SOUTH DEERING — The city of Chicago has banned the storage and through-transfer of petroleum coke from one of two Southeast Side KCBX Terminals Co. facilities starting at the end of June.
In a letter dated May 18, Planning and Development Department Commissioner Andrew J. Mooney alerted KCBX to an administrative order that restricts the amount of petcoke allowed at the company's north terminal to “zero” starting June 30.
“Future coke and coal bulk material uses shall not be permitted,” Mooney wrote.
Although the company previously notified the city that it intended to whittle down petcoke piles at its north terminal by the end of this month, the city’s new order puts that decision into law.
“It prevents any backtracking,” said Josh Mogerman, a representative for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "If business plans change or ownership changes, it doesn’t matter. Petcoke will be on the site no more.”
Petcoke is an industrial byproduct made by the ton at oil refineries such as the BP facility in Whiting, Ind. Southeast Side residents complained that petcoke dust blown from storage facilities along the Calumet River blanketed their cars and lawns and kept them inside with their windows closed. Breathing in the dust can contribute to respiratory problems, according to the city.
The city’s decision now leaves the KCBX south terminal as the only remaining Chicago location where petcoke is stored.
KCBX operates two Southeast Side facilities: the north terminal at 3259 E. 100th St. and the south terminal at East 108th Street and South Burley Avenue.
The company announced in February that it intended to convert its south terminal to a direct transfer facility, where petcoke would be shifted to trucks, barges and freighters and moved elsewhere.
A third site owned by Hammond-based Beemsterboer Slag Corp. ceased petcoke storage at its East 106th Street facility in 2014 after legal and financial pressure sparked by a joint suit from the city and the Illinois Attorney General. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also has two suits pending against KCBX, alleging open dumping violations and water and air pollution violations at both Chicago sites.
KCBX is owned by parent company Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, one of several business interests controlled by brothers Charles and David Koch. A Koch Companies representative did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
Southeast Side environmentalists who have been fighting storage of petcoke in their neighborhood consider the city’s decision a major victory, and said they will continue to fight the presence of petcoke at the KCBX south terminal.
In a joint statement, Natural Resources Defense Council Midwest director Henry Henderson and Southeast Environmental Taskforce executive director Peggy Salazar said that "the burden will not be lifted" from KCBX's neighbors — “just shifted."
"The constant boat, barge, train and truck traffic from an industrial petcoke transfer site will likely bring health and quality of life impacts that the neighbors have made clear that they will not accept," their statement read.
The city has not yet issued an order on petcoke storage or transfer at the south terminal, Mogerman said. Commissioner Mooney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Robin Amer is a contributing reporter to DNAinfo Chicago. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @rsamer.
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