Pollution board denies Quinn's petcoke regulations

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2014 at 7:30 pm •  Published: January 23, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) — An Illinois pollution panel on Thursday rejected proposed emergency rules to control piles of petroleum coke along Chicago shipping channels, saying Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency failed to prove there was an imminent threat to public health and safety.

Instead, any new ordinances must go through the regular rulemaking process to provide more time to consider what protections are needed, the Illinois Pollution Control Board said.

Residents on Chicago's southeast side have complained about growing piles of petroleum coke, or "petcoke," saying they fear it can cause respiratory and other health problems and pollute waterways. Their complaints gained attention from city and state officials in August, after petcoke blew into a neighborhood and a park.

The grainy black substance is a byproduct of oil refining, used as fuel in coal and cement plants or in products such as bricks and cement. The piles have been growing as nearby refineries process more oil from Canadian tar sands.

Quinn proposed rules last week to require terminals that store the petcoke to immediately install dust-suppression systems and prevent storm water runoff. He also wanted operators of petcoke and coal terminals throughout Illinois to fully enclose piles within two years.

But industry officials called Quinn's action "regulatory overreach" because Chicago's health department and aldermen already have proposed rules and petcoke handlers have taken steps to prevent the material from blowing around again. Plus, at least one handler already has said it's willing to build structures to enclose its piles.

What's more, they said, Quinn's regulations would have applied to all bulk storage areas — including downstate coal terminals — that haven't drawn complaints and could force some to temporarily shut down.

Industry officials also complained they had only a few days to respond to the proposal.

"You hardly have time to get your arms and your head around what the issues could be," said Tom Wolf, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's energy council. "Put facts on table and let's go through (the rulemaking) process."

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