Law Aims To Keep Chicago From Becoming Petcoke Dumping Ground

Midwest refineries are processing crude oil from Canada's tar sands. Chicago officials voted to ban any new companies from storing petroleum coke in the city, and said existing companies can't expand.

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Refineries looking for a place to store an ashy petroleum byproduct called petcoke can cross Chicago off their list. A new, tough city ordinance bans new storage facilities and prevents existing ones from expanding.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Before petcoke is shipped overseas - where it's burned as fuel - huge piles of it are often stored in open-air facilities. Residents in Detroit complained so much about swirling petcoke dust, it ordered a company to move the piles out.

Chicago did the same for one company, but there are still mounds of petcoke in a neighborhood that's just across the river from an Indiana refinery. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the new city law means no new piles.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: I do not want to see the city of Chicago as a dumping ground for the products out of Indiana. And we're are going to do what we need to do, should have done, didn't do, will do now to protect the public health of the community that lives on the far Southside, near the Indiana border.

CORLEY: KCBX, a company owned by the Koch Brothers, runs the facility where the petcoke is stored. Spokesman Jake Reint says KCBX has taken steps to control dust.

JAKE REINT: But we're willing to make additional investments, including the possibility of covered storage or an enclosure.

CORLEY: And that's just how petcoke is stored in California.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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