By Lauren Cross
Activists and homeowners expressed outrage Friday after learning of Canadian National’s documented plans to store dusty piles of BP petroleum coke in the city’s already environmentally burdened Calumet neighborhoods.
“This is insanity. This just tells you how vulnerable this community is. Petcoke is a product that is being chased out of every other community, and they’ve all found their power to stand up. What this shows that there still is a vacuum of power here with these big polluters,” said Thomas Frank, an East Chicago resident and member of the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke.
In a statement Friday, CN denied any current plans to store petcoke there, saying the expansion project underway is only to facilitate the staging of 120 “empty cars” to safely and reliably service local customers.
However, city officials presented documents confirming the railway intends to expand operations along its rail line at 149th Street in East Chicago, creating a “transfer point” — what is in effect a rail yard for the storage of the tar sands byproduct produced at BP’s Whiting Refinery.
Mark Templeton, an attorney at the University of Chicago Law School’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, said IDEM should closely scrutinize CN’s application due to the proximity of this “highly contaminating activity” to the Superfund site and residents.
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