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Petcoke Problems Persist on Southeast Side

By JoshMogerman in News on Aug 10, 2014 8:00PM

Petcoke Piles on the Southeast Side.

A dust-up on the Southeast Side this week makes clear the ongoing fight over storage of petcoke from BP's nearby refinery is far from over.

On Wednesday, the City of Chicago issued a cease and desist order to Calumet Transload for illegally storing 12,000 tons of the material without proper permits or equipment.

Despite the order, the city had to step in on Friday to prevent the company from adding another 8,000 tons of petcoke to their site.

The company now faces a series of potential fines and is under surveillance from the City to ensure no further attempts are made to bring in additional petcoke.

As The Times of Northwest Indiana reports:

Calumet Transload is owned by Beemsterboer Slag Corp. It also provided railroad access to the adjacent company KCBX, owned by Koch Industries, which has said it is considering suing the city for petcoke restrictions enacted earlier this year.

Beemsterboer's nearby facility at 106th Street is largely empty after huge mounds of petcoke and other materials were removed due to permit issues and legal action from City and State officials late last year.

Meanwhile, in the otherwise unsexy world of permit variances, a group of companies in the area have quietly lined up to request exceptions to the city's new rules for handling of petcoke, coal and other materials.

Most notable in that group is KCBX, as noted by the Trib:

Escalating a fight with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a company that stores enormous mounds of petroleum coke on Chicago's Southeast Side is threatening to sue unless city officials allow the gritty piles to remain uncovered for another four years. KCBX Terminals, a firm controlled by industrialists Charles and David Koch, is pushing to delay the construction of storage sheds for two years past a 2016 deadline imposed by the Emanuel administration in response to complaints about black dust blowing into surrounding neighborhoods.

The company also wants to raise the maximum height of its piles to 45 feet rather than the 30-foot limit required under new city regulations, according to documents filed by KCBX that seek several exemptions, known as variances, from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

"If the department denies the variances, KCBX's only recourse would be to challenge the department in court," the company's lawyers wrote in an 88-page request that repeatedly describes the Emanuel rules as an "unreasonable hardship."


Last year, another Koch subsidiary removed a waterfront mound of petcoke in Detroit under pressure from local political leaders, but KCBX appears to be girding for a long battle in Chicago. Even if the city balks at giving the company what it wants, dragging the dispute into court could keep the piles uncovered indefinitely.

The company's legal threat comes less than a month after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused KCBX of violating the federal Clean Air Act. Pollution monitors recorded high levels of lung-damaging particulate matter on April 12 and May 8 near the Burley Avenue terminal and a second KCBX site a few blocks north off 100th Street.

While KCBX has taken exception to the coverage, it is clear that neighbors pushing to rid the Southeast Side of the towering petcoke piles and dust they say is choking their neighborhood will be digging in for a long fight.