Detroit Can’t Catch a Break

How the Tar Sands & the Koch Brothers Are Polluting Detroit

Detroit has not been having an easy time of it lately, but now the Canadian tar sands and the Koch Brothers are making things even worse.

Check out this video of a giant dirty cloud that was filmed drifting over the city last weekend:


It turns out this dirty cloud was made up of petroleum coke or “pet-coke” being illegally stored on behalf of Koch Carbon.

Climate Progress’s Kiley Kroh explains:

The petroleum coke is a high-carbon, high-sulfur byproduct of Canadian tar sands that are shipped from Alberta to Detroit to be refined. The uncovered black pile began building up along the river this year and drew outrage from residents of Detroit and nearby Windsor, Ontario as it grew to over three stories high and a block long.

The pet-coke was produced by Marathon Refinery but is owned by Koch Carbon which is controlled by Charles and David Koch — billionaire industrialists and major backers of a host of ultra-conservative efforts, including several aimed at obstructing action on climate change and impeding progress on clean energy.

According to WXYZ-Detroit, “Detroit Bulk Storage has been receiving shipments of the oil by-product and storing them near the Detroit River but a recent investigation by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the company broke the law by not getting a permit first.”

And here’s why we should all be concerned about this:

The dangers of petroleum coke — both as a waste product gathering in communities and as an extremely dirty energy source — will only be compounded as increasing amounts of Canadian tar sands are brought into the U.S. to be refined. If, for example, the Obama administration approves the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and facilitates the transport of more tar sands into the country, it will exponentially increase the amount of pet-coke building up around the refinineries — leaving cities like Detroit wondering what to do with the mess it leaves behind.

This single dirty cloud is a good reminder that the tar sands are, well, really, really dirty, whether it’s where they are extracted (a process that produces huge amounts of carbon pollution and other toxic pollutants), in pipelines they spill from, where they are refined, and, of course, when they’re ultimately burned in our cars and trucks and release yet more climate-changing carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

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Advocacy Team