Chicago Petcoke: Big Announcements Mark Improvement, but Not an End to the Problem

CHICAGO (February 25, 2015) – A series of announcements last week regarding Chicago’s controversial petcoke piles signal significant changes coming to the city’s Southeast Side, where the oil refining waste has been mounded in close proximity to homes, parks and schools:

  • KCBX, the company storing and handling the petcoke at two sites along the Calumet River, announced that it would close one site and remove piles from the other, but keep the second site operating indefinitely as a transfer facility to shift petcoke between trains, barges and ships.
  • BP, whose refinery in nearby Whiting, IN is a main source of petcoke being piled in Chicago, announced they would cease storing the material in Illinois.
  • The City of Chicago denied a request from KCBX to delay enclosure of their controversial petcoke piles.

Following is a joint statement from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Midwest Director Henry Henderson and Southeast Environmental Task Force Executive Director Peggy Salazar.

Salazar’s Reaction to the KCBX announcement:

“These announcements represent a big win for the neighbors of the piles; their vigilance and outcry forced action. But make no mistake, this fight is not over.

“The impacts of the petcoke in the midst of the Southeast Side have been shifted, not eliminated.  More will need to be done to protect the community from the likely increasing assault of trains, barges, ships and trucks delivering the dusty mess.

“We do not think there is a place for petcoke or coal in this community. And we are not alone in feeling that way. More than 2700 Chicagoans have signed petitions delivered to the City calling for a ban on petcoke. The issue won big on election day, as 10th Ward voter overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for a ban on petcoke.”

Henderson’s Reaction to the BP announcement:

“We hope that BP’s decision to stop sending its waste to Chicago does not set up other communities to become new dumping grounds. The company needs to have far more transparency about where their petcoke will be going.

“We will be keeping an eye out for our Northwest Indiana neighbors; simply shifting the piles back to where they came from or further down river is not a solution to this problem.”


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