Ban Petroleum Waste Storage in Low-Income Neighborhoods


Target: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Goal: Ban petcoke storage in working class neighborhoods throughout Chicago

Efforts from Chicago residents to ban the substance Petroleum Coke, or petcoke, in working class, residential neighborhoods have been unsuccessful for more than a year. Despite recent regulations on new petcoke storage facilities in Chicago, citizens are still fighting against the public health threat posed by existing facilities. The effected communities want to see a complete ban on petcoke storage in the city’s residential neighborhoods.

Petcoke is a byproduct of refining tar sands and has become increasingly common in recent years as oil from tar sands is used more frequently. Petcoke is stored uncovered in large amounts around the south side of Chicago. Particles from the uncovered piles blow off and coat neighborhoods in a layer of dust that contains toxic metals and can affect respiratory health. Residents have been complaining for over a year about dust from petcoke piles along the Calumet River in Chicago. These piles cover nearly 150 acres and are located near schools, parks, and residences in a poor and working class neighborhood.

In February, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel created an ordinance that prohibited the construction of new petcoke facilities as well as the expansion of existing facilities, but did not ban them all together. The existing piles are permitted to remain in their current locations and the operators were given two years to cover the petcoke and prevent dust from traveling around the surrounding neighborhoods. These measures are not enough. Chicago needs to protect its residents from both the short-term and long-term health threats posed by the petcoke piles. Demand that Chicago ban petcoke storage in all residential neighborhoods.


Dear Mayor Emanuel,

The recent ordinance prohibiting new and expanded petcoke facilities in Chicago does not go far enough in addressing the health concerns of communities impacted by petcoke storage. The petcoke is stored in large quantities where it is uncovered and coats surrounding neighborhoods in dust that can have adverse health effects. Chicago residents want to see a complete ban on petcoke storage in the city’s residential neighborhoods.

Chicago residents have been requesting a moratorium on petcoke for over a year, yet the ordinance you enacted last February only provides for new or expanded facilities and does not protect citizens from the nearly 150 acres of uncovered petcoke piles that are located close to schools, parks, and residences in poor and working class neighborhoods in the southeast side of Chicago. This is an issue of environmental justice and the city of Chicago must respond by banning petcoke storage in the city’s residential neighborhoods.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Josh Mogerman via Flickr

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