CITY OF CHICAGO DENIES PETCOKE OPERATOR’S REQUEST TO REWRITE THE RULES
City directs company to take stronger measures to protect air quality or take business elsewhere
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman John Pope (10th) announced today that the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) would not grant a request by petroleum coke (petcoke) operator KCBX Terminals Company for an additional 14 months to comply with city regulations that require facilities to enclose their petcoke piles. CDPH found that KCBX failed to provide adequate justification for the extension and the request lacked important details related to fire prevention, storm water management and building code compliance. Additionally, CDPH urged the company to demonstrate its commitment to reducing the impact of petcoke piles on surrounding neighborhoods by taking additional steps to address concerns about the KCBX North Terminal and removing all petcoke piles until the enclosure facility is completed. The variance decision letter can be reviewed here.
“From the beginning my message to the petcoke operators has been simple: clean up or shut down,” said Mayor Emanuel. “KCBX needs to demonstrate that it will take serious steps to reduce the impact of its operations on the residents of the Southwest side or it has no place in any part of Chicago.”
In the letter to KCBX, CDPH Acting Commissioner Julie Morita, M.D., informed KCBX that the department would not grant the company’s request for additional time to build a facility for petcoke storage beyond the two-year period required by City regulations. On December 17, 2014, KCBX requested an additional 14 months to build the facility. CDPH did not grant this request due to the inadequacy of the KCBX request, which lacked important information on fire prevention measures, storm water management and building code compliance.
“While the city’s regulations allow KCBX to seek additional time to build the facility they do not allow the company to keep exposing residents to harmful dust,” said Acting Commissioner Morita. “The City needs to see more proof that KCBX understands the importance of protecting residents living in close proximity to its facilities while it builds the facility.”
The CDPH letter also urged KCBX to demonstrate its commitment to minimizing the impact of its operations on the surrounding community. In particular, Acting Commissioner Morita expressed concerns about the KCBX North Terminal, which is located less than a half-block from residential homes, and the status of the petcoke piles at the South Terminal while the storage facility undergoes construction.
“KCBX must take stronger action to show the residents of the 10th ward that they are serious about air quality in residential neighborhoods,” said Alderman John Pope (10th). “The company should take a hard look at scaling back operations and removing petcoke piles before they ask for additional time to build the facility.”
Today’s developments build upon the Mayor and Alderman’s previous efforts to protect residents from harmful petcoke dust. In March 2014, CDPH finalized regulations related to the handling and storing of bulk materials, including petcoke. In April 2014, the City Council passed an ordinance co-sponsored by the Mayor and Aldermen Pope and Burke to ban new petcoke, coke and coal facilities and prohibit the expansion of existing facilities. In August 2014, the City issued a cease and desist order to Calumet Transload, a company owned by the Beemsterboer family, for illegally storing approximately 12,000 tons of coke material at their facility with plans to bring an additional 8,000 tons to the site. Those regulations required companies that currently transport or store petcoke to fully enclose their facilities and adopt other best management practices to prevent the spread of these materials into the air. This January, the City Council approved an ordinance directing the Department of Planning and Development to establish by March 31, 2015 a ceiling on the amount of petcoke that can enter the City.
In response to continued pressure from the City, Attorney General Madigan, and community advocates, the Beemsterboer family withdrew its applications for state permits to store petcoke and decided to sell its facility on the Southeast Side of Chicago. Calumet Transload has removed all petcoke from its Chicago facility, leaving KCBX as the only company dealing in bulk petcoke in Chicago.
Petcoke is a solid carbon material derived as a byproduct of the oil refining process and is typically used as a fuel source in power plants. Inhaling pet coke can contribute to serious respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease and asthma.
The City also asks residents who observe coke or coal dust in their neighborhoods to report it to 311 or by emailing [email protected]. Additional information can be found at http://www.cityofchicago.org/petcoke.