WBEZ 91.5 11-20-2013 (Petcoke Contamination)

WBEZ 91.5 11-20-2013 (Petcoke Contamination)

KCBX defends pet coke operation on Chicago’s Southeast side

November 20, 2013
WBEZ 91.5 (wbez.org) – Michael Puente

Bowing to pressure from residents, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will not approve a construction permit for KCBX Terminals Inc. In recent weeks the company has been at the center of a controversy over its handling of the ash-like substance known as “pet coke.”

“After the overwhelming response, and in recognition of the various legal and regulatory deliberations still taking place, the IEPA has decided to not issue the construction permit to KCBX this week,” Illinois EPA Director Lisa Bonnett said in a written statement Tuesday. “The Illinois EPA will continue working with the community and other government officials to ensure that a comprehensive solution is reached that will protect human health and the environment.”

Bonnett’s announcement came on the heels of a Tuesday morning protest by a dozen Southeast side residents who oppose KCBX because of the pet coke dust they say has been polluting their neighborhood. Huge piles of pet coke are stored on KCBX property along the Calumet River. The black powdery dust is a byproduct of refining crude oil and often used as a cheap fuel in overseas markets.

Bonnett spoke Tuesday morning before the Union League Club of Chicago where a handful of residents arrived beforehand with makeshift signs chanting “Pet coke makes us choke!” The IEPA director said she met with the protesters following her speech.

Tom Shepherd, who works with the Southeast Side Environmental Task Force, was among them.

“Our area is getting dumped on. The folks are upset over it. It’s a blight on our neighborhood. It’s dangerous, it’s toxic, it’s polluting our area. And we’ve pretty much had enough of it,” Shepherd said.

KCBX is already facing two lawsuits filed in recent weeks; One filed by four Southeast side residents and another by the Illinois Attorney General. Tuesday’s action to deny KCBX an approval for its construction permit is likely to do little to stop operations at the company. NOTE: The residents in the class action lawsuit are being represented by attorney Tom Zimmerman of the Zimmerman Law Offices, in Chicago.

Laurie C. McCausland, deputy general counsel for Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC., the parent company of KCBX, says the permit was simply to move conveyor belts from one facility to another.

In a sit down meeting with WBEZ Tuesday, McCausland provided KCBX’s first response to the pet coke dust storm that engulfed the Southeast side and South Deering neighborhoods in late August during a major thunderstorm. McCausland wasn’t ready to admit that the dust storm came from KCBX’s property.

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