Chicago’s Petcoke Problem: City Council Ordinance Moves in the Right Direction

More Work to Be Done to Live Up to Mayor Emanuel’s Strong Words

CHICAGO (April 30, 2014) – Chicago’s City Council today prohibited more oil refining waste storage sites from blighting the city’s neighborhoods, air and waterways with the passage of an ordinance aimed at banning new coal and petroleum coke (petcoke) operations. The ordinance is a step in the right direction, but it will not rid Southeast Side residents of the petcoke piles that continue to place a huge burden on their community, nor will it freeze the growth of these existing sites.

Following is a statement from NRDC Midwest Director Henry Henderson, who previously served as the founding Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago:

“The City is to be commended for attacking the petcoke problem. Still, a lot more must be done before Chicagoans who live near sites where petroleum coke and coal are mounded, by homes, schools and parks, will be safe.

“The Mayor has been very clear and very public in his desire to push this dirty stuff out of Chicago. Given the City’s multi-pronged approach today’s vote is a move forward. We will need ongoing, concerted effort and enforcement to achieve Emanuel’s goal.

“Meanwhile, residents of the Southeast Side are grappling with the immediate impacts of these mountains of waste in their midst. They have urgently and rightly called for a ban on all petcoke and coal in their neighborhoods. They want the piles out fast and we intend to help.”

Earlier this week, NRDC and the Southeast Environmental Task Force notified officials and responsible authorities that the groups intend to sue under federal law Charles and David Koch, owners of two sites that together hold massive mounds of oil refining waste and coal on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

Lost in the petcoke discussion, today’s ordinance represents an important advance in addressing coal dust, which is an issue that residents have sought action on for decades.


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