Several Detroit residents traveled to Findlay by bus Wednesday to ask Marathon Petroleum Corp. shareholders to put pressure on company executives to buy their homes in the 48217 ZIP code in Detroit, which is close to a Marathon refinery off Interstate 75.
Erik Shelley, communications coordinator for Michigan United, a social justice organization, said residents of the ZIP code wanted Marathon Petroleum, which owns a refinery close to their homes, to buy their homes.
Emma Lockridge, an advocate for the group, spoke at the Marathon shareholders’ meeting Wednesday, a spokesman for Marathon confirmed.
Lockridge later said she felt “encouraged for the first time in many years.”
Marathon Petroleum CEO Gary Heminger “was very graceful and very nice,” Lockridge said.
She said she hoped she would be able to get another meeting with company executives and possibly have some of them come to the area to see the situation for themselves.
Several protesters described family members whom they said died of complications from pollution from the Marathon refinery.
One protester, John Atkins, described the complaints his 11-year-old grandson has about the air, which smells, Atkins said.
Marathon bought hundreds of homes in Oakwood Heights, a neighborhood in south Detroit, in 2012, according to a Marathon press release from 2012. Residents who live close by in Boynton said they wanted the offer extended to their neighborhood, which is farther from the refinery than Oakwood Heights.
Marathon spokesman Jamal Kheiry said Marathon offered a buyout program to residents of the Oakwood Heights neighborhood because it was directly adjacent to Marathon’s Detroit refinery, and an expansion program, which concluded in 2012, moved the refinery’s footprint closer to the Oakwood Heights neighborhood.
Kheiry said Boynton is on the other side of I-75 from the refinery. It was not offered a buyout program because it was included in the Detroit Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2, while the Oakwood Heights neighborhood was not eligible for that program.
The stabilization program was a federal/state effort that demolished blighted properties, rehabilitated foreclosed and abandoned properties for buyers and renters, and acquired foreclosed and vacant property so it could be marketed to developers.
Kheiry also said Marathon Petroleum’s Detroit refinery reduced its emissions by 76 percent between 1999 and 2016. He added that the refinery produces 3 percent of the EPA-defined air pollutants in the area, and provided a graph that showed most pollutants in the area come from the steel industry and power generation.
University of Michigan researchers have labeled ZIP code 48217, which includes the area around the plant, as the state’s most polluted, according to the Detroit Free Press.
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