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Last week, Greg Sargent pointed out that the new generation of Senate Democrats are more environmentally friendly:

Tim Kaine, the new Senator from Virginia, published a good piece today calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, not just because of the merits or demerits of the project itself, but because it will “hurt our nation’s work to reduce carbon emissions.” Meanwhile, all indications are that Dem Rep. Ed Markey — one of the leading voices on climate change in the House — is on his way to the Senate to join him.

These two things are related. They are only the latest signs that the Democratic caucus in the Senate is steadily getting greener than ever — which may prove an important counterweight to the climate denialism that continues to persist among Republicans.

It’s been widely noted that recent years have resulted in an influx of new, energetic liberals into the Senate. As Reid Wilson detailed recently, a new, “younger generation of Democratic senators” all but ensures the Democratic Party’s “long-term liberalization” on issues from gay rights to immigration to filibuster reform.

With Obama set to mount a new push for climate change this summer, the emphasis on climate change in particular among many of these new Senators is noteworthy and could prove extremely consequential. There are a number of examples of this. Kaine’s opposition to Keystone contrasts sharply with predecessor Jim Webb’s reluctance to support climate change legislation. Markey coauthored the first major legislative response by Congress to the climate crisis.

Tammy Baldwin, the new Senator from Wisconsin, helped author that legislation and has a strong environmental rating from green groups. Martin Heinrich, the new Senator from New Mexico, devoted his maiden speech in the Senate to climate science and the need to pioneer new energy technology. Heinrich and Chris Murphy, the new Senator from Connecticut, both began their careers in conservation. They recently declared in a joint statement that protecting the environment and investing in clean energy are national priorities, and vowed to keep pushing Congress in that direction. (This trend could escalate: Dem Rep. Gary Peters, a leading contender for Michigan’s open Senate seat, has garnered attention for his aggressive criticism of the negative environmental impact of the ”pet coke” — a byproduct of the sort of tar sands oil that Keystone would transport — that’s piling up along the Detroit River in his district.)

“As a generational thing, the new Senators that are emerging view climate change as a central issue to be dealt with,” Navin Nayak, the senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, tells me. “The Senate is getting greener.” - The Washington Post, 6/21/13

I for one happen to agree with the League of Conservation Voters.  Especially when it comes to Congressman Gary Peters (D. MI-14) who is running for retiring Senator Carl Levin's (D. MI) Senate seat:

Michigan U.S. Rep. Gary Peters said Thursday that the state Department of Environmental Quality has learned dust from the mounds “appear to be an issue during the loading of material onto freighters.”

Peters has introduced legislation calling for an investigation into any health and environmental risks from the petroleum coke piles in southwest Detroit.

The mounds of what’s known as “pet coke” are a byproduct of oil refining used in energy production. The material has been brought by trucks from the nearby Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery and stored at a site off Jefferson Avenue in southwest Detroit, where it’s loaded onto freighters. - CBS Detroit, 6/20/13

Here's a little more background info:

One of the two giant mounds of petroleum coke that sparked an outcry from community activists and environmentalists along both sides of the Detroit River is no more.

Nicholson Terminal and Dock, which manages operations at the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority site southwest of the Ambassador Bridge along the river, has opted to get out of the petroleum coke, or pet coke, business.

Company treasurer Patrick Sutka said the company will focus on its core business: handling aluminum and steel-related products.

Sutka said Nicholson had informed its customer that it would not be accepting any more of the material. The pet coke is a by-product of tar sands oil refining from the Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit. The pet coke is handled by Detroit Bulk Storage and owned by Koch Carbon.

The view from a boat in the Detroit River on Wednesday showed what appeared to be a relatively small amount of the material still at the Nicholson-operated site. Despite the removal of the material from the location near Clark and Jefferson, the larger of the two mounds remains in place northeast of the Ambassador Bridge on property owned by the family of billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun and leased to Norfolk Southern railroad. The material is owned and managed by the same companies at both sites. - Detroit Free Press, 6/20/13

And who owns Koch Carbon?  You guess it:

The piles of the tar sands byproduct have been produced by Marathon Petroleum refinery but are owned by Koch Carbon, which is run by well-known businessmen Charles and David Koch.

Marathon has been refining Canada's growing exports of oil sands from Alberta and selling the waste product to Koch since November, according to the The New York Times, which said in a report that Canada plans to increase tar sands exports to the United States via the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has concluded that the black mounds do not pose an immediate health risk.

Locally, the piles are being handled by Detroit Bulk Storage. A spokesman for that company told MLive earlier this month that it is following all proper procedures for storing the petroleum coke, such as using asphalt with an impermeable surface and spraying the piles with a solution deigned to prevent dust blowing off, and added that it has requested a permit with the city of Detroit to store the piles there.

Last week the Nicholson Terminal announced that it would permanently remove Petroleum coke from one of its two sites on the riverfront, though U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) said Friday that more has to be done.

“Removing pet coke from one of the two sites on the Detroit River does not answer the serious questions prompted by open-air storage of the piles,” Peters said. “It is critical that Michiganders get the facts – how to properly store pet coke and what the long risks
could be for residents, small businesses, and the Great Lakes." - Michigan Live, 6/24/13

And environmental activists have been fighting back:

Public pressure continues to ramp up on getting rid of the massive black piles of petroleum coke on Detroit’s riverfront as residents across the border staged an overnight vigil and then Monday morning blocked trucks from the entrance to the site east of the Ambassador Bridge where oil byproduct has been stockpiled for months.

“They have committed an environmental poisoning,” one of the group’s leaders Stephen Boyle told the Detroit Free Press.

Another cross-border protest against petcoke is scheduled for Windsor on Tuesday starting at 7 p.m.

Windsor on Watch, a local group of activists, is leading the “pots and pans” event on the riverfront at the foot of Cameron Avenue where those in attendance will be asked to bang on them in protest. The group will be simultaneously joined directly across the river by the Detroit Sierra Club doing the same thing.

“We are going to show our solidarity between Detroiters and Windsorites,” said Rhonda Anderson, environmental justice co-ordinator for the Detroit Sierra Club. “The coke piles need to be removed. They are having a detrimental impact on the people. The fear is the health impact, but also contamination of the river.”

Anderson described the petcoke as an “additional burden” for residents on the Detroit side already suffering from living in one of the most polluted neighbourhoods in Michigan thanks to a bevy of nearby industry that includes the U.S. steel plant on Zug Island, Detroit Sewage treatment plant and Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery, the producer of the petcoke following a $2-billion upgrade last fall.

“They simply can not take anything else,” Anderson said. “Why have someone add to the burden that’s already there – that’s the bottom line.” - The Windsor Star, 6/24/13

Peters has been listening to his constituents and activists concerns regarding this issue and pushing for action:

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D - Bloomfield Township) met with about 30 local residents, environmentalists and small business leaders in Detroit Tuesday morning, and said he would be introducing new legislation in Washington to study the potential health and environmental risk factors from petroleum coke.

Large, black mounds of petroleum coke have been building up along the Detroit River near the Ambassador Bridge. The piles of the tar sands byproduct have been produced by Marathon Petroleum refinery but are owned by Koch Carbon, which is run by well-known businessmen Charles and David Koch.

Marathon has been refining Canada's growing exports of oil sands from Alberta and selling the waste product to Koch since November, according to the The New York Times, which said in a report earlier this month that Canada plans to increase tar sands exports to the United States via the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

On Tuesday, Peters was flanked by Phil Cooley, a Corktown resident who founded Slows Bar-B-Q, as well as Jacques & Christine Driscoll,who own popular sliders restaurant Green Dot Stables, from where the piles of petroleum coke are clearly visible to customers.

Also with Peters were Nick Schroeck, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center; Kimberly Hill Knott, White House Champion for Change and Senior Policy Manager for Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice; Ife Kilimanjaro, Co-Director of Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council and Michelle Martinez, Public Policy Associate, Consortium of Hispanic Agencies.

“Michiganders deserve answers for why pet coke is allowed to be stored in open air, near the Detroit River and our community, and whether this is being stored with proper permits,” Peters said. “The residents and business owners here with me today are justifiably concerned about the risks to public health that this uncontained blight on our waterfront poses to our families.”

Peters had called for an investigation into petroleum coke’s health affects on the House floor as the legislative body debated the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile project that would span from Canada to Texas.

Peters has also sent a joint letter with U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D - Detroit) to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to investigate whether Detroit Bulk Storage is complying with state regulations for storing petroleum coke.

It follows a letter the two Congressmen sent MDEQ expressing concern over the piles in March, and since then the large black piles have only grown bigger. - Michigan Live, 6/24/13

I wrote about Peters and his plan to introduce legislation studying the effects of pet coke earlier this month:

Peters and Senator Brian Schatz (D. Hi) in my opinion are two of the most environmentally friendly newcomers running for Senate next year.  Peters' record in the House proves he's the type of guy we need in the U.S. Senate:

Here's how I'm working to create new green jobs in Michigan and protect our environment:

Passed the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act in the House: To help ensure the future of Michigan's auto industry and create new manufacturing jobs, I wrote and passed the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act in the House. My bill would strengthen the Department of Energy’s current green technology vehicle programs by authorizing the department to develop new public-private partnerships with a diverse group of automakers, suppliers, academic institutions, and non-profits to collaborate on research and development for new 21st century auto manufacturing. By bringing all of these key players together, we'll ensure that the next generation of clean auto technologies are created and built by Michigan workers.

Successfully led the fight to protect clean energy auto jobs: In 2011 when the House GOP tried to cut $1.5 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program, I led the effort to stop them. Because the ATVM was responsible for moving production of the Ford Focus from Mexico to Michigan and helped create or save over 41,000 American manufacturing jobs, I built a coalition of 108 members of Congress to defend this important funding. By standing up for American workers, we successfully won this fight. You can read more by clicking here.

Working to reduce America’s carbon footprint: In 2009, I proudly voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act to invest in renewable energy sources, reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions and lay the groundwork for a clean energy economy. By pursuing clean energy technologies, we'll break our nation's addiction to foreign fossil fuels and create thousands of American jobs. All of us must do our part to fight global climate change and that's why I’ll keep fighting for important legislation like this.

Protecting our Great Lakes: I have been a strong supporter of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that targets the serious threats of invasive species such as Asian Carp, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediment.  The infiltration of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes could be devastating, and their existence threatens to decimate Michigan’s multi-billion dollar commercial fishing and tourism industries. We must do everything possible to preserve our Great Lakes and I’ll continue supporting policies to achieve this goal.

If you would like to donate or get involved with Peters' campaign, you can do so here:

Originally posted to pdc on Mon Jun 24, 2013 at 07:41 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS, In Support of Labor and Unions, Climate Hawks, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and Motor City Kossacks.

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