JB Pritzker retracts General Iron’s comments and signs agreement to increase environmental oversight in low-income areas

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It’s been nearly four years since Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration authorized the General Iron scrap metal operation to move to the Southeast Side, and the governor has announced that Illinois will consider future plans before allowing such operations. They agreed to take a closer look at possible environmental impacts. Polluting companies move into low-income areas.

The agreement announced Friday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires Illinois to consider the impact of allowing more polluting industries in low-income areas already under environmental and social stress. is promised.

Under the agreement, complaints from Southeast Side organizations would give Illinois environmental officials increased oversight of polluters who start or expand operations. New measures include additional notifications to residents and the possibility of public meetings. Previous violations of environmental laws may trigger additional pollution controls and monitoring. Contaminant locations near schools, daycares, and health centers will come under further scrutiny.

In 2020, community groups, health and environmental activists and other politicians called on Pritzker to deny a state permit and pollution control plan that would allow construction of General Iron’s auto-shredding operation, which would be relocated from Lincoln Park. I argued to Mr. Mr. Pritzker’s environmental officials said they had no choice but to approve the project on East 116th Street along the Calumet River.

The state’s approval led then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot to make a controversial decision on whether to sign a final permit allowing operations to begin. Lightfoot denied the permit in early 2022, a decision that is still being challenged in court.

As a result, the fully built metal crushing operation (rebranded Southside Recycling) remains inactive.

But the city’s original role in supporting the move from its longtime North Side home continues to shape Chicago’s treatment of polluting companies.

Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Chicago City Council will consider a proposed ordinance this year that would reform zoning and land use practices and restrict polluting industries in so-called environmental justice communities. The agreement was concluded following a HUD investigation stemming from the General Iron controversy.

Three Southeast Side community organizations filed the HUD complaint in August 2020. Just months later, the same group asked the EPA to investigate the state’s approval of General Iron, raising similar civil rights concerns.

These concerns prompted an investigation by the EPA, which resulted in the agreement just announced.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan is concerned about the General Iron issue. Lightfoot paused the application process at the recommendation of Regan, who suggested conducting a community health impact assessment before denying the permit.

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