Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman John Pope (10th), and Alderman Ed Burke (14th) announced today that they will introduce an ordinance at the next City Council meeting that will prevent Chicago from becoming a dumping ground for pet coke by prohibiting new petroleum coke, known as "pet coke," coke and coal facilities in the City of Chicago and ban expansion of existing facilities that process, store or handle the material.
"Protecting the health and safety of our residents is a top priority," said Mayor Emanuel. "These efforts are a significant step to prevent 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."
The Emanuel Administration is joining the aldermen in proposing the ordinance as the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is finalizing regulations following the end of a 50-day public comment period. The proposed ordinance and regulations are part of Mayor Emanuel's overall efforts to protect residents from pet coke and similar materials that have been stored on Chicago's southeast side.
"Just as we fought to shutter the two remaining coal power plants in the city of Chicago, we are working to force existing petroleum coke facilities to either clean up or shut down," said Mayor Emanuel. "We will not allow new facilities to open or existing facilities to expand."
Pet coke 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. A significant amount of pet coke is produced by the BP facility in Whiting, Indiana, and it is anticipated that the amount of pet coke produced by this facility will triple in the coming year due to an influx of oil from Canada and recent upgrades made to the facility.
The new ordinance will prevent Chicago from becoming the primary dumping ground for any expansion in pet coke production by prohibiting new pet coke, coal, and coke facilities from opening within any area in the City of Chicago including residential, commercial and business, downtown, pedestrian, parks and open spaces, and planned manufacturing districts. Existing pet coke, coke, and coal facilities will also be prohibited from expanding their physical footprint in Chicago.
"Through this ordinance, which prohibits the establishment of new facilities that store petcoke and similar materials and the expansion of existing facilities, we are sending a message that the Southeast side of Chicago will not become a permanent dumping ground for these materials," said Alderman John Pope, 10th Ward. "This action demonstrates the City's serious stance against those operations that are conflict with making our City a healthier, safer, place to live."
This ordinance is the next step in protecting residents from pet coke and related dust that for too long has gone unregulated in Chicago. The ordinance will build on the efforts by Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Public Health to finalize regulations relating to the handling and storage of bulk materials. Following a call for residents to report pet coke, the City released draft regulations in December that would require bulk storage facilities to fully enclose bulk solid fuel materials, and adopt other best management practices to prevent the spread of these materials into the air.
Since that time, the City and Alderman Pope hosted a public hearing on the issue and the draft regulations were posted online for public comment through February 7, 2014. City officials are currently reviewing public comments before finalizing regulations. Public comments are available for review HERE.
Pet coke generally contains high concentrations of carbon and sulfur, and also may include trace elements of metals such as vanadium, nickel, chromium and lead. Inhaling pet coke can contribute to serious respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease and asthma.
To report a sighting of pet coke dust, residents should call 311, go online to www.cityofchicago.org/311, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information on pet coke is available at www.cityofchicago.org/petcoke.