Officials with KCBX Terminals Company, one of the petcoke storage facility operators on Chicago's Southeast Side, are prepared to take legal action against the city if the firm is not allowed to delay enclosing its petcoke piles for four years. KCBX, which is controlled by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, is also seeking city approval to increase the height of its petcoke mounds.
Recent city regulations, prompted by health and environmental concerns raised by Southeast Side residents, requires petcoke facility operators to enclose their piles of the oil refining byproduct by 2016. Among other city regulations, petcoke mounds cannot exceed a height of 30 feet.
KCBX is asking permission from the Chicago Department of Public Health to have 45-foot mounds of petcoke and a deadline of 2018 to enclose its piles of the gritty material.
"If the department denies the variances, KCBX's only recourse would be to challenge the department in court," reads the request sent to the city by KCBX lawyers, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The mayor's office issued a statement to the Tribune, stating that the city's petcoke rules "set a high bar for the issuance of variances, allowing them only if the company can prove that the change would not affect the surrounding environment and properties or create a public nuisance."
Meanwhile, Southeast Environmental Task Force Executive Director Peggy Salazar told the newspaper that Mayor Rahm Emanuel "promised to make it tougher for them to operate, not easier."
"Four more years of dust is just going to make the situation worse for us," she said.
Public comment on KCBX's proposed petcoke exemptions will be accepted by the city through September 30.
Read more about KCBX's request here.