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Illinois agrees to strict oversight of polluters in poor areas


Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration vowed Friday to more tightly scrutinize pollutants before allowing them to operate or spread in low-income communities.

policy change Settled a civil rights lawsuit filed three years ago in response to a decision by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency approval of scrap shredder on Chicago’s Latino-dominated Southeast Side, after its owners shut down the often troubled General Iron operation rich, mostly White in Lincoln Park.

Lawyers for community groups Petitioned for federal interventionIllinois accuses the EPA and city agencies of colluding with developers to concentrate pollutants in a corner of the city where residential yards were already contaminated. heavy metals and toxic chemicals from nearby industries.

under one Agreement with US EPA researchersThe state agency has promised that if industries want to create or expand environmental justice communities across Illinois, they will need more effective pollution control equipment and consider air quality monitoring.

Past violations of environmental laws will also be taken into account.

Pollutants near schools, daycares and medical facilities will face increased scrutiny. Neighbors will receive more notice of permit applications, and the state will require public hearings when requested.

“Discrimination is alive in Chicago, and that’s a future I don’t want my children to experience,” said Gina Ramirez, a senior counsel for the Southeast Environmental Task Force. “Illinois must approach permitting these dangerous facilities with the seriousness it deserves. This actually means considering the health of the people living in the communities where they operate.”

After the Illinois EPA approved a permit for the RMG scrap shredder in 2020, community groups focused their efforts on then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot, protesting outside her home and filing a civil rights complaint against the city. US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Some dissidents staged hunger strikes to draw attention to what they saw as environmental racism.

Lightfoot is over denial of final permit Ohio-based RMG was supposed to begin shredding scrap metal along the Calumet River near 116th Street and Avenue O.

RMG tow truck. For now, the company’s machines sit idle a few blocks from Washington High School, where state monitoring equipment routinely detects the city’s dirtiest air.

agreement The disagreement between federal and state officials did not revoke RMG’s state permit. Another part of the agreement cleared the Illinois EPA of admitting any wrongdoing in reviewing the project.

Lightfoot settled the HUD complaint shortly before leaving office.

In September, Mayor Brandon Johnson He has promised to overhaul zoning, planning and land-use regulations that encourage the relocation of heavy industry from predominantly white neighborhoods to other parts of Chicago that are disproportionately burdened by pollution, poverty and disease.

The municipality has not yet fulfilled these promises.

“As industry continues to pile up in neighborhoods like mine and government agencies continue to approve permits, we are caught in a constant struggle to protect our health,” said Cheryl Johnson, executive director of People for Community Recovery. Another nonprofit group is behind the civil rights complaints.

“This is a huge step in the right direction that will finally end some of the (Illinois EPA) worst practices that helped create Chicago’s sacrifice zones,” Johnson said.


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