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Petcoke Politics Become Major Campaign Issue With National Implications

By JoshMogerman in News on Sep 7, 2014 6:00PM

Petcoke piles on the banks of the Calumet River.

The petcoke piles plaguing Chicago ‘s Southeast Side have provoked almost universal disdain from Illinois’ politicos.

But just across the Lake, the ashy oil refining waste has become a major issue in a race with major national implications.

With control of the Senate up in the air in D.C., groups have been flooding tight races with cash.

In Michigan, the tight Senate race between Democrat Rep. Gary Peters and Republican Terry Lynn Land has drawn significant attention from Americans for Prosperity, a political action committee run by industrialists Charles and David Koch. The League of Conservation Voters is running TV ads entitled “Koch-land,” connecting the controversial brothers’ funding to an ugly incident when petcoke dust storms blew off 4- story piles along the Detroit River owned by their company Koch Carbon in 2012.

Interestingly, petcoke politics are working for both sides in the race. Land has countered by calling out Peters’ investment in the oil company Total, which has holdings in the Alberta tar sands (that heavy oil is the ultimate source of petcoke in both Detroit and Chicago).

The issue has not taken hold in any statewide Illinois races this year—but hey, election season is young, and it will certainly play into some local races.

Note: an earlier version of the post incorrectly attributed one of the adds to the Michigan League of Conservation voters, rather than the national organization.