Marathon Petroleum Partners with Local Fire Department to Meet Regulatory Needs

Leave it to MPC to turn a difficult situation – even a potential regulatory problem – into a model for industry collaboration and community benefit.

Imagine you’re in charge of one of MPC’s dozens of terminals. Safety is your top priority as you conduct our day-to-day business, which is critical to so many people who rely on our fuels. As in any business, there’s always the possibility of an incident. But because you have a contract with an oil spill response organization (OSRO), you’re prepared to respond quickly to protect the public and the environment.

Then, you conduct an unannounced drill, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the OSRO fails to respond. “The OSRO told us they could respond from another location, but it would take two hours to get here, and that’s unacceptable,” said Paul Janssen, manager of the MPC terminal in Green Bay, Wis., on Lake Michigan’s shore.

Terminal, Transport and Rail (TT&R) Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Whitney Reinhart noted that MPC faces EPA-mandated time constraints. “We are required from a regulatory standpoint to make sure we have containment at the water’s edge within an hour,” she said. “Recovery and storage should commence within a couple hours.”

With an OSRO that couldn’t meet those needs, the terminal staff needed to find an alternative. In addition to meeting regulatory requirements, they had to consider a solution that would be cost-effective for the long term and meet the unique needs of their facility. “Because Green Bay is on Lake Michigan, a small boat would not be sufficient to pull a boom out there, especially in bad weather,” Janssen said. “We were going to need a bigger boat.”

But as long as they were considering response capabilities, Reinhart said the terminal and TT&R management decided to take a broader view. “We’re not the only regulated industry in the area, and we also knew we had ready emergency-response expertise at the local fire department,” she said. “We decided to work toward a solution that would benefit not just the Green Bay terminal, but other industries and the community as a whole.”

Janssen, Reinhart and others from MPC contacted local industry and the local fire department to establish a partnership. “MPC took the lead on this,” said Reinhart. “I think our values of health and safety, environmental stewardship and being good corporate citizens really compel us to go above and beyond just regulatory requirements.”

Reinhart said that because the proposed collaboration was a new way of doing business, it took a lot of effort for MPC to keep discussions going. Months of negotiations eventually led to an agreement on how to collaborate for everyone’s benefit. MPC and two other industry partners agreed to pay $225,000 toward the cost of a state-of-the-art emergency response vessel, while Green Bay Fire Department would pay $90,000 and retain use of the boat for the public’s benefit.

“We can now rely on a team of highly trained responders whose main duty is emergency response, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Janssen. He said the boat is docked close to the fire station and is ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. “It’s manned by a captain and crew comprised of fire department personnel who can have a boom in the water within 15 minutes.”

Green Bay Metro Fire Chief David Litton acknowledged there were bumps in the road while coming up with an agreement everyone could live with, but had high praise for MPC. “I’ve been around the fire service profession going on 34 years, and I’ve never before seen a commitment by local industry like this,” he said. “…Marathon stayed the course.”

According to Green Bay Terminal Manager Paul Janssen, the new emergency-response vehicle is “one heck of a boat.” The 28-foot craft, built by Lake Assault Boats LLC, can travel up to 43 mph and pump water at a rate of 1,500 gallons per minute. It can be used as a hydrant for trucks fighting fires near the water and is equipped with sonar and night vision. The boat can be staffed and launched in minutes to conduct water rescues, fight watercraft /shoreline fires and spread foam in the event of a chemical spill. It can also be used to fight fires from the Fox and East rivers and, of course, meet the OSRO needs of the Green Bay terminal.