Durbin, Kelly Announce Joint Pet Coke Legislation

[CHICAGO] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) met with residents of Chicago’s Southeast Side today to announce they are co-sponsoring legislation that will address the concerns of petroleum coke on a national level and open the door for federal environmental safety regulations on the tar sands byproduct.

The Petroleum Coke Transparency and Public Health Act of 2015 would for the first time require a federal study into the health and environmental impacts of pet coke. Based on the results of the study, the bill would also require federal safety rules for the storage and transportation of pet coke. 

“As the U.S. refines more and more tar sands, pet coke is becoming a problem for many people – none of whom deserve to breathe dirty air or live near potentially hazardous materials,” Senator Durbin said. “I commend the community for standing up and fighting the corporations storing pet coke next to their homes and Mayor Emanuel for taking decisive action to put standards in place that protect public and environmental health. While we’ve made great progress in limiting and containing pet coke on Chicago’s southeast side, the substance is not going away. We need to be sure it doesn’t land in another community’s backyard in Illinois or a nearby state. The comprehensive study and rules on petroleum coke authorized by this bill will give us the information we need to continue expanding our energy economy, improving our public health, and protecting our environment.”

“There are still many unknowns about pet coke, including its environmental and health impacts,” Kelly said. “We need to ensure that pet coke does not pose a hazard to the health of our citizens or contaminate our precious air and water. A comprehensive study would give us a full understanding of its health effects and pave the way for proper controls.”

Last year, the Southeast Side became an environmental battle zone as 10th Ward community activists protested against pet coke dust storms blowing across their neighborhoods from eight-story piles of the waste product stored on the banks of the Calumet River. As a result of the combined efforts of federal, state and city lawmakers, the pet coke piles have been reduced in size; an overhead sprinkler system was installed to help reduce the wind-blown dust particles; and EPA air-quality monitors were placed throughout the neighborhood.

Joining Kelly and Durbin at the press conference were Chicago 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza; Peggy Salazar of the Southeast Environmental Task Force; Brian Urbaszewski of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago; Josh Mogerman from the Natural Resources Defense Council, and many community residents. U.S. Senator Gary Peters, (D-MI), is a co-sponsor of the bill.