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Petcoke bill doesn't appear to have the votes

New regulations governing petcoke, as currently written, don’t appear to have the votes to get out of the Illinois House Environment Committee, according to vote counters on both sides of the issue.

Although Friday is the deadline for bills to get out of committee, in Springfield there are always ways to get around the rules. But there isn’t a way to get around a shortage of committee votes.

The legislation is being pushed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and has 40 listed co-sponsors. It would require minimum setbacks for coal and petcoke facilities; set limits on dust; regulate storage, loading and unloading; require new permits; and require monitoring and testing. The bill is separate from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to draw up new rules on petcoke storage. The IEPA has been talking to members of the industry, both refiners and bulk operators, and to the environmental community. Environmentalists say new rules are needed, while industry calls the whole effort a solution in search of a problem.

Even if this bill as written doesn’t get out of committee, a bill with new language that resolves legislators’ concerns could be placed on a shell bill, circumventing the Friday deadline.

The Chicago City Council is considering a separate ordinance on petcoke. If the city limits petcoke operations, that could push activities into the rest of the state unless Illinois enacts its own stricter rules, environmentalists say. On March 13, the Chicago Department of Public Health issued its own new regulations, which require that “facilities that store pet coke, coal, and other forms of coke” fully enclose their storage piles.