CHICAGO – Chicago officials said Monday that they want to ban any new facilities that handle petroleum coke or coal and prevent existing terminals from expanding.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen John Pope and Ed Burke said they will introduce an ordinance to prevent any more "petcoke" from piling up in Chicago, especially along the Calumet River on the city's southeast side.
Residents there have complained about growing petcoke piles, saying they fear respiratory and other health problems and polluted waterways. Their complaints gained attention from city and state officials in August after petcoke blew into a neighborhood and park.
The grainy black substance is a byproduct of oil refining, used as fuel in coal and cement plants or in products such as bricks and cement. The piles have been growing as nearby refineries process more oil from Canadian tar sands.
The Chicago Health Department is finalizing regulations for the handling and storage of existing piles of petcoke and coal. State officials also are trying to adopt regulations for the handling of the substance.
The Illinois Pollution Control Board last month rejected an attempt by Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to adopt emergency regulations, saying they failed to prove there was an imminent threat to public health and safety.
Instead, any new rules must go through the regular process to provide more time to consider what protections are needed, the pollution panel said.
Industry officials said the city and state are overreacting because petcoke and coal have been handled safely in the area for years.