand its emissions.

It has requested a permit from the state of Michigan that critics say is a permit to pollute.

"You have to consider before you move forward," said Emma Lockridge, who lives near the refinery. "Think about what that so2 (sulfur dioxide) is going to do to the people who live downwind right now at the refinery."

Lockridge lives downwind in the most polluted zip code in the state - 48217, where asthma rates are through the roof and sulfur dioxide emissions - which would increase under this plan - are a serious health concern.

She doesn't just blame Marathon - she blames the state of Michigan.

"This is Flint part two," she said. "They came with their bottles of water they said were contaminated (and) the state did nothing and now we see this catastrophe we have. How much longer will it be before this catastrophe is actually revealed?"

"This continues to affirm to us that they are not looking out for the health of the residents and their quality of life," said Rhonda Anderson of the Sierra Club. "That is totally not what they're doing."

Former State Representative Rashida Tlaib is now with the Sugar Law Center. She says the Department of Health needs to be involved and she says they'll fight this.

"I think a lot of people are very frustrated and distrustful of the state right now in making these decisions in the best interest of our families," Tlaib said. "We're not in attainment and we shouldn't be talking about expansion until they actually are in attainment. So2 is serious.

It is harmful to human health. It triggers asthma attacks, cardiovascular issues, all this in an area classified as non-attainment for sulfur dioxide - meaning federal air quality standards are not being met.

"Basically this area right now is failing to meet standards for sulfur dioxide," said Andrew Sarpolis of the Sierra Club. "And in spite of that, the state is looking with this permit at increasing the emissions by another 22 tons."

According to filings, Marathon says its request remains within the acceptable limits and will allow for lower sulfur in gasoline and lower sulfur dioxide emissions from vehicles.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the request doesn't violate any of their rules.

"We need to start doing something about this to protect the people who live here," Lockridge said.

Plenty of people want to weigh in and the MDEQ is holding a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the River Rouge High School auditorium.