Just a few weeks after petroleum coke dust clouds choked Chicago neighborhoods, the State environmental agency tried to sneak through an air permit allowing expansion of the offending Koch Brothers' coke handling facilities. But hundreds of nearby residents crowded into the hearing and denounced the expansion. Shockingly, the State of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency actually postponed issuing the permit.
"After the overwhelming (public) response ... the IEPA has decided not to issue the construction permit," said IPEA Director Lisa Bonnett.
That's not enough for Alterman Ed Burke (14th Ward), who introduced a bill that would outlaw storage, transport, or use of petcoke.
Meanwhile, the City filed a civil suit, which joins the State's own litigation and privately filed suits by several angry neighbors against the Kochs, their railroad and petcoke docks, and their allies.
This story started a few months ago when the expansion of the nearby BP Refinery to process Canadian Tar Sands crude oil caused BP to generate thousands of tons of petcoke, a powdery refinery byproduct.
The notorious reactionary Koch Brothers have been transporting and handling BP's petcoke on the Chicago docks without pollution controls, thus producing clouds of toxic petcoke dust that blew over nearby housing developments.
Keep reading for the tawdry details about how the billionaire Kochs' companies ignored environmental regulations that are as simple as a car registration, to save a few hundred dollars, while the resulting violations threaten the health of thousands of Chicago residents.
The State's own civil suit against the Koch companies provide the gritty details. Anyone storing petcoke or any powdery substance on the Chicago docks is required to prepare and follow a "Fugitive Particulate" prevention plan, which includes details such as the site owner, and the location of the storage piles.
The Kochs had purchased the (former) DTE Chicago dock. Starting December, 2012, Koch piled 350,000 tons of petcoke (and coal dust) there in eight heaps that towered 63 feet high, exposed to the fabled Chicago wind. Yet the Kochs never bothered to update the old DTE "Fugitive Particulate" operating plan, not even putting their own name on it, much less updating the pollution control measures, among seven violations.
That's the equivalent of buying a car and not re-registering it in your own name. How cheap can billionaire brothers be? Now you know. The result:
On August 30, 2013, and other dates, the Kochs' carelessness caused "...petroleum coke and coal dust ...emitted ... into the surrounding neighborhoods (and) threatened the human health of the local residents" according to the State's complaint.
A playground is .2 miles away. A baseball diamond is directly adjacent. Adams Elementary School is .6 miles to the east. Washington High and Elementary School are within a mile.
The angry neighbors have their own federal class action suit covering thousands of folks, which states,"... the dust gets into peoples' eyes, is inhaled and coats people's homes, outside play areas, cars and other personal property ... threatening human health and unreasonable interfering with local residents' enjoyment of life and property."
Mayor Emanuel has also directed the City's Department of Public Health to draft regulations requiring controls to prevent windblown air pollution from the 5-story-high piles of petroleum coke that are currently stored in the open on the Southeast Chicago docks.