BELLWETHER LEGISLATION IN CHICAGO
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA)1, since 1999, the amount of petcoke exported from the US has doubled to hundreds of tonnes per day, increasing the amount of dust produced from outdoor storage facilities. This prompted South Chicago residents who live near the Koch Industries KCBX facility to file a lawsuit in 2014, accusing the terminal of polluting the local air and water.
Prior to the filing, in response to years of complaints from residents, KCBX spent $10 million to install 42 rotating water cannons mounted on 60ft poles.
Unfortunately, the approach had limited success in controlling the dust, and in fact the lawsuit suggests the equipment may have made things worse, alleging that, “Periodic overwatering of these surfaces can contribute to conditions that allow petroleum coke, coal, and/or dusts of these materials to enter local storm drains and waterways.”
The lawsuit characterizes petcoke as a toxic pollutant, but industry representatives have pointed out that the substance doesn’t fit the EPA’s definition of a pollutant2. Consisting almost completely of carbon, the commodity is traded on the futures exchange alongside crops, minerals and dried bulk goods (such as coffee). Proponents reason that a tradable and transportable inert, non-toxic substance should not be considered a hazardous waste product or a pollutant.
Without awaiting resolution of the lawsuit, the Chicago City Council passed regulations in December 2014 that require petcoke and coal storage companies within the Chicago city limits to completely enclose operations. This forced the closure of a mid-sized Chicago area petcoke storage facility owned by Beemsterboer Slag Corp. However, KCBX submitted plans to build a $120 million enclosure on its existing site, measuring 1,000ft long x 200ft wide x 100ft high (304.8m x 71m x 30.5m), that would contain the entire operation by 2017.