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Chicago Bans New Pet Coke Storage Facilities And Prohibits The Expansion of Existing Ones

A new ordinance in Chicago is now in effect that bans new petroleum coke also known as pet coke facilities from being established within the city limits, and prohibits the expansion of existing facilities.

The Willis Tower in downtown Chicago provides a backdrop to a huge mound of petroleum coke, or pet coke, in a residential southeast part of the city. Photo courtesy of gazettenet.com, which was taken by Charles Rex Arbogast.

For those that don’t know what it is, pet coke is a solid carbon material that’s a byproduct of the oil refining process. Pet coke is used as a fuel source for a number of industries including power plants and factories.

Pet coke also has a lot of other uses. It’s a component in the production of electrodes used in furnaces of the steel and aluminum industries, and it’s also used as a component of anodes used in the aluminum, steel, and titanium industries.

The problem with all this is that pet coke is also very unhealthy to be around. Pet coke contains high concentrations of carbon and sulfur, and trace elements of metals including: lead, nickel, chromium, and vanadium. 

A concern of the Chicago Department of Public Health has been that, “Inhaling pet coke can contribute to serious respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease and asthma.”

Another issue the mayor’s office cited for approving the ordinance was that the airborne particles from the pet coke storage facilities created a dark sut that “blackened” vehicles and homes.

The mayor’s office added that these coke facilities have also had other detrimental effects on nearby communities – significantly impacting residents’ quality of life, as well as reducing property values and inhibiting economic development.

Beyond prohibiting existing coke storage facilities from expanding, the new ordinance will also require them to “fully enclose their storage piles.” The mayor’s office added that they will be required to “establish buildings to contain all of their materials.”

These facilities will also be required to enclose all transfer points and conveyers, as well as install monitors that detect the emission of dust.

The companies owning these facilities will also be required to either tarp or cover all trucks carrying materials, in addition to paving internal roads and conducting “daily street sweeping to ensure cleaner transport of materials on site,” said the mayor’s office.

The new ordinance specifies that the companies will have 90 days to submit to the city their plans for overall dust management, including how they will enclose their facilities. They will also be required to provide the city with monthly progress reports and complete all of the modifications within the next two years.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the media, “We are working to force existing petroleum coke facilities to either clean up or shut down. These efforts are a significant step to prevent dust from settling on residential areas.”

Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that similar legislation has been proposed at the state level and that “the city’s regulations complement what we are trying to do.”

In addition to the requirements for pet coke, coke, and coal, Chicago has also set requirements for other facilities that store bulk solid materials like ferro alloys, zinc, and graphite to make sure they operate cleanly.

The city said these facilities are required to “restrict the height of material piles to 30 feet or less” and establish dust suppressant systems that use water cannons or other delivery mechanisms to reduce dust emissions.

The companies that own these facilities are also required to either use tarps or other materials to cover trucks carrying materials, and the city says they are also required to “clean up any spills within one hour and any water spills immediately.”

Chicago – 2014 Earth Hour Capital of the United States

Chicago has taken a lot of major steps to create a cleaner environment for its residents and last month the city was honored as the 2014 Earth Hour Capital of the United States by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The Earth Hour Challenge is a year-long global competition among cities to promote renewable energy and prepare for climate change. To participate, cities need to report at least one quantifiable commitment to either reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding renewable energy, or increasing energy efficiency.

To be considered for the title of Earth Hour Capital, a city needs to report at least one year’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

On Chicago receiving this honor, Keya Chatterjee, director of renewable energy and footprint outreach at the WWF, said in a statement that, “The city’s efforts to make renewable energy accessible, like the one-day turnaround for rooftop solar project permits, along with its work to strengthen the public transportation system make it a ‘first city’ in climate policy. “

As part of the honor, Chicago will receive a $30,000 grant. The mayor’s office said that it “will use some of the grant award funding to launch a partnership to help reduce costs for solar arrays for Chicago residents.”

The city also said some of the “grant money will be awarded to the top submissions for a new poster design contest, ‘City in a Garden.’ Winning posters will be displayed on bus shelters throughout the city, serving as a public art, enhancing daily life in Chicago, and encouraging residents to live more sustainably.”

Chicago was one of three U.S. cities to win a grant from the Earth Hour Challenge this year. The other recipients were Santa Cruz County, Calif., and the city of Albany/El Cerrito, Calif. The WWF said both of these places “are working toward community choice aggregation programs to provide renewable electricity to all of their residents.”

Cape Town, South Africa received the honor of 2014 Global Earth Hour Capital. SouthAfrica.info reported that the city received praise for its actions “including the roll-out of a solar water-heating programme, community engagement on sustainability issues, and good progress in increasing energy efficiency, especially through a large-scale retrofitting programme for its buildings.

“The city also monitors sea levels and has begun education and awareness programmes highlighting the effects of raised ocean levels.” Cape Town beat over 160 cities across 14 countries to be named 2014 Global Earth Hour Capital.

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