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With petcoke piles growing larger on the south
side of Chicago, a battle is ensuing over the newly
proposed ordinance introduced in February by
Mayor Emanuel, Alderman Pope (10th) and Alder-
man Burke (14th). This ordinance would “prevent
Chicago from becoming a dumping ground” for pe-
troleum coke, known as "petcoke," in the city and
ban expansion of existing facilities that process,
store or handle the material.
With petcoke defined in two completely different
lights, it’s easy to see where the problem starts. En-
vironmentalists and concerned citizens define the
material as a dirty byproduct of the oil refining
process that can potentially act as a lung irritant and
carcinogen. Whereas industrialists, such as Koch In-
dustries subsidiary KCBX Terminals, define petcoke
as “a valuable product intentionally produced as
part of the process of refining crude oil,” with use
as a fuel and in the production of cement, steel and
other products.
No matter which side of this issue you are on,
there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution for com-
promise. The intent of the proposed legislation is to
introduce stricter regulations on the storage of large
bulk solid materials to fully enclose solid materials
such as coal, pig iron and petcoke, while facilities
with smaller storage capacity and smaller deliveries
would be required to install wind barriers as protec-
tive measures and adopt other practices. While
neighbors and Chicago area residents are pushing
to have this legislation passed, many businesses
that depend on the delivery and use of these mate-
rials are calling it detrimental to their livelihoods.
So, can there be some common ground between
both views? Taking a deeper look into each view-
point might help shed some light on the situation.
By Erin Verpil
SUSTAINABLE CHICAGO Spring 2014