* Press release…
Attorney General Kwame Raoul and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin today released the following statement in reaction to DuPage County Circuit Court Judge Paul Fullerton’s approval of a consent order entered in People of the State of Illinois v. Sterigenics U.S., LLC.
“When our offices partnered to file a lawsuit against Sterigenics in 2018, we called upon and gave the Illinois General Assembly time to strengthen our state’s laws regulating sterilization facilities that emit ethylene oxide. With nearly unanimous support, the Legislature this spring passed the nation’s strictest requirements on ethylene oxide emissions at sterilization facilities, which were quickly signed into law by the governor. The consent order entered today mirrors and goes even further than the new law.
“The consent order gives our offices the tools to act quickly to protect the community and hold Sterigenics accountable for any future violations of Illinois’ new ethylene oxide restrictions or other state environmental laws. To be clear, nothing within the consent order guarantees that the Willowbrook facility will reopen in the immediate future – or that it will reopen at all. Under the consent order, Sterigenics’ Willowbrook facility is strictly prohibited from resuming sterilization operations until it constructs new emissions control systems that have been reviewed and approved by the Illinois EPA. The Attorney General’s office, the State’s Attorney’s office and the court will be closely monitoring each step Sterigenics takes to potentially reopen.
“Our offices are duty bound to enforce state laws as written and passed by the General Assembly. The new law signed this summer – while containing landmark restrictions of ethylene oxide emissions – allows any facility in compliance with the law to operate in the state of Illinois. While Illinois has acted to significantly reduce ethylene oxide emissions, the health concerns arising from the use of ethylene oxide and other harmful chemicals is an issue of national importance, and the conversations surrounding ethylene oxide emissions should continue at the federal level.”
The now-final consent order requires Sterigenics to comply with a new law passed by the General Assembly this spring, which contains the nation’s most stringent regulations of sterilization facilities that emit ethylene oxide (EtO). Sterigenics’ Willowbrook facility is comprised of two buildings, Willowbrook I and Willowbrook II. The consent order prohibits sterilization operations from taking place at Willowbrook I, Sterigenics’ primary facility, until it is in compliance with both the new law and the consent order. According to the consent order, Willowbrook I is prohibited from resuming sterilization operations unless and until the company installs new emissions capture and control systems and submits plans for testing the new systems, all of which must be reviewed and approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Sterigenics will also be required to provide the IEPA with test results that confirm the new systems capture 100 percent of emissions. Additionally, Sterigenics must obtain multiple certifications required by the new law prior to using EtO at Willowbrook I. The consent order also prevents Sterigenics from conducting sterilization operations at Willowbrook II until Sterigenics applies for and obtains a permit from the IEPA, and the consent order is amended to allow for such operations.
If Sterigenics receives a permit and is allowed to resume operations, the net effect of the requirements in the consent order and the new law will be to reduce the EtO emissions from the Willowbrook facility to no more than 85 pounds per year. This represents a drastic reduction from Sterigenics’ reported annual emissions from 2006 to 2018, which ranged from 2,840 pounds to 7,340 pounds per year.
The consent order is a court enforced agreement that resolves both the state’s lawsuit against Sterigenics, and Sterigenics’ lawsuit challenging the IEPA’s seal order, which temporarily stopped Sterigenics from using EtO. The consent order is a stronger legal tool than the IEPA seal order because it strips Sterigenics of any legal ability to resume the use of EtO without meeting all legal requirements under the new law and the consent order, including new emissions controls. If Sterigenics fails to comply, the Attorney General and State’s Attorney will seek court enforcement of the consent order and penalties, including the possible cessation of operations at the facility and contempt of court.
I assume I’ll be receiving other reactions soon and will post ‘em when I get ‘em.
…Adding… Sen. John Curran…
I am disappointed with today’s ruling and remain committed to the Governor’s call for a special session to advance legislation that would ensure Sterigenics never reopens.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Press release…
n light of today’s disappointing court ruling, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) introduced new legislation that will give local municipalities the authority to ban the use of ethylene oxide in their communities.
“Sterigenics continues to prove they cannot be trusted and have no place in our region,” Leader Durkin said. “If the Illinois EPA continues moving forward in issuing permits, then we must do everything we can to empower our local municipalities in their fight to keep Sterigenics closed for good.”
House Bill 3885 authorizes any municipality in the state of Illinois to implement a local ban of the use of ethylene oxide within its boundaries. If a local municipality chooses to adopt this authority, any sterilizing companies would be prohibited from using ethylene oxide. This bill has the support of the village of Willowbrook.
“If the Illinois EPA isn’t going to enforce the Matt Haller Act, then it’s essential that the legislature be called back into session so that we can ensure Illinois residents are safe,” Chief Co-Sponsor Rep. Deanne Mazzochi said.
The governor, you will recall, has said that if Durkin introduced another bill he’d call a special session. From July 18…
“I made it clear to Leader Durkin this morning that, if he requests it, I will call a special session of the legislature to allow for an immediate vote on a bill that is constitutional and will fix the perceived shortcomings of the legislation he previously sponsored.”
…Adding… Press release…
Following is a statement from Antonio Romanucci of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, one of several law firms representing victims sickened by Sterigenics, the medical sterilization equipment manufacturer in Willowbrook, Illinois. A judge on Friday ruled that Sterigenics, which has been closed since February, can reopen.
“Anyone who lives near Sterigenics will shudder to learn that this dangerous company will be allowed to reopen. They have proven time and again that they are irresponsible and willing to put countless lives in jeopardy by emitting the toxic chemical ethylene oxide into the surrounding atmosphere at high levels. For decades, they knowingly blasted a deadly chemical into the air. Hundreds of thousands of have been exposed and tens of thousands have been sickened. Now, thousands of victims are being represented in these lawsuits seeking justice. Countless more will be sickened in the future–and no one knows how many have already died as a result of this noxious poison. Sterigenics cannot be trusted, and should not be allowed to reopen and put even more lives at risk.”
…Adding… Press release…
State Representative Deanne M. Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) released the following statement after DuPage County Judge Fullerton ruled in favor of allowing the Sterigenics Consent Order to proceed with modifications:
“I’m glad the court’s process stopped the ILEPA’s original plan to allow Sterigenics to reopen under the guise of secret proceedings that were not subject to transparency or judicial review. But the consent order still places a great deal of trust in the ILEPA.
“Legislators will not tolerate an ILEPA that chooses bureaucratic box-checking over doing its job to protect public safety, including following the Matt Haller Act to the letter. If the ILEPA does its job right, Sterigenics should never reopen under these circumstances. And if that necessitates more legislation and ILEPA oversight, so be it.”
…Adding… Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla…
Despite the Court’s action today of issuing the Consent Decree, our fight to ban ethylene oxide in our community is not over.
This afternoon, State Rep. Jim Durkin filed new legislation to amend the Environmental Protection Act and give home rule units of government like the Village of Willowbrook the ability to ban ethylene oxide from being used within our boundaries.
We are relying on our state legislature to do what is right to protect not only the Village of Willowbrook residents and our surrounding communities but for the entire state. That means 217 home rule units of government in Illinois can benefit from HB 3885, and prevent ethylene oxide from entering these communities.
I want to thank Rep. Durkin, HB 3885 chief co-sponsor Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, and Sen. John Curran for their endless support in our fight to ban ethylene oxide.
Willowbrook and our surrounding neighbors will work tirelessly to ensure passage of this legislation.
*** UPDATE 2 *** From Emily Bittner at the governor’s office…
The Governor is pleased that Leader Durkin and his colleagues are proposing a solution to strengthen their original legislation. He looks forward to immediately reviewing the measure, and he will support it unless there are constitutional concerns. From the outset of his term, the Governor has focused on protecting these families, including the Illinois EPA’s seal order in February to shut down Sterigenics’ operations, allowing the Legislature to work to create the strongest possible safeguards for families. To move quickly, he urges Leader Durkin to begin the legislative process on this new bill, including building consensus for this approach, holding hearings and scheduling votes for the relevant committees.
The consent order reached today with the company is significantly stronger than the legislation that passed the General Assembly.
Because the steps outlined in the consent order will take several months to complete, the administration anticipates that this legislation can be taken up immediately in the veto session in October and ensure that local communities have sufficient time to act.
…Adding… Daily Herald coverage…
Amid outrage from some residents, a DuPage judge approved a consent order that would allow the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook to reopen if it meets strict standards controlling emissions.
“What I believe is not important. What I must do is to follow the law,” Judge Paul Fullerton said Friday, adding he would sign an agreement between Sterigenics, the Illinois attorney general and DuPage County state’s attorney. […]
“He’s signing our death sentence,” Willowbrook resident Melissa Alvarado said aloud in the courtroom, and other homeowners echoed her dismay.
*** UPDATE 3 *** Sterigenics…
Sterigenics, a leading provider of mission-critical sterilization services, today commented on the DuPage County Court’s approval of the Consent Order that had previously been agreed to by the State of Illinois (represented by the Illinois Attorney General and the DuPage County State’s Attorney), the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and the company. Court approval of this agreement resolves all current litigation between the State of Illinois and its representative agencies and Sterigenics, with no finding of liability or fault against either side and with no imposition of penalties.
During today’s proceedings, the Court noted that the State has acknowledged that there is no uncertainty that Sterigenics has operated in compliance with federal standards regarding its ethylene oxide (EO) emissions. Further, the State indicated in its briefing that compliance with the Consent Order and the new Illinois law regarding EO sterilization “will ensure that [EO] emissions from the [Willowbrook] Site are negligible and not a public health hazard.”
Sterigenics has always operated safely, and we are pleased that the State has acknowledged the safety of these new controls. The company will continue to work to complete the permitting process regarding the enhancements detailed in the Consent Order.