Rio Tinto Alcan Externalizing Air Pollution onto Kitimat Households, Says Expert Witness

Increased sulphur dioxide (SO2) pollution from the expanded Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C. will result in increased health costs for local households, an expert witness told an Environmental Appeals Board panel in Victoria, Monday.

Dr. Brian Scarfe, an economist and cost-benefit analyst from the University of Victoria, testified before the tribunal that the externalized health costs placed on residents living near the Kitimat smelter will outstrip the cost of introducing scrubbers — which remove SO2 pollution from effluent — to the RTA plant.

In 2013 the B.C. government approved RTA’s permit to increase production of the smelter. The ‘modernization’ project will limit the release of other aluminum-associated emissions including greenhouse gases, but will result in a 56 per cent increase of sulphur dioxide being pumped into the airshed.

B.C. ruled RTA was not required to install scrubbers to prevent the SO2 increase from 27 to 42 tonnes per day.

Koch Brothers' Tar Sands Waste Petcoke Piles Spread to Chicago

Chicago petcoke pile

After using Detroit as a toxic waste dumping ground, the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers are now piling their petroleum coke from tar sands oil refineries in Chicago.

Kiley Kroh of ThinkProgress writes that petroleum coke, or petcoke, “is building up along Chicago's Calumet River and alarming residents.” The Chicago petcoke piles are owned by KCBX, an affiliate of Koch Carbon, which is a subsidiary of Koch Industries.

Petcoke is a high-carbon, high-sulfur byproduct of coking, a refining process that extracts oil from tar sands bitumen crude. The petcoke owned by Charles and David Koch is a byproduct of bitumen crude shipped to US refineries from the Alberta tar sands.

Petcoke From Koch Carbon’s Detroit Tar Sands Waste Pile Finds Its Way Back To Canada

Tar Sands Coker Towers

It seems Koch Carbon, who own the mound of petroleum coke waste piling up on the side of the Detroit River, need to look no further than Canada to sell their high-polluting industrial waste as fuel. Of course, the irony here is that the petcoke is itself a byproduct of imported Canadian tar sands crude being refined in a Marathon Petroleum plant down the river.

Ian Austen writes in the New York Times, that a “Canadian electrical power plant, owned by Nova Scotia Power…is burning the high-carbon, high-sulfur waste product because it is cheaper than natural gas.”  

Residents have reported “regular visits to the coke pile by two self-unloading, oceangoing bulk carriers owned by Canada Steamship Lines of Montreal.” Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) is owned by former Prime Minister Paul Martin's sons, Paul Jr., David and James.

Detroit Petcoke Waste Shows the Consequences of Tar Sands Processing

Rise of Petcoke in North America

A black mound of solid waste is piling up in Detroit, making visualizing the environmental impact of the Canadian tar sands boom a little easier for everyone.

The waste, which is carbon-rich petroleum coke, is a direct result of the Albertan tar sands. Ian Austen writes in the New York Times, that the “three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the…side of the Detroit River” is the “long overlooked byproduct of Canada's oil sands boom.”

The coke is waste from a refinery down the river, owned by Marathon Petroleum, which started processing exported Canadian oil from the tar sands as recently as November. The plant refines 28,000 barrels of bitumen crude a day from the tar sands. Already, the results are showing. But even this mountain of what is essentially sulphur and carbon-infused industrial refuse is less a concern than another way to make money for some. The petroleum coke is bought and owned by Koch Carbon.

Oil Change International: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands

Thanks to Alberta's tar sands, coal-powered energy production just got cheaper, and dirtier.

That is largely due to an often overlooked byproduct of bitumen upgrading: petroleum coke. The byproduct, commonly referred to as petcoke, is derived from the excess heavy hydrocarbons necessarily processed out of bitumen in the production of lighter liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel. The leftover condensed byproduct, petcoke, bears a striking resemblance to coal, and is being integrated into coal power plants across the US and internationally, contributing a tremendous amount of carbon emissions to the tar sands price tag that has been previously unaccounted for.

That is, until the research group Oil Change International released a research report that calculates the use of petcoke in American energy generation increases the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline's emissions by a staggering 13 percent. 

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