Support sounded for Marathon’s $363K settlement in Detroit, comment period still open

    Marathon Petroleum Co., Detroit | Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

    A leading environmental rights organizer and a Detroit school official voiced support last week during an online public hearing for a consent order against a refinery presented by state officials.  

    The public comment period remains open until Sept. 28. For more information, contact Erin Moran, EGLE enforcement section officer, at [email protected] or 517-284-0900. 

    As the Advance previously reported, Marathon Petroleum and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) have agreed to a proposed settlement $363,853 and fines as the result of several violations. 

    The order involved air quality near Marathon’s refinery, which is located in Southwest Detroit. Marathon’s violations included: Exceeding particulate matter and hydrogen sulfide emission limits; exceeding visible emission limits; equipment operation violations; and nuisance odor violations. 

    During the public hearing hosted Wednesday by EGLE, Justin Onwenu, a Sierra Club environmental justice organizer, said he supports Marathon’s commitment to provide air quality improvements at Mark Twain school, which is located near the refinery.

    “We want to make sure that students and teachers have a healthy environment to study in so we are glad to see things coming to an agreement,” Onwenu said. “We also just want to make sure that things are done the right way.”

    Mike Simmons, Detroit Public Schools Community District executive director of facilities, said during the hearing that the Marathon-Mark Twain initiative is “creative” and reported that “both “the district supports the project.”

    Marathon Petroleum to pay Detroit school $200K to alleviate air pollution 

    The proposed agreement calls for payment of $81,853 due within 30 days after issuing the consent order; completion of two supplemental environmental projects that total $282,000 (including the Mark Twain project and an online platform for real time air quality data); and stipulated fines for violation of the proposed consent order.

    As reported by the Advance in July, a significant portion of the settlement will go toward installing an air filtration system at Mark Twain School for Scholars. Area residents have complained for years about pollution from the facility. In 2016, Marathon Petroleum and the federal government reached an agreement that called for the Ohio-based company to reduce air pollution at the refinery.

    State Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) attended the school as a child, represents the area in Legislature, and supports the Mark Twain School investment install air purification system, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “To update those systems is a wonderful idea,” Carter said.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.