A newly surfaced video showing a large black cloud of petroleum coke, also known as "pet coke," blowing across the Detroit River is adding to concerns about a three-story pile of the carbon-based substance that's sitting in storage near the Ambassador Bridge.
Watch the video above.
"We’ve been told that the pet coke dust issue is being contained, but here is firsthand evidence to the contrary," said Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) in a statement responding to the video, which was filmed in Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit.
The pet coke pile is owned by Koch Carbon, an affiliate of Koch Industries that sells pet coke internationally. A spokesman for Detroit Bulk Storage, the company that Koch Carbon pays to store the product, confirmed to The Windsor Star that the black dust in the video came from the Detroit pile.
The spokesman said the pile is normally contained with epoxy, and that the video was filmed when the seal was broken on Saturday in order to load a ship.
A Detroit oil refinery owned by Houston-based Marathon Oil has been producing the pet coke since November, following a $2.2 billion renovation that allowed it to process tar sands oil from Alberta province, in Canada. Pet coke is a byproduct of that process, and is sold (often to foreign countries) as a cheaper alternative to coal.
Detroit Bulk Storage says that shipments of pet coke to its already-towering pile by the Detroit River have halted, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found that the product doesn't pose a significant public health risk.
But residents and politicians remained concerned about the substance, which has been found inside homes of people who live near the pile.
Environmentalists point out that pet coke, while cheaper than some traditional fuel sources, is also dirtier. The carbon-based substance produces significantly more carbon dioxide when burned than coal does.
Koch Carbon is owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who have donated vast sums of money to conservative causes. The largest pet coke trader in the world, Oxbow Corporation, is owned by Charles and David's brother, William Koch, according to the research and advocacy organization, Oil Change International.
(Hat tip: woodwose on Reddit)