Senators Introduce Bill to Study Effects of Petroleum Coke

WASHINGTON – Four U.S. senators introduced legislation today to require a study of the health, environmental and safety effects of petroleum coke, a byproduct of petroleum refining that is used in energy production.  The Petroleum Coke Transparency and Public Health Study Act, introduced by Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is a companion to legislation introduced in the House earlier this year by Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich.


The legislation is spurred in part by the storage of a three-story high pile of petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River in Michigan, which has raised public health and environmental concerns.


“As we continue to explore new methods of energy production, it is important that we understand the health, safety, and environmental impacts of those technologies,” said Durbin. “The comprehensive study on petroleum coke authorized by this bill will give us the information we need to continue expanding our energy economy, maintaining our public health, and protecting our environment.”


“Increasing production, storage and use of petroleum coke means it is vitally important for us to fully understand the health, safety and environmental effects,” Levin said. “This legislation will provide the understanding we need to exercise good stewardship.”


“It is important we understand the potentially severe health risks posed by storing large amounts of petroleum coke near our communities and waterways,” Stabenow said. “This bill will help ensure the health of our waterways and the health of our families will be protected.”


“Ohioans deserve a full study of the health and safety effects of petroleum coke. This will ensure that its production, storage, and handling are guided by science and community input,” said Brown.


“I’ve met with Michigan small business owners and families and share their concerns about the open-air storage of petroleum coke along the Detroit River, and that’s why I have been fighting for a federal study to get answers on the potential long-term effects of pet coke on public health and the Great Lakes watershed,” Peters said.  “We’ve experienced firsthand how the uncontained piles of pet coke have blown into homes and businesses and even emptied into the Detroit River, but we don’t know yet the potential health and environmental risks. I’m glad Senators Levin, Stabenow, Durbin, and Brown are joining this effort because properly storing pet coke is a challenge other cities and towns will face across the country.”


Petroleum coke is a byproduct of refining crude oil into fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Recent expansion of refining capacity at a number of U.S. refineries, including facilities in the Great Lakes region, will in turn increase production of petroleum coke.


There has been limited review of petroleum coke’s potential health and environmental effects, and each state has different regulations for its storage and transportation. The bill introduced today seeks to fill in those gaps by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the public health and environmental impacts of petroleum coke production and use; an assessment of best practices for storing, transporting and managing the material; and an analysis of current and projected domestic production and use.