Petcoke Problems: Tar Sands Waste Piling Up On Chicago’s Southeast Side

Natural Resources Defense Council


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Petcoke Problems: Tar Sands Waste Piling Up On Chicago’s Southeast Side

Neighbors Concerned About Health Threats Associated with the Millions of Tons of Oil Refining Waste That Will Pass Through

CHICAGO (October 18, 2013) – In recent months massive piles of petroleum coke (or petcoke) have built up along the banks of the Calumet River on Chicago’s Southeast Side. BP’s highly-controversial refinery in Whiting, IN is completing a massive expansion to process increased amounts of Canada’s ultra-heavy tar sands oil, which will result in a tripling of its petcoke production. The powdery black material is often used as an even dirtier coal alternative in energy and industrial facilities.

Massive uncovered petcoke piles in Michigan made news earlier this year when photos showed huge clouds of dust blowing across the Detroit River. Southeast Side residents have reported similar problems and concerns about the impact of particulate matter on the health of the surrounding community in Chicago.

Following are comments from Henry Henderson, Midwest Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council and former Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago.

“BP’s Whiting, Indiana refinery is going to be spewing 6,000 tons of petcoke out onto the South Side of Chicago every day.

“Unless we want to see more cities in America blighted like this, we have to say no to tar sands projects like Keystone XL and the Flanagan pipeline. These black mounds are just another reminder that we have to get serious about getting off of oil—this is what happens when you scrape the bottom of the barrel.”

More Information:

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


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