Detroit eyes lawsuit to remove mountain of petroleum coke

petroleum cokeA company controlled by the conservative Koch brothers violated city law by dumping a block-long mountain of petroleum coke alongside the Detroit River without obtaining the proper permits, some city officials charged today.

Detroit City Council is considering a lawsuit to force Koch Carbon to remove a three-story pile of high-sulfur, high-carbon waste that is growing by the day. The petroleum byproduct is often sold overseas, where it’s burned as fuel.

The waste, which comes from the adjacent refinery at Marathon Petroleum, was placed there by a company controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy conservatives who have denied the science of climate change.

“There has been no permit to the people,” Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said today, citing ordinances that require council approval before dumping the potentially hazardous material alongside the river.

City attorneys are unsure whether there is a case because federal law may allow the Koch brothers to bypass city ordinances.

“Then we need to address the broken law, and I think that’s grounds enough for litigation,” Watson responded.

Other council members agreed to explore the issue.

But winning a lawsuit – let alone filing one – may be difficult. While the council may vote to file a lawsuit, new Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has the authority to block it.

Additional reporting by Abigail Shah. 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.