Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to ban new petcoke facilities from setting up shop in the city and prevent existing sites from expanding.
The mayor is expected to introduce a measure regarding the proposed petcoke facility regulations at March's Chicago City Council meeting. Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and Ald. John Pope (10th) are co-sponsoring the ordinance.
“Protecting the health and safety of our communities is the No. 1 priority in Chicago,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Prohibiting new and expanded facilities is a significant step to prevent petcoke dust from settling in residential areas. We will continue to work to regulate their operations to ensure our residents have the best possible quality of life.”
Petcoke, which is a thick, powdery byproduct of oil refining, can pollute the air and water. Mounds of it are being stored along the banks of the Calumet River on Chicago's Southeast Side. The petcoke piles were barged there from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana.
Dr. Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the city's Department of Public Health, said the ordinance is meant to protect the public health of those living in the surrounding areas where petcoke is stored.
“We know that petcoke is a respiratory irritant and the main concern is if the petcoke is inhaled,” Choucair said. “If you have somebody with asthma or other respiratory problems, inhaling petcoke would really lead to more problems. . . . We are advancing this ordinance to protect our residents.”
Last year, four Chicago families filed a joint lawsuit against a number of companies that house petcoke in the city. Emanuel later announced new regulations for petcoke piles in Chicago.
One firm agreed in December to remove petcoke piles from Chicago and no longer accept, handle or store the byproduct of oil refining following a lawsuit filed against the company by the city and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has also announced statewide petcoke regulations. The proposed rules, however, have to go through the formal rule-making process because Illinois' Pollution Control Board voted down the governor's proposal for emergency petcoke regulations in late January.